McClafferty, Carla Killough. 2011. THE MANY FACES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON: REMAKING A PRESIDENTIAL ICON. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner. ISBN 9780761356080 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-6]
“The image most Americans have of George Washington comes from the one-dollar bill, and this is somewhat unfortunate.”
First-hand accounts from persons who met George Washington often reflect the belief that he did not actually look like the various paintings rendered of him. Further, public opinion today often considers Washington to be boring, old, and uninteresting-- completely opposite of public opinion during Washington’s own time, which held him in very high esteem.
McClafferty’s account chronicles the undertaking by the Mount Vernon Estate to re-create three historically accurate figures of Washington-- one at age 19, another at age 43 as a General in the Continental Army, and a final at age 57 as Washington takes his first presidential oath of office. The author clearly recounts the detailed and arduous, yet fascinating, process that historians, anthropologists, artists, and other experts utilized to make Washington come to life. Interspersed with details of the re-creation is biographical information from the relevant times of Washington’s life.
There are many other more complete biographies of Washington. This original book explores not only what Washington achieved, but the image he portrayed to those around him. The image on the dollar bill, though iconic, in the end falls short of capturing the real Washington.
Gather books about Washington and other persons featured on U.S. currency, and show the many different images available of each. Discuss how the image chosen for widespread reproduction is different, better, or worse than other images available.
For readers interested in Washington:
Chandra, Deborah. GEORGE WASHINGTON’S TEETH. ISBN 0374325340
Marrin, Albert. GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE FOUNDING OF A NATION. ISBN 0525464816
By Sarah C. Dornback