George Washington and his….Camel?!

George Washington on a ….Camel?

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?

No – George Washington really did have a camel – or, at least, he rented one.

In recent years, anyone visiting George Washington’s plantation estate Mount Vernon over the holiday season was able to even meet a representational George Washington camel, named Aladdin.

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.

The Mount Vernon camel brushes his head against my shoulder.

I brush up against the Mount Vernon camel.


Categories: Presidential Homes, Presidents, Presidents and Animals, The Washingtons

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6 replies »

  1. At first glance: I thought it was going to be yet another look at Camelot!
    Loved the previous post on Mrs. Coolidge and the Coolidge pets.

    • Aha….for once “Camelot” as a final thought to the Coolidges! Thanks Jim. I’m not sure the piece managed to fully convey my sense of what Mrs. Coolidge’s acutely intuitive sensitivity to beings who don’t speak like the majority, be they disabled by verbal communication or another species from humans – but she had it. Maybe that’s the point…there are no words to describe that quality and being elusive, it has largely escaped study in profiles about her.

  2. I may b mistaken, but I’ve heard camals can b tempermental/nasty unless one is trained to handle them. Your picture quite defys this image! It is really an adorable shoot of U & that beast:) I’ve never seen a camal photographed in such a friendly light before.

    I would still B too chicken to ride one, but thanks again for sharing. That is a great example of a picture saying more than a thousand words.

  3. I always like to discover unusual facts about our presidents so this was an interesting article to come across, especially so as I will be visiting Mount Vernon soon for the first time. Love the pics too. That rented camel was certainly very cute and friendly.


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