One of America’s first entrepreneurs.
F ishing, flour, whiskey and real estate are just a few of the businesses run by George Washington—he of the Continental Army, U.S. presidency, tricorn hat and dollar bill. “He was always eager to try the latest reforms in a scientific way,” says Douglas Bradburn, founding director of the Washington Library at Mount Vernon.
Washington grew wheat on a former tobacco plantation, built a gristmill, invested in radical new automated technology for grinding grain (an early patent issued in the U.S.) and produced 278,000 pounds of flour a year that he sold all over Europe. With all that grain and nearby water (the Potomac flowed outside his front door), he experimented with whiskey—a project so successful he built one of America’s largest distilleries. Washington had his flops—his Dismal Swamp Company, organized to tame wetlands in southern Virginia, failed. Still, “Washington was the first president of America’s first great start-up,” Bradburn says.