September 30, 2011
The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon by Carla Killough McClafferty
Say the name and an image pops into most people’s heads. But is it an accurate image?
Look at portraits of Washington and you’ll find a range of looks. Don’t believe me? Then do a quick Google Image search. You’ll have to disregard the photos of George Washington Carver and the obvious caricatures of the former President, but doesn’t the variety make you wonder? What did he really look like?
Officials at Mount Vernon set out to find the answer when they took a survey and discovered what words the American public thought best described Washington. Their answers? Stiff. Old. Grumpy. Boring.
These answers shocked the officials because, at 6’2″, Washington was a serious outdoors man with a great deal of natural strength and vitality.
To make sure that visitors to Mount Vernon got the real picture, they decided to create three life-sized recreations of the President: one when he was a 19 year-old surveyor, one as 45 year-old General Washington, and one as the 57 year-old President.
The quest to create these likenesses takes readers through the world of art, history and forensic science as experts with a wealth of talent come together to make the impossible possible — bringing Washington back to Mount Vernon.
McClafferty brings the mystery to life for readers, pulling in material from interviews, portraits created when Washington was alive, a mask cast from his face, and more. Her text moves quickly and is sure to hold the interest of fans of the History Detectives and similar programs.
Hats off to McClafferty for a job well done and also to the folks at Mount Vernon who have worked so hard to correct our incorrect assumptions about the man who was our first President.