Not Just For Kids
Presidents' Day was originally set aside to observe the February birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. How much do you really know about these two famous presidents? Read the following short biographies of Washington and Lincoln, then try the "Fun Facts" trivia quiz.
George Washington: "Father of Our Country"
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 on a farm in Virginia. His father died when he was eleven years old, and Lawrence, his older half brother, became like a second father to him. Lawrence owned a plantation named Mount Vernon, and George frequently visited there. George studied surveying and practiced measuring the fields around Mount Vernon. George drew such accurate maps that he was asked to join a surveying team when he was only 16 years old.
There was still frontier land a little way to the west. When George was 21, France threatened to take over some western territory that England claimed. The French refusal to leave the land claimed by the British was a contributing factor in causing the French and Indian War that lasted from 1754-1763. In that conflict, Washington served as lieutenant colonel and then as a colonel in command of troops from Virginia. He earned the reputation of being very brave.
In the meantime, Lawrence died and Washington became the master of Mount Vernon. When the war with the French was over, he married a wealthy widow, Martha Custis, who had two children, Jacky and Patsy. They all went to Mount Vernon to live, and Washington became a successful farmer. Soon he was elected to help govern Virginia, and before long he was taking part in debates about whether the colonies should stand up for their rights against England.
When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Washington was asked by the Continental Congress to command the colonial army. Few generals ever faced greater difficulties. Washington served without pay, it was often hard to get food for his troops, there was little money to buy the arms that they needed, and the soldiers were without adequate clothing. At Valley Forge, Washington's army spent a terrible winter suffering from hunger and freezing cold. But General Washington managed to keep his army together until the colonies won their freedom.
In 1787, Washington helped draft the Constitution of the United States as chairman of the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia. Washington was the only man everyone trusted to become leader of the new government, and he was the only U.S. President to be elected unanimously. On the first Election Day in 1789, the Electoral College cast every vote for General Washington. President Washington helped to plan the new capital city, which would later be named Washington in his honor. Washington himself laid the cornerstone for the present Capitol building.
After serving as President for a term of four years, he was elected to a second term. Most citizens were hoping that Washington would run for a third term, yet he refused. He was so popular that he might easily have made himself king or dictator. But he had been serving his country for 45 years, and was anxious to retire to Mount Vernon.
Two years after retirement, George Washington died at age 67 from complications of a bad winter cold. At the funeral, General Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) said: "He was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Abraham Lincoln: "The Great Emancipator"
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin in Kentucky. He moved with his parents and an older sister, Sarah, to Indiana when he was seven. His mother died two years later. When Abe's father remarried, Abe's stepmother took a special interest in him. She gave him some books and encouraged him to read and study. At the same time, Abe helped support the family by splitting logs for fences and doing other odd jobs.
The family moved to Illinois when Abe was 21, and after helping his father set up a new farm there, he then set out on his own. Lincoln worked as a riverboat pilot, a surveyor, a store clerk, and a postmaster, while studying law in his spare time. He liked to tell funny stories, and he made friends easily. Lincoln earned his nickname "Honest Abe" after he went into a partnership and the business failed, but he worked for several years to pay back the store's debts of $1,100.
Lincoln was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1834. Three years later, he received his license to practice law and moved to Springfield, where he became a successful lawyer and one of the town's leading citizens. He married an ambitious young woman, Mary Todd, who boasted to her friends that she intended to help her husband become President of the United States.
Lincoln was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1847. He did not run for a second term. He became involved in politics again in 1854 when Congress passed a law that made it possible for people to own slaves in the new western territory. While slavery was legal in the southern states, Lincoln felt that a territory that was free must be kept that way. So in 1856 he joined the new Republican Party, which had been formed to fight the spread of slavery.
The Republicans nominated Lincoln for the U.S. Congress in 1858. That summer he and Stephen A. Douglas, the nominee of the Democratic Party, held many debates about slavery. Lincoln lost the election, but his speeches during the Lincoln-Douglas debates gave him national recognition. In 1860 the Republican Party nominated him for President and he won.
Since he was against slavery, Lincoln's victory worried the South. By the time Lincoln was inaugurated, several Southern states had left the Union. The Civil War began right after Lincoln took office in 1861. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which freed all of the slaves. Later that year he gave his famous Gettysburg Address. The end of the war came early in April 1865, soon after Lincoln had begun a second term as President.
Lincoln wanted to make it easy for the states that had seceded to take their places again in the Union, but he did not live to carry out his plans. While attending a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on the evening of April 14, 1865, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a mad southern sympathizer. A funeral train took Lincoln's body back to Illinois for burial, and mourners lined the tracks all along the way to pay their final respects to the martyred President.
Did You Know…?
Mount Rushmore, the world's largest stone monument, is a tribute to four Presidents-George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt-who stood for the most honorable principles and highest ideals of America. Besides being great Presidents, what does each of these men have in common? As children, none of them had any regular, formal schooling. They were all self-educated and learned at home!
Washington Word Find - My favorite kind of word game! (I found 60; can you beat me?)
Presidents Day Quiz - Lincoln and Washington Trivia (printable PDF).
Fun Facts Trivia Quiz
Put a "G" next to all the statements that are true about George Washington, and put an "A" next to all the statements that are true about Abraham Lincoln, then check your answers below.
1. At one time he seriously thought of becoming a blacksmith.
2. He had long hair that he tied back with a ribbon.
3. A little girl told him that he would look much better if he grew a beard.
4. He inherited a plantation with slaves, but he freed them all in his will.
5. His height was 6' 3", quite tall for a man at that time.
6. He was 6' 4", the tallest man ever to have served as President.
7. He was a good wrestler.
8. He was an excellent horseback rider.
9. He wore a set of false teeth made of ivory, metal, a cow's tooth, and one of his own teeth.
10. He had a habit of carrying important papers in his hat.
11. His face is on pennies and five-dollar bills.
12. His face is on quarters and one-dollar bills.
13. His favorite subject was mathematics.
14. He practiced his arithmetic by writing numbers on a fireplace shovel.
15. The Julian calendar, precursor to the Gregorian calendar, was in use at the time he was born.
16. Louis Braille, Charles Darwin, Edgar Allen Poe, Felix Mendelssohn, and Alfred Lord Tennyson were born in the same year he was.
17. The first transcontinental telegraph line was completed in the same year his presidency began.
18. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were composing music in Europe when he was President.
19. He warned against political parties, believing they would destroy the unity of the nation.
20. More books have been written about him than any other United States President.
Answers: 1=A, 2=G, 3=A, 4=G, 5=G, 6=A, 7=A, 8=G, 9=G, 10=A, 11=A, 12=G, 13=G, 14=A, 15=G, 16=A, 17=A, 18=G, 19=G, 20=A
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN (In Their Own Words Series), by George Sullivan.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: THE BOY, THE MAN, by Lloyd Ostendorf.
IF YOU GREW UP WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN, by Ann McGovern.
LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY, by Russell Freedman.
LINCOLN: IN HIS OWN WORDS, edited by Milton Meltzer.
TRUE STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, by Ruth Belov Gross.
AMERICA IN THE TIME OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Sally Isaacs.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE BIRTH OF OUR NATION, by Milton Meltzer.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Cheryl Harness.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: FIRST U.S. PRESIDENT, by Tara Baukus Mello.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT BE KING, by Stephen Krensky.
IF YOU GREW UP WITH GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Ruth Belov Gross.
MEET GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Joan Heilbroner.
www.patriotism.org/presidents_day/ - President's Day: history of the holiday, lesson plan, links to Washington, Lincoln, and more.
http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/explore/presidents.html - The Presidents of the United States of America; learn about the Presidents and some First Ladies at World Almanac for Kids.
http://a4esl.org/q/h/tf-lb-pday.html - President's Day Quiz: Take a quick quiz to test yourself on presidential trivia!
http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/activity/presidentsday/ - President's Day Activities, Literature Recommendations, and a Bibliography.
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/presidentsday/ - President's Day Activities and Crafts for kindergarten, preschool, and elementary school from Enchanted Learning Software.
http://fun.familyeducation.com/presidents-day/holidays-and-celebrations/32937.html - Celebrate Presidents' Day by learning about our country's leaders with these cool quizzes, printables, and more holiday resources at FamilyEducation.com!
http://www.ipl.org/div/potus/ - Do you need information about any of the Presidents of the United States? Check here for facts, pictures, and links to other sites from The Internet Public Library.
www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/indexjs.html - PBS: The Presidents.
Websites: George Washington
odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/ - Presidential Speeches and Writings.
www.mountvernon.org - Mount Vernon, Home of George Washington.
http://earlyamerica.com/lives/gwlife/index.html - The Life of Washington: Read the entire book online!
www.osv.org/gw/wquiz2.htm - George Washington Quiz.
http://www2.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/gw1.html - White House Site on George Washington.
http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/ - The Papers of George Washington, an online archive of Washington's correspondence, speeches and papers, provided by the University of Virginia.
http://www.columbia.edu/~gmr3/George.html - Myths and Truths about George Washington.
http://www.georgewashington.si.edu/ - George Washington: A National Treasure. Includes a Teacher's Resource Guide (PDF): http://www.georgewashington.si.edu/kids/teacherguide.pdf
http://www.mountvernon.org - Take a Virtual Tour of Washington's Home and Estate.
Websites: Abraham Lincoln
http://www.netins.net/showcase/creative/lincoln.html - Abraham Lincoln Online; comprehensive Lincoln site.
http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/lincolnpoetry/ - Library of Congress: Abraham Lincoln and Poetry.
http://www.highlightskids.com/Lincoln/lincolnsBirthdayKids1.asp?ccid=EMC-1000-1001993 - Lincoln Tribute Page from Highlights Magazine.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Venue/5217/lincoln.html - Mr. Donovan's Abraham Lincoln Page.
http://www.siec.k12.in.us/~west/proj/lincoln/ - Abraham Lincoln for Primary Children.
http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln2.html - Abraham Lincoln Research Site: learn about Abraham Lincoln, his family, and more.
http://www.perpetualpreschool.com/president.html - President's Day Fun: songs, action rhymes, and art activities designed for use with young children.
http://www.education-world.com/holidays/archives/february.shtml - Education World ® Holidays Center: February President's Day Activities! Super lessons for teaching about the presidents.
http://www.abelincoln.com - Abraham Lincoln Collectibles, featuring works by renowned Lincoln artist Lloyd Ostendorf and others.
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