Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, 22 June 1806

Museum June 22d. 1806.

Dear Sir

Mr. Hawkins has not in any of his letters to me, said a word about the price of the Polygraph he sends you, I presume it may be settled at some future day, and therefore I will send it by tomorrows Mail Stage. In my slight sketch of Machinery, omiting to give the vertical parallelograms, I find has led you to suppose that part was dispenced with, and however desirable it may be to lessen the number or quantity of machinery, yet the vertical must be retained to equalize the touch of the Pens. It is the only part which I hinted to Mr. Hawkins, when he was contriving the machine in my work shop, as a means to keep the machinery steady.

I have no further connection with Mr. Hawkins in the manufactory of Polygraphs then to pay him a certain Per Centum on those I sell, and truly it has been an expensive and unprofitable business to me, But it has also been a favorite Machine with me, and contrary to the advice of several of my best friends I have persevered in the hope of making them perfect and highly useful, yet strange to tell I have many on hand, and unwilling to wholy give up the business I keep two workmen, the most useful that I have had under my employ, also such honest and worthy men, that it would give me pain to discharge them, and therefore when they are not engaged with Polygraphs I contrive other employment for them. The Polygraphs might have been sold in numbers had I given them to traders to sell on commission, but my dislike to keeping accounts, and the risk of losses by failures, determined me to avoid all such trouble, more especially as I can employ my time to more profit in various other concerns. But to return to the subject of your enquiry of cost on one with silver Pen arms and cases for your friend. The silversmith’s charge for the castings & rough wrought work, which he has done for me, is two Dollars Per oz. My workman spends a little more time to finish those of silver than of brass, so that you may conceive that the additional cost will be only a few dollars, but in this last improvement of haveg. the paper drawn up, there is an additional cost, as Mr. Hawkin’s machine will shew, besides the plate, and its paralells out of sight, the Hinges are more expensive, more especially as I must make them somewhat different to be sufficiently strong. not being able to get shallow Ink pots, the board which holds them must be thick therefore the space between the Gallows when it is raised, and the bottom will be greater. I will be enabled to write you more particularly in the course of this week, the true cost, and probably you will have done to your small Polygraph the alterations which we are making to one about the same size. That is adding the improvement of Mr. Hawkin’s little one to it, and thus make it answer for your friend. this is supposing you will prefer the little one for your own use, but with me, to be under the necessity of using a small size paper is an evil over ballancing the conveniences of the small size of a Machine. The distance between the Gallows to allow two sheets, side by side, of Post Paper to pass, is certainly in my view of things preferable, and the length of such paper gives a proper higth of the Gallows to allow a very easey dipping into the Ink-pots; I mean the extreme of the box, which has also the advantage of room at the bottom to keep post paper smooth. I have made this further improvement, that of mooving the Ink-posts nearer to the paper, by means of mooving pararells; bringing them as low as the catch or lock that fastens the paper, renders the dip perfectly easey. The bar to be laid on the paper is secured near the middle of the board to be wrote on, which is a much greater conveniency, than placing it as in Mr. Hawkins’s small one; easier come at [. . . .] of the way of the Machinery—the fastening of the same [. . . .] notches in the gallows to receive them, when the machine is shut up. Dr. Sir, my letters are sometimes lengthy, amongst the variety of matter, some parts have a chance to be interresting to you, which I hope will be a counter ballance of such as may not accord with your sentiments, and all my crude scribling I wish you may pass over with as little trouble as possible, and excuse my intrusion on your precious moments.

Believe me with much respect and esteem your friend

C W Peale

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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