How much do you know about George Washington? Did he wear wooden false teeth? Or throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? Did he chop down a cherry tree? Test your knowledge of the first president by taking this George Washington Quiz. Good luck!
A. a statesman.
B. a farmer.
2. Washington oversaw thousands of acres of farm at and around Mount Vernon, his beloved family home on the Potomac River. He always sought ways to make his vast operation more profitable. Thus, he ditched tobacco, a labor-intensive crop that depleted the soil, in favor of:
3. Washington grew grain and operated a commercial, water-powered gristmill on his Dogue Run Farm. It 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:
A. own a bakery.
B. 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:
5. Washington served beer, rum punch, wine, strong cider and brandy to voters during his 1758 bid for a burgess seat. In that election, he:
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. They needed comfort when “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:
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:
A. an excise tax on tobacco.
B. an excise tax on spirits.
8. In 1793, federal tax collectors were attacked in Pennsylvania by citizens. They were outraged that the whiskey they had been making for years was being taxed. And much of it for their own consumption. Washington sent about 13,000 militia to end the rebellion. About 150 people were arrested and two were condemned to death. Washington:
A. had them executed.
B. pardoned them.
It also surprises most people to learn that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed making their own alcoholic beverages. And Abraham Lincoln held a liquor license and operated several taverns. Learn more at American Alcohol Trivia.
9. In 1797, Washington’s presidential term ended. His last official act was to pardon the Whiskey Rebellion participants. He was 65 years old. He returned to Mount Vernon to:
A. retire and collect Social Security.
B. run his estate and continue to seek ways to make it more profitable.
10. By the late 1700s, whiskey was overtaking rum as the most popular spirit in America. Sugar and molasses, products of the British West Indies essential in making rum, were hard to get. They also had the taint of political incorrectness. Washington’s farm manager, James Anderson, persuaded him to build a distillery next door to the mill. It 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:
A. an average-sized distillery.
B. the largest in the United States.
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. There were five copper stills producing two grades of whiskey. The twice-distilled “common” whiskey was sold for about 50 cents a gallon. The finer spirit was distilled at least four times and cost twice as much. In addition, Washington’s whiskey was aged:
A. for one year in custom-made oak barrels.
B. not at all.
12. Washington died in December of 1799. By then the distilery sold the whiskey 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:
B. largely forgotten.
13. 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. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that historical and archaeological work began on the distillery. Construction was completed in:
14. The distillery and gristmill machinery were reconstructed to look as much as possible as they did in Washington’s day. And that’s down to the width of the mortar between the stones and the hand-wrought nails. The site:
A. is being preserved in its pristine state. No visitors are allowed.
B. is open to the public.
15. Because of Washington’s distillery, Virginia is:
A. for lovers
B. the “gateway” to the American Whiskey Trail. That’s a series of attractions exploring the cultural heritage and history of spirits in America.
Please see bottom of page for correct answers.
George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill is located on Route 235, three miles south of Mount Vernon.
Visitor information is at George Washington’s Distillery.
The distillery works, and visitors can watch costumed guides. They do the same tasks that Anderson oversaw more than 200 years ago. In fact, this is the only place in the country where you can see how whiskey was produced long ago.
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.
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. (Temperance activists wouldn’t have wanted you to do well on the George Washington Quiz!)
George Washington was a very popular president. The nation’s capital, 120 other cities and towns, one state are named after him. Also 33 counties, 10 lakes, nine colleges and universities and seven mountains carry his name. 1
How did you do on the George Washington Quiz? The correct answer to all questions is B.
- Fund, J. Moonshine Patriot: George Washington, whiskey entrepreneur. Wall Street J, Feb 21, 2007. (Note: Washington was not a “moonshine patriot.” Moonshine is illegal whiskey. Washington’s produced legal whiskey and paid taxes on it.)
- Head, T. First in war, first in peace, first in whiskey: George Washington as distiller. Southern Folkways Alliance, June 14, 2005.
- Kaminski, J. George Washington: a Man of Action. Madison: WI Hist Soc Press, 2017.
- Ransom, C. George Washington. Minneapolis: Pop, 2018
The correct answer to all questions on the George Washington Quiz is B.
The George Washington Quiz posted by permission of author Lorraine Eaton. Originally published in The Virginian Pilot. Currier and Ives prints posted by permission of the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies.