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THE LIFE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
Forget the wooden choppers Washington supposedly had (they were cows' teeth) and never mind that cherry-tree episode (it didn't happen). This 30-minute profile isn't designed to dazzle us with mythology. It briskly highlights a rich life with a parade of historical prints from the Willard-Budd Collection housed at Mount Vernon, Washington's beloved Virginia plantation.
While there are some depictions of George's early years—among them his union with Martha Custis, the widow he wed after a 10-month courtship—the most celebrated prints illustrate such historic moments as drafting the Declaration of Independence and winter at Valley Forge. References to Washington's volcanic temper and fancy tastes are absent from this varnished biography. Yet it remains an effective introduction to the man, though some of the prints take artistic license to the point of doing a disservice to his memory. After all, what sensible hero would cross an icy river in darkness standing in an overcrowded rowboat?
There are no muddied riding boots in the wood-paneled hall, yet this visit to G.W.'s estate gives a fleeting sense of its celebrated master.
When not off serving his country, Washington would rise at 5, take a private stairway to his study, tend to accounts, then tour his 8,000-acre spread. The mansion is still impeccably tended, from elegant parlors to guest rooms where such visitors as Lafayette slumbered. While the million or so visitors to Mount Vernon each year can wander at will, this 30-minute tour has advantages of its own: no admission fees and no crowds.