The Man Behind the Myth: The Real George Washington

Of all the legendary figures in American history, George Washington is in a class by himself. Founding father, Commander of the Continental Army, and America’s first president – his face is as familiar as the dollar bill. Most everyone knows this great man, or thinks they do. But we’re starting to learn that much of what we thought is fact, is actually fiction.

Did you know Washington has often been cast as Colonial aristocracy, but his roots are far more common? Archaeologists have uncovered the lost remains of his boyhood home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The site reveals not a wealthy man, reluctant to accept the greatness thrust upon him – but an ambitious youth faced with adversity.

The legend of Washington and the Cherry Tree is a childhood fable known the world over. But contrary to this myth, Washington could tell a lie. In fact, during the Revolution, he told a great many of them. This episode explores Washington’s use of misinformation, secret codes, invisible inks, and other spycraft to confuse and deceive the British.

Also, you will learn of the issue of Washington and slavery, including his ruthless pursuit of runaways, and the startling discoveries archaeologists have made at his Executive Mansion in Philadelphia.

Finally, we’ll learn how scientists are applying modern forensic techniques to create an accurate depiction of Washington’s face. Using 3D laser scanners and historic pieces of art, we’ll be able to see Washington not as painters have romanticized him, but as he truly appeared.

Through the work of these modern scholars and scientists, we’re starting to cut through the layers of myth that surround George Washington, separating fact from fiction.

Tune in to Explorer: The Real George Washington Sunday at 7p and see Washington, not only as a great leader, but as a man – the founding father we hardly knew.


  1. Robin
    new jersey
    February 17, 2013, 7:35 pm

    I love all the shows i watch on National Geograhic channel but i have to say i was annoyed by the little “fact” blocks you were putting on the screen. I could not read them AND listen to what the narrator was saying! Who ever thought of that? It was terrible..i had to keep rewinding after i read block to hear what the narrator said! Otherwise i love the show!

  2. Nita Gervin
    Fenwick, Michigan
    February 18, 2013, 12:27 pm

    What a shame that people are trying to make our Founding Fathers look as bad as possible. The Man behind the Myth was just that. Washington was a great man and a christain man only interested in helping the U.S. A great President. Believe me he spent a lot of time on his knees praying for direction. Don’t believe everything you see on TV

  3. Jerry
    North Carolina
    February 18, 2013, 10:22 pm

    NG tried to paint a picture of a Tyrant but didn’t have the facts to back it up. While Washington may not have been the greatest military leader we have ever known. He did what he had to do to defeat the greatest military on earth – The British Crown and he did it with less military stores and 1/10th the men. He was elected as President by the first congress by a unanimous vote of Congress. He could have been King. He hated slavery even though he owned over 300 which he could have sold for over a million dollars. Upon his request and with Martha’s agreement the couple decided to release the slaves upon her death. She made the decision to sell over 20 thousand acres of land and set the slaves free. Washington was a very ambitious man which is a character of any man that has become the president of the USA. Washington married money but he also was accomplished and doubled the wealth of his wife. Washington served from 1775 as the General of all Americans not ever taking a salary. In fact Washington had financed a lot of the war himself and when the British surrendered he resigned his position and submitted a bill to the Government – not for his salary – but for over 100 Thousand dollars of expenditures he had used of his own money to fight the war. Washington had retired to his plantation and had not planned on being involved in government anymore as he was about his business of running the plantation and building churches. Benjamin Franklin and James Madison sent for him to come help set up the new government – When he was asked to come his reply was “Have I not given enough for my country” When he arrived at the convention he was immediately elected to be the president over the proceeding which formed our now United States of America. Your expose was more to tear down a great man by twisting the truth to make him look bad when you could have taken the same length of time to tell it like it really was. I was totally discussed by the program – your opinion doesn’t change history.

  4. Bill
    February 27, 2013, 12:09 am

    Very biased report on Washington. At the start of the show they suck you in by saying he was a liar and loved another woman. You watch it realize how they took it out of context. Jerrys post spells it out. A great man that defeated a well oiled British army with our rag tag under financed army. You can thank George for America. Without him you would not be here right now. You would be a Brit ruled by a queen

  5. […] The Man Behind the Myth: The Real George Washington […]

  6. ebony black
    January 13, 2015, 1:28 pm

    They failed to mention his “wooden teeth” borrowed or should I say stolen from an AFRICAN man; which was one of his slaves…Oh and he’s the 9th president. There were 8 others before Mr. Liein ass George Washington…

  7. […] The Man Behind the Myth: The Real George Washington […]

  8. MundusVultDecipi
    April 24, 5:40 am

    Mr washington was a luciferian, masonic muppet. Also, if you think the us of a isnt ruled by the queen you are sadly mistaken. The ruling class is very much alive and kicking. They just realised banking/debt was much better slavery as slaves pay their own food and lodging. And that installing muppets to take the blame and give the appearance of a so called democratic free society. Everything was rigged from the beginning and still is, they just went underground. worst part is people wont wake up and see , they prefer to be willingly ignorant