Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Charles Willson Peale to Thomas Jefferson, 23 December 1815

From Charles Willson Peale

Belfield Decr 23d 1815

Dear Sir

It is my wish to communicate to you whatever I think has a chance of being novel and interresting. I have just seen a Machine for sowing grain in drills, of the most simple construction of any I have seen before—A mechanic was making it from one which he had seen at Doctr Logans lately brought from England. Like the Perambulator it has a Wheel and a handle to push it along. but as I mean to give you a tolerable description of it. I begin with saying that the Wheel is 2 f. 7 I diameter, the Handles are framed thus1 (a) is the hob on which is a bevel wheel. at (b) is a notch to receive a trough of 12 feet long, this trough is made of two boards forming a gutter, each end closed. holes are2 made near the bottom of this trough 6½ Inches from each other and in the bottom of the trough between each of the holes are blocks to slide towards the holes the grain put into the trough, and on the outside of the trough covering the holes are plates. or rather 2 plates, the first plate fastened to the trough by nails at the dots, & the hole oppening with the hole in the trough, the 2d Plate is rivited to this at (o) is circular, each made of sheet copper the notch (a) after being slit is turned over to imbrace the edge of the circular plate, and the hole in it corrisponds to that of the under plate this plate is about 3 Inches diameter, & the holes round this plate are for small grain, the large hole for Wheat or other large grain, & the opening is made small or large at pleasure by turning the Circular plate. a greater or lesser number of the small holes are said to be for different sizes of Grain, i,e, for Turnep seed, the two holes are placed opposite the hole of the under plate, The last thing I have to explain are Brushes within the trough against the holes in order to drive the seed through the holes in the copper plates—I mentioned on the other side a bevel wheel on the hob of the large or rolling wheel. In the center of the trough to hold the grain is a small box that contains a bevel wheel of the same diameter3 of that on the hob, each end of the axis of this wheel is square to recieve a socket of wire rods4 (of No 3 or smaller) extending to each end of the trough, on it are fixed brushes of 2 Inches diameter,5 say one Inch thickness of turned blocks in which bristles are sett projecting ½ an Inch, a staple between each brush to keep them steady to their work of pushing the grain through the holes—a rod with wheels about half the diameter of that on the hob communicates the motion from the Roling wheel to the rod containing the brushes. I think the boards forming the trough is about 7 Inches wide and has a cover to it. The length of the handles I suppose are about 7 feet, including the frame work—The whole so light that a Boy of 12 or 14 Years old could moove it with little exertion. I hope that I have explained this Machine intelligently, yet I do not much doubt that you are acquainted with the Machine, if not my Scrole will be more amusing to you. on resuming my Pensil I find that I can paint better Portraits then when I was in the prime of life—this will scarcely be beleived when my age and long absence from practice is considered, but thus I can account for it, my Judgment is ripened, my knowledge of colours by the aid of my Son Rembrandt with my remembrance of the colours I have formerly made use of6 considered, and also having now practiced in some new modes of painting my Idea’s of the proper tints are much to my advantage—I have lately painted a number of Pictures, and every one who has seen them verifie by their observation what I have said above, Doctr Wistar urges me to return to my labours in Natural History. I say that I have mispent great part of my life in the practice of Mechanicks, I ought to have paid others to do my work, much better than I could do it myself, and my Pensil would have produced me greater profit with increased reputation. my labours gave me happiness, for I never thought further while at work—I now find pleasure with my Brushes & I hope my health will enable me to pursue it.

I mean to make tryal of wire fences, it is very probable that they will be found cheaper than Posts & railes and if managed properly more durable, in my next I shall be able to give you further notice of them

I am as ever with much esteem your friend

C W Peale

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “To Thomas Jefferson Esqre”; torn at seal, with missing text supplied from PoC; endorsed by TJ. PoC (PPAmP: Peale Letterbook). Recorded in SJL as received 2 Jan. 1816.

A perambulator is a wheel with a handle that is used in surveying to measure distance by rolling the wheel over the ground and counting the number of revolutions. A bevel wheel is a toothed wheel in the shape of the base of a cone, generally used in conjunction with another bevel wheel positioned at a right angle to the first. The rolling wheel here is the one designed to roll on the ground (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 ).

1To the left of this drawing Peale canceled another version of it as shown below.

2Manuscript: “a.”

3Manuscript: “diamertor.”

4RC: “rods.” PoC: “rod.”

5Manuscript: “Incles diamerter.”

6Manuscript: “off.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; fences search
  • drills (sowing implements); British model described search
  • fences; wire search
  • Logan, George; and drill search
  • machines; drill search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; and agricultural fences search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; and drill search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; as artist search
  • Peale, Charles Willson; letters from search
  • Peale, Rembrandt; as artist search
  • perambulator search
  • surveying; perambulator for search
  • Wistar, Caspar; mentioned search