Washington's false teeth refrigerator magnet.
Washington's false teeth refrigerator magnet: now a forbidden souvenir.

George Washington's Home, Grave, and False Teeth

Field review by the editors.

Mount Vernon, Virginia

Mount Vernon's grounds are large and well-manicured. The home is impeccably restored and maintained. Down a path are the graves of George Washington, the nation's first President, and his wife.

Mt. Vernon.

But none of this stuff really matters. It's just what you politely survey on your way to see the teeth: a full set of Washington's dentures.

The teeth reside at the modern Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, a huge complex with all sorts of artwork, artifacts, and dioramas. The Donald and Nancy de Laski Gallery is home to, "A Leader's Smile." At the center is a large glass display case containing the dentures, allowing a 360 degree view. A timeline of "Washington's dental agonies" runs along the gallery walls. As you are reminded, Washington's falsies were not made of wood, but of a mishmash of cow's teeth, human teeth, and elephant ivory set in lead.

George Washington, the world's most famous wearer of falsies, left dentifrice in many places. If he slept there, he probably forgot his teeth there. Bits of bogus bicuspid can be found at The National Museum of Dentistry and in other collections. The false teeth are what we remember most about him. That, and that he never lied, and that he probably had XXY chromosomes, which rendered him sterile.

The dentures are a big draw; a crowd milled around the case when we visited. So big a draw -- and so surprisingly controversial, in fact -- that visitors are not allowed to take photographs of the presidential choppers.

For years Mount Vernon tourists had a perfectly acceptable option: a souvenir, absolutely unique to the site, and grisly but accurate. The George Washington false teeth refrigerator magnet. It looked like the wax hillbilly teeth you'd get at Halloween. Hard to imagine Washington wearing them at elegant state dinners, easy to imagine Washington hiding behind a door, waiting to pop out and scare his stepchildren. Who wouldn't want one of these on the refrigerator, grinning back at you, when it was time to eat?

Unfortunately, sales of the magnet ended in February 2020, when it was publicized that the "human teeth" component of the dentures came from George Washington's slaves. His meticulously kept Mount Vernon books noted that he paid the slaves for their teeth, but, still, the donors likely didn't have much say in the arrangement.

So... no more magnet as a memory aid. Visitors will just have to stare longer and harder at the horrific real teeth when they visit.

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George Washington's Home, Grave, and False Teeth

Donald W. Reynolds Museum

Address:
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon, VA
Directions:
George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. 16 miles south of Washington DC, via US Hwy 1 to Hwy 235/Mt. Vernon Memorial Hwy. Follow signs.
Hours:
Daily 9-5; Nov-March 9-4 (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
Phone:
703-780-2000
Admission:
Adults $17.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

National Inventors Hall of Fame MuseumNational Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, Alexandria, VA - 6 mi.
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George Washington Masonic National MemorialGeorge Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, VA - 7 mi.
In the region:
Testudo the Diamondback Terrapin, College Park, MD - 20 mi.

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April 10, 2020

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