Texas Censored George Washington, For An Imaginary Wardrobe Malfunction
At the top of this page is the famous 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. We have featured it on the site many times before, and we confidently display it again. We absolutely do not fear inconvenient questions about the painting, such as, say, "Is George Washington's penis hanging out?"
The answer to that question, by the way, is an emphatic no. While you may notice a red dot on the general's pant leg, that is of course not a penis. It's a bit of red ribbon attached to his pocket watch. Artist Emanuel Leutze had absolutely no reason to include genitalia in his depiction of this historical scene. And if he wanted to, considering the work's romanticized nature, we'd imagine something ripping through the fabric around Washington's knee rather than quietly peeking out so high up.
And yet in 1999, Muscogee County in Georgia thought the fob looked pornographic. The superintendent ordered teachers to paint over the offending red bit to spare students the sight. They painted 2,300 textbooks, by hand. Even if the watch fob is just a watch fob, argued the superintendent, kids might mistake it for something else. Another Georgia county had teachers rip the offending page right out of textbooks, going for the rare sacrilege-authoritarianism double whammy.
In 2002, the furor over Washington's wardrobe came to Texas. They say everything's bigger in Texas, and that certainly includes the school system, but apparently doesn't include penises because Texas too thought the fob looked like one. Here, they were looking for a little more censorship than a few teachers could manage by hand. Instead, they ordered books from publishers who did the job for them. One blurred Washington's groin. Another subbed in a reproduction of the painting, which had less detail.
We can't find any info on the controversy in the years that followed. Probably, publishers reverted to the intact copy of the painting they had on file, as soon as school administrators got distracted by something else.
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Top image: Emanuel Leutze
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