Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Mathias Kin, 28 September 1801

From Mathias Kin

Philaa. Septr. 28. 1801.


Mr Professor Harmer of Strasburgh on the Rhine requested me to bear the enclosed to your Excellency. the season for collecting seeds being pretty far advanced and as I wish to go to the western part of this State and return hither in time to send to Europe before winter I am debar’d the pleasure of presenting it.—if my memory does not deceive me I saw in the neighbourhood of Monte Cello some trees of the Paccan or Illinois nut. the impossibility of procuring some of the Nuts from any other place that I know soon enough to send to Europe this Autumn will I hope excuse me with your Excellency for intruding so far as to request the favor of you to send me a few by the end of November, any seeds or Plants you may wish to obtain from Europe will be procured with the greatest pleasure by your most obedient humble Sevt.

Matthias King.

RC (MH); below signature: “Botanist No. 423 North Second Street Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Frédéric L. Hammer to TJ, 12 May 1801.

Mathias Kin, also known as Matthias King, made a specialty of locating seeds and plants. He was originally from Strasbourg. On a recent trip to Europe, he had carried to Frédéric Hammer a new edition of Notes on the State of Virginia that included TJ’s appendix of 1800. Hammer was one of Kin’s clients, and Kin, under a charge from François André Michaux, also collected seeds from American forests for the French government. Kin traveled widely in the United States and made at least one journey to Asia, although on the return voyage he lost his specimens to “cruizers at sea.” He collected over 60 varieties of American oaks. During the nineteenth century, Germantown, Pennsylvania, where Kin had friends, boasted impressive magnolias, pecan trees, yews, and other trees that were the products of his travels (Henry Savage, Jr., and Elizabeth J. Savage, André and François André Michaux [Charlottesville, 1986], 215, 262, 283; Edwin C. Jellett, Germantown Gardens and Gardeners [Philadelphia, 1914], 74–6; Townsend Ward, “The Germantown Road and its Associations,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 6 [1882], 396–8, 401; Bartonia: Proceedings of the Philadelphia Botanical Club, 9 [1926], 38–9; Hammer to TJ, 12 May 1801; Kin to TJ, 24 Dec. 1805, in MH; TJ to Kin, 15 Jan. 1806, in DLC).

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