As thoroughly researched as the life of Washington has been, his career as a warrior and statesman has largely overshadowed his entrepreneurial history. He was the CEO, in effect, of a farming, manufacturing and real estate operation that by the end of his life encompassed more than 50,000 acres of field and forest. Farms, fisheries, weavers, smithies, a grist mill, a distillery -- these were just part of the Washington empire.
Washington came of age as a backcountry surveyor of relatively modest means. His business sensibilities, innovative thinking and willingness to take chances are all part and parcel of his evolution as a revolutionary.
By the end of his life, Washington was one of the richest men in the nation he had helped create. But he knew the frustrations of doing business in a land that lacked banks, roads and industry, where there was little capital, and where he had to depend on transatlantic commerce using information moving at the speed of a sailing ship. Washington was so cash-strapped in 1789 that he had to borrow money from a neighbor in order to travel to his presidential inauguration.