They told us he had wooden teeth, that he threw a silver dollar across the Delaware River and that he loved cherries (more on that next month). Is George Washington’s myth expanding to make him an animal-lover – beyond his famous dog Hercules who hung out near the kitchen door?
A year and four months before he became President, while celebrating the nearly three-weeks of the 1787 holiday season, Father George recorded in his ledger book the cost of 18 shillings which he paid out to “the man who bro[ug]t [a] Camel from Alex[andria] for a show.” Why was there a camel in northern Virginia? Along the lines of later generations’ travelling circuses, it wasn’t uncommon for exotic animals to be bought and toured around the countryside so folks could glimpse a being they’d only read about, be it seals, lions and other wild cats, or even an elephant. In fact, as President, Washington ponied up nearly two bucks to get his one and only gaze upon living pachyderms. He was also known to pay good money to see a lion and tiger. According to the Mount Vernon museum, he was even taken in to glimpse a dog play cards.
Making Mount Vernon more like it once was, the current caretakers rented their own camel this past season, a dromedary called “Aladdin,” extremely friendly as my personal interactions can attest.
- Washington paid for a camel’s visit to Mount Vernon (cnn.com)
- Thanksgiving Turkey to Live at Mount Vernon Following White House Pardon (yubanet.com)