On this day in 1732, George Washington was born at Popes Creek farm in Westmoreland County, the son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington.
It’s a little confusing, because by Washington’s calendar, he was actually born on February 11, 1731. That’s because at the time England (and therefore Virginia) used the Julian, or Old Style, calendar. Much of Catholic Europe, however, had switched to the Gregorian, or New Style, calendar, which, for religious reasons, recalculated leap years. In order to get the ball rolling, Pope Gregory XIII had—for one time only—slashed the calendar by ten days. At the same time, the Catholics (including those in Scotland) mostly decided that the year should begin on January 1. England, living in its own private Idaho, didn’t turn the calendar until March 25.
So, Washington’s birthday: February 11, 1731, in England and Virginia; February 11, 1732, in Scotland; and February 22, 1732, in most of the rest of Europe.
Go figure. Virginia didn’t join the New Style party until 1752.
The birth dates of T. O. Sandy and Louis I. Jaffé, also born on this day, aren’t nearly so confusing.
A version of this post was originally published on February 22, 2012.
IMAGE: George Washington, a so-called fraktur drawing done by Pennsylvania German artists in a style reminiscent of a medieval illuminated manuscript (National Park Service)