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Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, ca. 1798 Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
Every Necessary Care & Attention

Alongside the traditional demands of family life, and political and military leadership, George Washington focused considerable attention on the health and safety of his family, staff, slaves, and troops.

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Painting of Mount Vernon

The West Front of Mount Vernon, attributed to Edward Savage, ca. 1787–1792

As head of household, plantation owner, businessman, Revolutionary War general, and president, George Washington had many different concerns and responsibilities, from running his estate to ensuring the stability of a new nation. Alongside the traditional…

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Painting of Washington taking command of the American Army

Washington Taking Command of the American Army, 1876

On June 15, 1775, George Washington was unanimously selected as commander in chief of the Continental Army. Within weeks, he began making preventative health decisions about food storage, placement of latrines, disposal of animal carcasses, and general provisions for clothing…

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Etching of Washington the Planter

Washington the Planter, etching by Louis Conrad Rosenberg, 1932

In the foreground of this etching, with color added, the figure of George Washington stands in consultation with his overseer. Both men are wearing wide brimmed hats, Washington with a long blue coat and the overseer with a dark grey or brown coat. Behind Washington is his white…

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Painting of Washington Family

George Washington and Family, oil on canvas, Thomas Prichard Rossiter, 1858–1860

Washington came from a large family, which included five siblings and four half-siblings. Like many other families during the 18th century, the Washingtons were plagued by fits, fevers, and agues, as well as suffering the loss of cherished relatives due to the high mortality rates of the…

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Portrait of George Washington

George Washington by William Williams, 1794

George and Martha Washington were affected by their own medical issues over the years. Although he was never wounded in battle, Washington led an active life and was injured several times while horseback riding. He nearly died from a severe case of dysentery as a young…

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Etching of George Washington and doctors at bedside

G. Washington in His Last Illness attended by Docrs. Craik and Brown, etching by an unidentified artist, early 19th century

By the end of the century, the first American medical schools were founded, quarantine hospitals were established to isolate and treat those with contagious diseases, and inoculation was known to be an effective treatment for smallpox. Yet the standard medical treatment…

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