JEFFERSON, Thomas, President. Autograph letter signed ("Th: Jefferson") as President TO JAMES DINSMORE, Jefferson's overseer at Monticello, WITH TWO SMALL DRAWINGS IN THE TEXT, Washington, D.C., 30 December 1808. 1 page, 4to, torn seal, otherwise in fine condition.
BUILDING THE PRESIDENTIAL BED AT MONTICELLO, WITH SKETCHES
"Architecture is my delight," Jefferson had confessed to a friend, "and putting up and pulling down is one of my favorite amusements." In 1795 after he resigned as Secretary of State, Jefferson had undertaken an extensive redesign and enlargement of his beloved Monticello, according to new plans which he had taken at least a decade to formulate. Before, during and long after his Presidential term he closely supervised the work through his manager, James Dinsmore, who oversaw the daily work of the masons, carpenters, plasterers and glaziers at work on the construction. Here, only three months before his departure from the White House--in preparation for his retirement--Jefferson writes to Dinsmore, forwarding certain tools and hardware, and gives detailed instructions for the final touches to the alcove for his bed.
"By Davy you will receive a bundle containing 2. bells, & 4. bell-levers, the planes you wrote for, & 2 kneebolts. In a separate roll is the sand-paper you desired. The folding mahogany sash which closes the alcove of my bed is too heavy & troublesome. I wish you to make a folding frame to fit the alcove & to be covered with paper on both sides. The frame must consist of 3 parts united by 2 pr. of hinges on each side in this manner (observing first that it is to open vertically, and not horizontally as the mahogany one does)." In two detailed sketches, Jefferson illustrates the folding frame, and the alcove with the folding frame in place. Referring to a small diagram labelled 'a' 'b' and 'c', he instructs: "The piece a is in place of a stud, only to be thin, & of such breadth as to give it sufficient strength...It is to be bolted at bottom into the floor, & at top into the rabbet of the architrave. To it are to be fastened on each side the two wings b & c by hinges on which these wings will open easily so as to let them get at the bed to make it up." He instructs Dinsmore to acquire the correct bolts, which he has "seen in the stores at Milton & Charlottesville," and concludes with the final touches: "You will find paper [wallpaper] for this object in my cabinet. There are 2 rolls & I think they lie on the book shelves of the Eastern angle. If not there, they are somewhere in the Cabinet."
In spite of Jefferson's non-stop activity as a builder, "he never really did finish Monticello; that seems never to have been his intention. There were always piles of wood and treacherous catwalks...; the thrill of building always satisfied him more than the result." (W.S. Randall, Thomas Jefferson, p.586)