Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Coolidge to Thomas Jefferson, 9 January 1811

From William Coolidge

Boston 9 Jany 1811


If an apology is necessary for this address, from an intire stranger, I trust its object will be deemed by you, as satisfactory, and accepted as such.

The Agriculture and Manufactures of our Country have considerably improved, and are rapidly progressing; and while we can make the one, in a measure dependant on the other, it will tend, not only to promote both; but, in a degree, render us independant of other nations on whom we now depend for supplies.

The article of Madder, is of primary importance in Manufactures: no ingredient yet discovered, for Dyeing, can have such almost universal application in the forming of different colors, and shades.

Our climate & soil, are undoubtedly congenial to its cultivation; and considering the price we pay for that of foreign growth; it might be made an important article to our Agriculturalists: Yet I do not find any attempt has been made in N England, towards its cultivation, not even for experiment: But observing in one of our News papers, that a Lady in Virginnia, had made a number of successful experiments in dyeing; and that in some of them she made use of Madder in its undried state; of course conclude that the article is there cultivated.

Not having the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with any Gentleman of observation in that State, have taken the liberty to address to you for information on that subject viz.

1st  In what part of the State is it cultivated? and when may application be made for the roots in a fit state for setting
2d Presuming that experiments have been made, what is the soil best adapted to its growth?
3 What the most suitable season for planting?
4 Does it require artificial watering in a dry season?
5 How long before it comes to maturity?
6 What the most suitable season for gathering? or if any marks, what are they of its maturity?
7. The best mode of drying, whether in a Kiln, as I understand is practiced in Holland, or in the open air. Any information you will afford me on these inquiries, or any of them, will confer an obligation on
Sir your most obedient sevt

Wm Coolidge

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello (Virginnia)”; stamped and postmarked; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Jan. 1811 and so recorded in SJL.

William Coolidge (ca. 1778–1841) was a shopkeeper and dry-goods merchant at 6 Cornhill Street in Boston from about 1806. He moved to Baltimore about 1814, gave up business by 1822, when a directory listed him as a “gent.,” and subsequently returned to Boston (George Walter Chamberlain, “The Early New England Coolidges and Some of Their Descendants,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 77 [1923]: 290–1; The Boston Directory [Boston, 1806], 35; The Boston Directory [Boston, 1813], 94; The Baltimore Directory, for 1817–18 [Baltimore, 1817], 39; The Baltimore Directory for 1822 & ’23 [Baltimore, 1822], 62; Boston Courier, 8 Feb. 1841).

Index Entries

  • Coolidge, William; and madder cultivation search
  • Coolidge, William; identified search
  • Coolidge, William; letters from search
  • dyeing search
  • madder, dyer’s search
  • New England; and madder cultivation search
  • textiles; dyeing of search
  • The Netherlands; and madder cultivation search
  • Virginia; and madder cultivation search