George Washington Quiz

How much do you know about George Washington? Did he wear wooden false teeth? Did he throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? Did he chop down a cherry tree?

Test your knowledge of the first president of the United States, George Washington, by taking this short but fun quiz. Good luck!

  1. George Washington considered himself primarily:
    1. a statesman
    2. a farmer
  2. Washington oversaw thousands of acres of farm at and around Mount Vernon , his beloved family home on the Potomac River . Always seeking ways to make his vast operation more profitable, he was one of the first Virginia planters to ditch tobacco, a labor-intensive crop that depleted the soil, in favor of:
    1. peanuts
    2. grains
  3. Washington grew grain and operated a commercial, water-powered gristmill on his Dogue Run Farm that featured a state-of-the-art Oliver Evans Automated Milling System (a design that holds U.S. Patent No. 3 ). Washington was the only founding father to:
    1. own a bakery
    2. own a distillery
  4. In Colonial times, alcohol was an important part of the social and economic fabric of life. It was used for medicinal purposes, during social occasions and for trade. (The Jamestown Colonists uncorked their first keg of beer two years after arriving.) Candidates for public office often offered voters a drink at the polls. When Washington made a run for the House of Burgesses in 1755 , he did not follow this custom. In that election, he:
    1. won
    2. lost
  5. Perhaps learning from his loss, Washington served beer, rum punch, wine, strong cider and brandy to voters during his 1758 bid for a burgess seat. In that election, he:
    1. lost
    2. won
  6. Later, in 1777 , as commander of the Continental Army , Washington - who believed in drink in moderation - worried in writing about the morale and condition of his troops. To comfort them "when they are marching in hot or Cold weather, in Camp in Wet, on fatigue or in Working Parties," Washington said it was "so essential" that troops have "moderate supplies" of:
    1. coffee
    2. spirits
  7. In 1783 , the war with Britain ended, and in 1789, George Washington became the first president. The country's coffers were empty after the long war with Britain. One of the early challenges to the authority of the fledgling government involved:
    1. an excise tax on tobacco
    2. an excise tax on spirits
  8. In 1793 , federal tax collectors were attacked in Pennsylvania by citizens outraged that the whiskey they had been making for years, much of it for their own consumption, was being taxed. Washington sent about 13,000 militia to end the rebellion. About 150 people were arrested and two were condemned to death. Washington:
    1. had them executed
    2. pardoned them
  9. In 1797 , Washington's presidential term ended. His last official act was to pardon the W hiskey Rebellion participants. He was 65 years old. He returned to Mount Vernon to:
    1. retire and collect Social Security
    2. run his estate and continue to seek ways to make it more profitable
  10. It also surprises most people to learn that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed making their own alcoholic beverages and that Abraham Lincoln held a liquor license and operated several taverns. Learn more at Puritans to Prohibition.

  11. By the late 1700s , whiskey was overtaking rum as the most popular spirit in America, in part because sugar and molasses, products of the British West Indies essential in making rum, were hard to come by and had the taint of political incorrectness. Washington's farm manager, James Anderson , persuaded him to build a distillery next door to the mill, which would provide ground rye and corn, the primary ingredients in whiskey. At that time in Virginia, there were 3,500 distilleries . At its peak, Washington's was:
    1. an average-sized distillery
    2. the largest in the United States
  12. In 1799 , Washington's distillery operated year round and produced almost 11,000 gallons of whiskey worth about $120,000 in today's dollars. (Yes, he paid the excise tax.) Anderson, who learned his whiskey ways in his native Scotland, oversaw the operation of five copper stills and production of two grades of whiskey. The twice-distilled "common" whiskey was sold for about 50 cents a gallon, while the finer spirit was distilled at least four times and cost twice as much. In addition, Washington's whiskey was aged:
    1. for one year in custom-made oak barrels
    2. not at all
  13. By the time of his death in December 1799, the clear, unaged brew flowing from the Dogue Run Farm distillery was being sold as fast as it dripped out of the copper coils. Anderson continued to distill spirits until Martha Washington died in 1802 . A nephew inherited the distillery and leased it out. The last record of spirits sold from the facility was in 1808 . The distillery burned in 1814 and was:
    1. immediately rebuilt, as whiskey consumption continued to climb
    2. largely forgotten
  14. In 1932 the state of Virginia bought the property where Washington's gristmill and distillery once stood. The mill and the miller's cottage were reconstructed. It wasn't until 1997 that historical and archaeological work began on the distillery. Construction was completed in:
    1. 2005
    2. 2007
  15. The distillery and gristmill machinery were reconstructed to look as much as possible as they did in Washington's day, down to the width of the mortar between the stones and the hand-wrought nails. The site:
    1. is being preserved in its pristine state. No visitors are allowed.
    2. opened to the public this month.
  16. George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill is located on Route 235, three miles south of Mount Vernon.

    Visitor information is at

  17. The distillery works, and visitors can watch costumed guides doing the same tasks that Anderson oversaw more than 200 years ago. In fact, this is the only place in the country where history buffs can see the way whiskey was produced two centuries ago. Washington's recipe for his most common spirit - 60 percent rye, 35 percent corn, 5 percent malted barley - is well documented. Small batches will be distilled and visitors can purchase Dogue Run whiskey:
    1. after it has aged in wooden barrels for three years
    2. now
  18. With the opening of the distillery, Virginia is:
    1. for lovers
    2. the "gateway" to the American Whiskey Trail, a series of distilleries in Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New York that explore the cultural heritage and history of spirits in America.

Please see bottom of page for correct answers.

Facts about George Washington

You probably didn't realize that George Washington was his new country's biggest distiller, that he was a distiller at all, or that he enjoyed drinking alcohol. You certainly didn't learn any of this in school.

That's not surprising because the temperance movement worked long ago to erase this knowledge from our cultural memory as seen in the following example.

In this Currier and Ives print of 1848, George Washington bids farewell to his officers with a toast in his hand and a supply of liquor on the table.

George Washington toasts

Reflecting the power of the temperance movement, a re-engraved version in 1876 removes all evidence of alcohol. Gone is the glass from Washington's hand and the liquor supply is replaced with a hat.

George Washington empty handed

George Washington was a very popular president. The nation's capital, 120 other cities and towns, one state, 33 counties, 10 lakes, nine colleges and universities and seven mountains are named after him. 1

Additional Information about Distiller George Washington, who was called by President Herbert Hoover "the first commercial American," 2 can be found here:

George Washington: His New Nation's Largest Whiskey Distiller

George Washington's Distillery Being Recreated

George Washington: Major Distiller of Whiskey

Distiller George Washington: The "Proof"

The American Whiskey Trail

American Whiskey Trail Top Tourist Destination, Says Frommer's


The correct answer to all questions in the George Washington Quiz is B.

The George Washington Quiz is posted by permission of the author, Lorraine Eaton. Originally published as "The spirits of George Washington" in The Virginian Pilot, April 18, 2007. Question number 15 modified to maintain accuracy over time. Currier and Ives prints posted by permission of the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies.


  • Sabban, Roberta. George Washington's legacy includes his innovation in American whiskey distilling. Palm Beach Daily, July 1, 2009.
  • Brown, Emily. Washington's whiskey hits the barrel after 200 year hiatus. USA Today, April 15, 2009.
  • Fund, John H. Moonshine Patriot: George Washington, whiskey entrepreneur. Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2007. (Note: George Washington was not a "moonshine patriot" because moonshine is illegal whiskey whereas Washington's whiskey was a legally produced beverage on which he paid taxes.)
  • Fabricant, Florence. The Founder's Choice: George Washington's distillery is back in business. New York Times, August 13, 2008, p, F2 (NY edition).
  • Barakat, Matthew. Replica of distillery of Washington opens. Associated Press, March 31, 2007.
  • Cheers to George Washington! Mount Vernon to "uncork" whiskey distillery with grand opening ceremony., April 3, 2007.
  • George Washington's Distillery to be Restored Using 18th Century Building, Architectural Techniques. U.S. Newswire, August 1, 2006.
  • Head, Thomas. First in war, first in peace, first in whiskey: George Washington as distiller. Southern Folkways Alliance, June 14, 2005.
  • Eisele, Albert. Resurrecting George Washington's booze. The Hill, June 9, 2005.
  • Regan, Gary. Master distiller, historians re-create George Washington's rye whiskey. Nation's Restaurant News, December 8, 2003.
  • Masters, B. A. First president's 100-proof heritage at Mount Vernon: Washington's whiskey distillery to be rebuilt. San Francisco Chronicle, December 7, 2000, A8.


  • 1. Taliaferro, John. Great White Fathers. NY: Public Affairs, 2002, p. 242.
  • 2. Taliaferro, John. Great White Fathers. NY: Public Affairs, 2002, p. 245.

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