The Mount Vernon estate of President George Washington has yanked a souvenir depicting the founding father’s fake teeth from its website after criticism over the fact that Washington looked to enslaved Blacks for his “million-dollar smile.”
The estate announced Wednesday it was removing the magnet souvenir from its online store, according to a Twitter post. Critics angered over the item underscored the reality that Washington’s dentures were made from teeth “yanked from the heads of his slaves.”
Howard University professor and historian Ana Lucia Araujo is the latest to blast the estate over its sale of the item.
The age-old debate into President George Washington’s wooden teeth was reignited in 2018 when Philly Tribune columnist Michael Coard penned an explosive op-ed detailing the 1784 procedure in which human teeth — not wooden ones — were implanted into the president’s mouth. Those same teeth would later be used to make his first full set of dentures.
Payment to the dentist was also recorded in a ledger showing he paid 6 pounds, 2 shillings “to Negroes for 9 teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoin.”
On its website, the estate notes that while the enslaved were compensated, they had little choice in whether they wanted to give up their teeth.
It adds: “While it may seem particularly gruesome, a perfectly acceptable means of making money was by selling teeth to dentists. Since at least the end of the Middle Ages, very poor people have sold their teeth for use in both dentures and in tooth transplant operations to benefit those wealthy enough to afford these procedures.”
Online users lauded Mount Vernon for its quick action in addressing criticism sparked by the souvenir.
“Credit where credit is due! Thank you,” one woman wrote.
“Thank you for acting so quickly,” another chimed in.
Another was equally grateful, but asked that estate stop selling the item in its brick-and-mortar store as well.