Friday, January 05, 2007

GW wrote he was 6 feet high... Mt. Vernon's New Face - In Structure And Countenance - News - Mount Vernon Gazette - Connection Newspapers

Dear Friends,

One of my "scouts" who sends me intelligence, sent me a packet of information --

The "Dean" of George Washington's William Sommerfield is, or has, retired. Bless him, for he has done much to reawaken the American mind to the life of Washington.

The new Mount Vernon George Washington, Dean Malissa, was chosen from among the members of Sommerfield's Philadelphia American Historical Theater.

Some years ago, some Revolutionary War re-enactors told me they heard Sommerfield missed an event due to sickness and was planning to retire, so I wrote a letter to Jim Rees, Executive Director of Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens who I first met when I served as a volunteer at Mount Vernon, and later interacted with when Governor Gilmore appointed me to the Board of Visitors to Mount Vernon, offering to be an understudy to Sommerfield and stand-in when he was not able to make an engagement due to sickness or other cause. I did not receive a reply from Rees, or Sommerfield.

My first time as George Washington was some years before that letter, in the 200th Anniversary of the City of Alexandria George Washington Birthday Parade in a.d. 1997. Though I did not know there was that year a competition for the "George Washington Look-Alike", there was, and I won from among I believe 8 George Washington interpreters in the parade that year.

The year I began performing GW was in a.d. 1999 for about 95 American Christian Tour high school groups from all across America when in Washington, I was also on the Mount Vernon Board of Visitors. Mr. Sommerfield and I met in Richmond at the Virginia Historical Society at an opening of a double Washington exhibit (he in GW uniform, me in modern attire, wouldn't it have been fun if for the double exhibit there had been a "double presence" of George Washington - he and me?).

We had the occasion to chat a moment, whereupon I shared with Mr. Sommerfield that I had had the joy that year of performing as George Washington at that point to about 75 student tour groups, expecting that we might share some friendly banter about the fun and challenging questions one receives when serving as GW, or something of the like in pleasant conversation.

Rather than a comment of camaraderie, Mr. Sommerfield retorted: "You are not tall enough to be George Washington."

Beyond the fact that I was "a shade" taller than Mr. Sommerfield, I did not respond with that obvious observation. Instead, I responded:

"Sir, let me assure you, that height is but one of many ways where -- I -- will NEVER -- measure up to George Washington!"

Mr. Sommerfield's eyes widened to look like saucers, but said he not another word. We went each our separate ways.

Interestingly that event was on 2 July a.d. 1999, if I recall correctly. The next month in August, I took a young man from Soweto, South Africa who I had met at a Biblical Worldview Conference in Charlottesville given by Providence Foundation to view the same double GW exhibit enroute to taking him to the Richmond airport.

There I saw a letter from a 32 year old George Washington to his tailor in London, Mr. Charles Lawrence, telling him to make a suit of clothes for him writing "for a man of my height, to wit, six feet high..."

So whatever historians, including David McCullough in his otherwise wonderful book "1776", may say that George Washington was 6 foot 2 to 6 foot 4, both George Washington and his tailor thought otherwise. What did they know that modern historians don't know?

And by the way, GW's grandson, or rather Martha's grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, father in law of Robert E. Lee, in his biography of George Washington, "Recollections and Private Memoirs of George Washington" said his grandfather was "a shade over six feet".

Also I have read somewhere that George Washington's primary doctor, Dr. James Craik, measured Washington on the day of his death at six feet.

However, a few years ago when I was on the Mount Vernon Board of Visitors and I asked why they kept saying GW was 6-2 to 6-4 (which was it?) they trotted out that another of the three doctors, Dr. Brown I believe I recall, wrote that Washington was 6-3 and a half.

While Washington is an amazing man, you can add to that list of amazing feats that while he did not grow "feets" after he died, according to one doctor, he did grow inches!

Or at least in the minds of historians he grew inches.

I have written that far too many historians elevate Washington in height, while they diminish him in stature.

That used to be the case, but there has in the past decade been a revival of Washington books that praise the man,...

and in the past year six books on Washington and his Christian faith where he prayed and praised his Lord Jesus.

By the way, one of my intelligence scouts is "Private Barney Google". He seems to be able to sift through the WWW - Whole Wide World - of information to find relevant data.

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