Author: Mason Locke Weems

Mason Locke Weems, c. 1810, artist unknown

Mason Locke Weems (1759–1825), commonly known as Parson Weems, was an Episcopal priest, book agent, and author. He is most famous for his biography of George Washington, which he published a year after Washington’s death. The basis for much of the folklore surrounding the first president—including the famous “I cannot tell a lie” story of Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree—the book was an immediate bestseller and served to elevate Washington into an American icon. Weems also produced biographical works about Benjamin Franklin, Revolutionary War officer Francis Marion, and William Penn, the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania. 

The Fable of George Washington and the Cherry Tree

Mason Locke Weems

Truth to tell, very little is known about the actual early life of George Washington. The most famous stories about Washington’s boyhood come from Parson Weems’ bestselling Life of Washington (1800), which remained the most popular biography of Washington throughout the 19th century.