Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Christian G. Hahn, 20 March 1801

From Christian G. Hahn

Boston, 20 Mch. 1801. He asks TJ’s pardon for approaching him with a request. Two years ago he arrived in the U.S. and then had the misfortune of falling ill for 18 months, which depleted his little savings. He learned his trade from his father, the famous mechanic Pastor Hahn of Württemberg. After the death of his father, he went to Berlin and worked as a watch and clockmaker under a concession from King Frederick William II. Following the king’s death, he went to America and desires nothing now except to reenter his trade. Lacking friends to help him obtain the 200 taler necessary to purchase tools, he asks if TJ would help him to make his living in this country, promising TJ his first sample of a mechanical watch. He also makes watches for ladies and a variety of other time pieces. A prompt reply and a patent are requested.

RC (DLC); 2 p.; in German; endorsed by TJ as received “about” 25 Mch.


Christian Gottfried Hahn (b. 1769) was the son of Philipp Matthäus Hahn, a minister, inventor, and maker of precision mechanical instruments, including clocks and one of the first mechanical calculating machines (Hans R. Jenemann, “Der Mechanicker-Pfarrer Philipp Matthäus Hahn und die Ausbreitung der Feinmechanik in Südwestdeutschland,” Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte, 46 [1987], 117–61).

Hahn wrote TJ another letter from Boston on 4 May, which was translated from German by Jacob Wagner, a clerk in the State Department. Repeating his request for employment, Hahn wrote, “I am more than 31 years old and my character will not admit of my begging for money.” He beseeched TJ “not to overlook my request, as I have neither friends nor relations and therefore I have sought a friend” (Tr in DLC, translation in Wagner’s hand; RC in same, in German, endorsed by TJ as received 16 May and so recorded in SJL).

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