Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Perkins, 24 March 1801

To Thomas Perkins

Washington Mar. 24. 1801.


I recieved in due time your favor of Feb. 6. but never till now have had a moment’s leisure to make you my acknolegements for the permission to use your invention. my nailers are employed in hammering nails, except one cutter for four pennies only, our neighborhood requiring no other cut nail. so that it is but a small business with me. still I like to see even small things done to the best advantage. I am not certain that I perfectly understand the manner of making the vice for holding and pushing up the hoop iron; tho I have some idea of it; and you do not mention whether you cut your hoop cold or warm. I cut it warm, in which case the frequent changes necessary would waste time. perhaps you can add to your former favor by taking time to drop me a line of information on this subject which will be thankfully recieved by Sir

Your humble servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (Thomas J. Perkins, Easton, Maryland, 1946); addressed: “Mr. Thomas Perkins Naaman’s creek mills near Wilmington Delaware”; franked; postmarked 25 Mch.

Thomas Perkins received a patent for manufacturing nails in February 1794. He may have been the person of that name who was sheriff of New Castle County, Delaware, 1809–11, and who represented that county in the state assembly, 1803–5, and the state senate, 1807. Naaman’s Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River near the Delaware-Pennsylvania boundary, had been the site of water-powered grain milling since the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Perkins family had been in the locale even longer (List of Patents, description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1792, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends 8; Henry C. Conrad, History of the State of Delaware, 3 vols. [Wilmington, Del., 1908], 1:264, 272, 293; 2:451–2, 458).

Former favor: a letter from Perkins to TJ, dated 6 Feb. 1801 and recorded in SJL as received from Naaman’s Creek Mills on the 20th of that month, has not been found.

A line of information: Perkins wrote TJ from the mills on 8 May 1801; that letter, recorded in SJL as received on 16 May, has not been located. It was enclosed in a brief communication written by Benjamin Perkins to TJ, dated at Washington on 15 May: “The Letter Inclosed Came to me with a Request to furnish you with a Drawing of a Michene for Cutting Nails for which My Brother Obtained a Pattent—the Drawing Shall be Handed to you & any Explanations Necesry given by wednesday Next—By your Obt Svt” (RC in MHi; at foot of text: “New York avenu near Mr Taloes Building”; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States Washington City”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 May 1801 and so recorded in SJL).

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