New Evidence Tells Truth of George Washington’s Cherry Tree Tale

The iconic 1939 painting by artist Grant Wood, showed Parson Weems lifting a curtain on the famous scene to suggest it was entirely a myth.

The iconic boy in the tri-cornered hat with hatchet was always a hit in the era when George Washington’s Birthday was a national holiday celebrated with cards, parties and parades.

For generations, American school children hung classrooms with red-paper hatchets and cherries to honor the first President on his February 22 birthday. Through all those years, kids were told George Washington couldn’t tell a lie and when asked by his father Augustine who had “barked” a cherry tree, the six-year old confessed that he did it with his little hatchet and he admitted it because he “could not tell a lie.”

Then, it wasn’t long before we were told that, like Santa Claus, it was just a well-intentioned myth.

In fact, the truth may be closer to the myth.

The effort to plumb that cherry takes a path which winds through impossibly conflicting genealogy, the riddles of archeology, the science of tree-dating, the study of late 18th century textiles, and finding the place of oral history within the rigor of academic documentation.

The 1810 edition of The Life of Washington

Most historians claim that associating cherries with George Washington started in 1806 when his first full-life biography hit its fifth edition. A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington, had evolved from an initial 80-page pamphlet in 1800, a year after Washington died. Written by

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Categories: Americana, George Washington, History, Holidays, Myths, Presidential Foods, Presidential Mythology, Presidents, The Washingtons

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