George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Greenwood, 7 December 1798

To John Greenwood

Philadelphia 7th Decr 1798


What you sent me last answer exceedingly well; and I send the first to be altered & made like them, if you can.

Your recollection of these—with the directions and observations contained in my two last letters—the latter especially—supercedes the necessity of being particular in this.1

I will however just remark that the great error in those (now returned to you) is, that the upper teeth & bars do not fall back enough thus [sketch] but stand more upright so [sketch (a)] by which means the bar at (a) shoots beyond the gums and not only forces the lip out just under the nose, but by not having its proper place to rest upon frets, & makes that part very sore.2

I shall add no more than to request you will be so good as to let me have them as soon as you conveniently can; altered or not altered. Direct for me at this place, or at Mount Vernon, as it is not likely I shall be here more than two or three days longer.

I thank you very much for your obliging attention to my requests—and am Sir With esteem & regard Yr very Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I am willing & ready to pay what ever you may charge me.

ALS, DLC:GW. The letter is marked on the back by GW: “For Mr Jno. Greenwood and to be opened by him only.”

1GW wrote to Greenwood on 3 and 5 November. The letter of 3 Nov. is missing, but it is doubtful that GW was referring to either of these letters. It is far more likely that he was referring to two more recent (missing) letters. Greenwood’s response of 8 Dec. is also missing, to which GW responded on 12 Dec. before leaving Philadelphia on 14 Dec.: “Sir, Your letter of the 8th came safe. And as I am hurrying, in order to leave this City tomorrow, I must be short.

“The principal thing you will have to attend to, in the alteration you are about to make, is to let the upper bar fall back from the lower one thus [sketch]; whether the teeth are quite streight, or inclining a little in thus, [sketch] or a little rounding outwards thus [sketch] is immaterial, for I find it is the bars alone both above and below that gives the lips the pouting and swelling appearance—of consequence, if this can be remedied, all will be well.

“I send you the old bars, which you returned to me with the new set, because you have desired. But they may be destroyed, or any thing else done with them you please, for you will find that I have been obliged to file them away so much above, to remedy the evil I have been complaining of as to render them useless perhaps to receive new teeth. But of this you are better able to judge than I am—If you can fix the teeth (now on the new bars which you have) on the old bars which you will receive with this letter I should prefer it because the latter are easy in the Mouth. and you will perceive moreover that when the edges of the upper and lower teeth are put together that the upper falls back into the mouth, which they ought to do, or it will have the effect of forcing the lip out just under the nose.

“I shall only repeat again, that I feel much obliged by your extreme willingness, and readiness to accomodate me and that I am Sir Your Obedt Servant Go: Washington” (ALS, MBOS). GW notes in his Day Book on 13 Dec. that he “sent Mr Jno. Greenwood—Dentist of New York—for Services—$30.” GW corresponded with Greenwood about his teeth shortly before he left Philadelphia in 1797 (GW to Greenwood, 20 and 25 Jan. 1797).

2Each of the sketches enclosed in GW’s letters to Greenwood of 7 and 12 Dec. is composed of two lines, or bars, one above the other, and set at different angles.

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