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Finding Minnesota: George Washington’s Life

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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By Angela Davis, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — For the next few months, Minnesotans have an opportunity to get to know a lot more about America’s first president, George Washington. Staff at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul are putting together the final touches on an elaborate exhibit that showcases aspects of Washington’s life, from his teenage years to his final days.

Part of the exhibit: a side of George Washington that we have rarely ever seen: his youth.

Carol Borchert Cadou is the exhibit curator. She works at Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, which was Washington’s home for most of his life.

“I think one of the eye-catching things about the exhibit is that it portrays Washington at different stages of his life,” Cadou said. “And that’s really highlighted by the three forensic figures that you see … George Washington is portrayed at age 19, 45 and 57, so not as an older man that we see on the dollar bill or the very famous portrait by Gilbert Stuart.”

The artifacts in this exhibit give you a look at Washington’s personal life, including his false teeth.

“The teeth are here,” Cadou said. “And these are George Washington’s dentures — the only full set to survive and I think once you see them you can really realize how difficult they were for him to hold them in his mouth. They are fitted into a lead base and attached by springs.”

They look so uncomfortable. They are made from human and cow teeth as well as elephant ivory.

Many of the artifacts date back to the 1770s. They include household items and clothes that belonged to Washington and his wife, Martha.

“The exhibit brings to Minnesotans, really, some of the treasures of the Mount Vernon collection. It was a big decision to put these precious objects on the road,” Cadou said. “But we decided that it is really important for those who can’t necessarily come to Virginia, and learn about George Washington at Mount Vernon, to bring the objects to them.”

The curator also shared that as this exhibit has traveled the country, people really seem to enjoy seeing what Washington was like as a teenager, working on his family farm, and the tools he used as a surveyor. People also seem to enjoy getting an up-close look at the dentures he wore.

Another part of the exhibit is videos produced by the History Channel. There are several television monitors sprinkled through the exhibit.

In those videos, you’ll see interviews with experts and actors recreating aspects of Washington’s life.

The “Discover The Real George Washington” exhibit opens on Tuesday, Feb. 22 and runs through May 29 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children over the age of 5.

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