Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Le Tellier, 27 March 1810

To John Le Tellier

Monticello Mar. 27. 10.


Being just setting out on a journey, I have directed during my absence a pair of Cans and a pair of Beakers to be sent to you to be melted & put into the form of a plated cup, which will be sent with them as a model. the Cans & beakers weigh a little over 40. oz. avoirdupoise, the model a little over two ounces & a half. but it is too thin & weak for common use. I think those to be made should be of 5. oz. avoirdupoise weight nearly. they must also be about half an inch higher, in order to hold a little more than the model does in every other respect I would wish the model to be exactly imitated. I suppose the metal of the Cans & beakers will make about 8. cups such as desired. that number however I would wish to recieve even if additional metal should be necessary. mark 4. of them if you please G. W. to T. J. and the others simply T. J. all in the cypher stile. if you can gild the inside as the model is it would be desirable. when done, pack them very safely in a box, so that they may come without injury by the stage, & deliver them to mr Jefferson who will forward them. send your bill at the same time and I will have paiment made through him. I am too well acquainted with the stile of your execution to suppose it necessary to add any recommendations on that subject. accept the assurances of my esteem.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); at foot of text: “Mr Le Telier”; endorsed by TJ.

John Le Tellier (d. 1819), the son of a Philadelphia silversmith of the same name, worked with his father in that city, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, and later pursued this trade on his own in Washington and Fredericksburg before settling in Richmond. He also practiced dentistry. In 1806 Le Tellier sold TJ a case for his drawing instruments and a silver can for his friend Charles Clay. Two years later he manufactured two silver soup tureens for the President’s House at TJ’s request. TJ admired his work and in July 1817 asked him to consider moving to Charlottesville. Le Tellier declined because he relied on his income as keeper of Richmond’s poorhouse and powder magazine (Ruthanna Hindes, “Delaware Silversmiths, 1700–1850,” Delaware History 12 [1967]: 275–6, illus. opp. 272; Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 1993 description ends , 333, 370; Richmond Enquirer, 16 Sept., 10 Oct. 1806; Le Tellier to TJ, 8 Mar. 1808, and TJ to Le Tellier, 15, 26 Oct. 1808 [DLC]; TJ to Le Tellier, 22 July 1817, Le Tellier to TJ, 18 June 1810, 11 Aug. 1817; Richmond Commercial Compiler, 17 May 1819).

The beakers that TJ ordered melted were bequeathed to him in 1806 by his mentor George Wythe, whose memory he honored with the inscription on four of the tumblers crafted by Le Tellier. Six of the original eight pieces survive, as does the model that TJ provided. They have come to be known as Jefferson Cups and are frequently reproduced (see illustrations to this volume and Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 1993 description ends , 333–5).

Index Entries

  • cups; Jefferson Cups search
  • cups; ordered by TJ search
  • Jefferson Cups search
  • Le Tellier, John; and Jefferson Cups search
  • Le Tellier, John; identified search
  • Le Tellier, John; letters to search
  • Wythe, George; and Jefferson Cups search