Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Voigt, 9 April 1813

To Thomas Voigt

Monticello Apr. 9. 13.


Doctr Patterson informs me that the time piece you have been so kind as to make for me, is now ready, and advises with me as to the sending it during the present blockade of the Delaware & Chesapeake. I have written to him that I would rather it should not be risked until the coast becomes safer; and have expressed a wish that in the mean time he would take it to his house, and with the rod pendulum which I wished to be made an appendage to it, to try the experiment of the rod vibrating seconds. the object of the present letter is to ask the favor of you to send me a bill of the cost that I may direct the amount to be forwarded to you from Richmond.

Among the young men who learn with you the business of the watchmaker, I imagine some may be at a loss where to set themselves down for business. Charlottesville (3. miles from me) would be an excellent stand for one who to the trade of watchmender added that of making the seven day clocks. there is no part of the Union more at their ease and independant than this, and we have not within 50. miles a person who can do the least thing to a watch or clock. a young man with nothing but his tools, & without a shilling might get at once into full business, and would find credit for all necessaries until his business should put him at his ease. if such a subject should occur whom you would recommend for his skill & sobriety, I should take great pleasure in facilitating his establishment, and encouraging his custom. Accept the assurance of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (VtMiM); at foot of text: “Mr Voigt.” PoC (MHi); mistakenly endorsed by TJ as a letter to Henry Voigt and so recorded in SJL.

Thomas Voigt (d. 1844), maker of clocks, watches, and scientific instruments in Philadelphia, was the son of Henry Voigt, who combined this trade from 1793 until his death in 1814 with service as chief coiner of the United States Mint. The younger Voigt entered the family business as early as 1804, when he assisted his father in repairing the Rittenhouse Orrery at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Voigt’s Philadelphia shop also sold scales and weights to the Farmers’ Bank of Virginia and the Savannah branch of the Bank of the United States. The Philadelphia city government named him to committees on the astronomical observatory in 1833 and on public clocks two years later. Voigt was in business in Philadelphia until at least 1836 (PPAmP: Henry and Thomas Voigt Papers; Howard C. Rice Jr., The Rittenhouse Orrery: Princeton’s Eighteenth-Century Planetarium, 1767–1954 [1954], 56; New York Columbian, 19 Aug. 1812; John A. Paxton, Philadelphia Directory and Register, for 1813 [1813]; Robert Desilver, Desilver’s Philadelphia Directory and Stranger’s Guide for 1835 & 36 [1835], 184; Philadelphia Hazard’s Register of Pennsylvania, 5 Oct. 1833, 6 June 1835; Silvio A. Bedini, “Thomas Jefferson, Clock Designer,” APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings 108 [1964]: 170, 171, 180; Philadelphia Wills and Administrations Book P, File # A-240-1844 [Philadelphia City Archives]).

Index Entries

  • Charlottesville, Va.; watchmaker needed in search
  • Chesapeake Bay; British blockade of search
  • clocks; TJ’s astronomical case clock search
  • Delaware River; British blockade of search
  • Patterson, Robert; and astronomical case clock search
  • Voigt, Thomas; and TJ’s astronomical case clock search
  • Voigt, Thomas; and watchmaker for Charlottesville search
  • Voigt, Thomas; identified search
  • Voigt, Thomas; letters to search