Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Oldham, 24 April 1802

To James Oldham

Washington Apr. 24. 1802.


I recieved your favor of the 16th. by the last post, whereby I observe you are engaged on the N. Western cornice of the house. I would much rather have the 2d. and 3d. air-closets finished before any thing else; because it will be very disagreeable working in them after even one of them begins to be in use. I shall be at Monticello within a fortnight from this time. Accept my best wishes.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Facsimile in Raab Autographs Catalogue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, January 2003).

Oldham’s FAVOR of 16 Apr., recorded in SJL as received from Monticello on the 19th, has not been found. TJ recorded in his financial memoranda under 16 May, “On settlement with James Oldham, to Apr. 13. 1802. when his first year ended there was due to him then 232.40 which he chuses should lie on my hands. I promised to settle interest on it as I do on Dinsmore’s” (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1072).

In his notebook for the remodeling of Monticello, TJ referred to the indoor conveniences or privies as AIR-CLOSETS. One was located adjoining his bedroom and two were off the first and second floor south stair passages. These small interior spaces consisted of skylit shafts that extended below the floor to the subcellar where each was joined by a single masonry-lined sink or conduit, probably intended for the transport of waste (“Monticello: Notebook for Remodelling, [1794–1797],” in MHi; Fiske Kimball, Thomas Jefferson Architect [Boston, 1916], 59, 161; William L. Beiswanger, “Monticello’s Privies,” Monticello Research Report, 2003, at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.).

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