Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Adlum, 7 October 1809

To John Adlum

Monticello Oct. 7. 09


While I lived in Washington, a member of Congress from your state (I do not recollect which) presented me with two bottles of wine made by you, one of which, of Madeira colour, he said was entirely factitious, the other, a dark red wine was made from a wild or native grape, called in Maryland the Fox grape, but very different from what is called by that name in Virginia. this was a very fine wine, & so exactly resembling the red Burgundy of Chambertin (one of the best crops) that on fair comparison with that, of which I had very good on the same table imported by myself from the place where made, the company could not distinguish the one from the other. I think it would be well to push the culture of that grape, without losing our time & efforts in search of foreign vines, which it will take centuries to adapt to our soil & climate. the object of the present letter is so far to trespass on your kindness, & your disposition to promote a culture so useful, as to request you, at the proper season to send me some cuttings of that vine. they should be taken off in February, with 5. buds to each cutting, and if done up first in strong linen & then covered with paper & addressed to me at Monticello near Milton, and committed to the post, they will come safely & so speedily as to render their success probable. praying your pardon to a brother-amateur in these things, I beg leave to tender you my salutations & assurances of respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (CLjC); at foot of text: “Majr Adlam.” PoC (DLC); endorsed by TJ. Enclosed in Adlum to TJ, 5 June 1822, and TJ to Adlum, 13 June 1822. Printed (dated 11 Nov. 1809) in American Farmer 4 (1823): 343.

John Adlum (1758–1836), surveyor and viticulturist, was a native of York, Pennsylvania, a Revolutionary War veteran, an associate judge in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1795–98, and a major in the United States Army, 1799–1800. In 1805 he settled at Wilton, a farm near Havre de Grace, Maryland, and developed a reputation as an authority on grapes and wine making. Adlum eventually established a farm and nursery in Georgetown. Best known for his propagation of the Catawba grape, he also actively sought government patronage for his vineyard and for experimental agriculture, and he published A Memoir on the Cultivation of the Vine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine (Washington, 1823; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 6 [no. 260]) and Adlum on Making Wine (Georgetown, 1826). Adlum’s correspondence with TJ began with this letter and touched primarily on wine and grape cultivation (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Howard H. Peckham, ed., Memoirs of the Life of John Adlum in the Revolutionary War [1968]; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:154).

Gabriel Christie was the member of congress from Maryland who introduced TJ to wine from the wild or native Alexander grape which, due to Adlum’s efforts, by 1816 became the first American grape grown commercially (Adlum to TJ, 15 Feb. 1810; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1323n).

Index Entries

  • Adlum, John; Adlum on Making Wine search
  • Adlum, John; A Memoir on the Cultivation of the Vine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine search
  • Adlum, John; identified search
  • Adlum, John; letters to search
  • Adlum on Making Wine (Adlum) search
  • A Memoir on the Cultivation of the Vine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine (Adlum) search
  • Christie, Gabriel search
  • food; grapes search
  • grapes; Catawba search
  • viticulture; in U.S. search
  • wine; burgundy search