Thomas Jefferson Papers

John George Baxter to Thomas Jefferson, 1 August 1815

From John George Baxter

Lexington August 1st 1815

Dear Sir

Your favour of the 16th ult I have received, you express a wish “to Know in what my machine differs from the old Spining Jenny,” my machines requires no engenious attendence, all that it requires is to turn the Handle, which can be done by any person too young or too old for the Labours of the field; when the bobin (spool) is full it is easily lifted off, no fly to screw off, the bobin stands on a dead spindle there is a Band to every two spindles, one band to the Back, or feeding Rollar, and one Band to the front Rollar, or drawing rollar,1 and a Band to drive the machine, She is very simple and easily Keeped in Repair,

a person may Spin on any machine from The time The2 Bobin (Spool) is put on, till it is full without even, Looking at it There being no attention at all necessary, the person may read, Talk, or pay their attention to any other Business, I have had a Machine going here for a Number of months & the Thread has never Broke once, there is no education Neccessary, one of your Negro Girles of ten years of age is as good a spiner as I am, The machine of Eight spindles will weigh perhaps 75 pounds, If you will be so obliging as give me leave to Send you one I will esteem it a favour it Can be sent any distanc[e] without any great risk

I am Dear Sir your Obdient & Umbell


John Geo Baxter

RC (DLC); one word faint; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Aug. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

With this letter Baxter probably enclosed two pieces of supporting material. The first was a blank subscription list for his “Cotton Spinning Machines,” offering a six-spindle machine that could “spin, twist and reel at one and the same time” for $150, “ornamented and firnished like the one in Peal’s Museum”; as well as six- and twelve-spindle machines for $100 and $150, respectively, “to spin only, and without ornaments, such as those at work in the Female Hospitable Society’s Manufactory” (broadside in DLC: TJ Papers, 204:36382; undated; headed by a depiction of such a machine ornamented with an eagle and operated by a girl). The second likely enclosure was an advertisement for an eight-spindle machine capable of spinning “coarse and fine chain and filling,” which “Will spin as much cotton as eight women; will last as long as any piece of furniture; and can be spun on by a child of ten years old,” at a cost of $75, payable in three equal installments over the course of a year, with a money-back guarantee; offering to make “Throssals upon a new construction, that will spin chain and filling” (a throstle being a continuous-action spinning machine [OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ]), with a 120-spindle version costing $2 per spindle, warranted against breaking, with carding and roving at an additional $3 per spindle, and with payment expected upon completion; and announcing that “Patent rights, for small and large machines, will be sold at a low price, and on a liberal credit” (broadside in DLC: TJ Papers, 204:36383; dated Lexington, Kentucky, 10 June 1815; with same image as in preceding broadside at head, immediately above Baxter’s signed, handwritten postscript: “The Machine is a good dale Simplifyed Since this plate was made in 1811,” and with an additional illustration of an arch containing the names of the seventeen states belonging to the United States in 1811, plus the District of Columbia and the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Orleans territories surrounding a portion of the printed text).

1Word interlined, with insertion mark mistakenly placed after the comma.

2Reworked from “she.”

Index Entries

  • Baxter, John George; letter from search
  • Baxter, John George; textile machinery of search
  • children; labor of search
  • children; slave search
  • cotton; as textile search
  • inventions; textile machinery search
  • machines; and patent rights search
  • machines; spinning search
  • manufacturing, household; spinning jennies search
  • manufacturing, household; use of slaves in search
  • patents; of J. G. Baxter search
  • slaves; and child labor search
  • slaves; and textile manufacturing search
  • spinning machines; described search
  • textiles; cotton search
  • women; and textile manufacture search