George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Rush, 26 April 1788

From Benjamin Rush

Philadelphia 26th April 1788.


I received a small quantity of the mangel wurzel or Scarcity root Seeds a few days ago from Dr Lettsom of London. In distributing these Seeds among the friends of Agriculture in this country, I should have been deficient in duty, and patriotism, to have neglected to send a small portion of them to your Excellency.

The pamphflet which accompanies the Seeds will furnish your Excellency with a particular account of the method of cultivating—as also—of the great encrease, & useful qualities of this extraordinary Vegetable.

From an acurate examination of the plant, the botanists have agreed in its being a mongrel Species of the Beet. Dr Lettsom has called it the “Beta hebrida.”1 with respectful Compliments to Mrs Washington in which Mrs Rush joins, & sincere wishes for your Excellency’s health & happiness, I have the honor to be your most Obedient Servant

Benjn Rush

ALS, PHi: Gratz Collection.

1Rush corresponded regularly with the Quaker physician John Coakley Lettsom (1744–1815) of London. Lettsom published treatises on a wide variety of subjects. GW wrote in his diary for 29 Oct. 1788: “Took up the Mangel Wurzel, or Roots of Scarcity in the Inclosure below the Stable. Had those raised from the seeds sent me from Doctr. Rust (coming immediately from Doctr. Letsum) 48 in number—put by themselves; being of the grey or marble coloured sort” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:413–14). Lettsom had recently published in London under the title An Account of the Culture and Use of the Mangel Wurzel, or Root of Scarcity a translation of a work by the abbé de Commerell. On 12 Mar. Richard Peters sent GW mangel-wurzel seed and an extract of a disquisition on the plant printed in Germany.

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