Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, 10 January 1803

From Charles Willson Peale

Museum Jany 10th. 1803.

Dear Sir

I have received letters from my Sons dated Octr 14th, about two weeks after they had opened their exhibition of the Skeleton of the Mammoth. They inform me, although but little company had visited the Room yet they were respectable and seemed pleased. my Sons had not then published in the news papers, and probably not known to the Public. they had only thrown out a few hand-bills

Enclosed I send you Rembrandt’s Pamphlet, the next edition probably will have plates. he was just beginning a view of our last days work at Mastens in which he introduces an American thunder-storm it was in reallity the most dreadful in appearance I had ever seen, yet passed away with wind only, I dont know whether an exact representation will be credited by Englishmen that had not been in America.

I also enclose a few profiles taken by the Physiognotrace in the Museum, invented by Mr. Hawkins. another engenious invention of his, promises to be very useful. I have written to Mr. Maddison, who will I presume will shew the Letters to you.

Mr. Hawkins has a prospect of making money by selling Patent rights for improving Rum & whiskey—His engenious Mechanical powers will be of great1 advantage to America if we can keep him—but I fear he will not return if he goes to England as he proposses in the Spring. though he tells me he intends to settle finally with us—but his republicanism is our only securiety for possessing of him.   My progress to improvements and dress of the Museum goes on faster than I had expected—the utility of it will be rendered more conspicuous with this winters labour. ?May I hope the favour of your visit the insueing spring or Summer? it will be highly gratifying to

Dear Sir your much obliged friend

C W Peale

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thos. Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ and recorded in SJL as received 13 Jan. PoC (PPAmP: Peale-Sellers Papers). Enclosure: Rembrandt Peale, Account of the Skeleton of the Mammoth, A Non-Descript Carnivorous Animal of Immense Size, Found in America (London, 1802). Other enclosures not found, but see below.

view of our last days work at mastens: Rembrandt Peale apparently did not complete his painting of the excavation of mastodon remains at John Masten’s farm in Shawangunk, New York. Charles Willson Peale later painted his own version of the scene and incorporated the thunderstorm (Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983-2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:482n; Vol. 35:xlviii, 382 [illus.], 435n).

John Isaac Hawkins designed a physiognotrace, a device for making silhouettes of people’s faces, and supervised the construction of a prototype that Peale installed in his museum in Philadelphia. Visitors to the museum could use the machine to take their own profiles. Peale sent TJ various examples of silhouettes made with the physiognotrace. The other invention, which Peale discussed in a letter of 9 Jan. to Madison, was Hawkins’s design for a multiple-pen copying device that he called the polygraph. Hawkins was afraid that someone might steal his concept, and Peale’s letter to Madison was meant as notice of Hawkins’s intention to file a patent application. He patented his design in May 1803 as an “Improvement in the pentagraph and parallel ruler” and obtained a British patent later in the year (Silvio A. Bedini, Thomas Jefferson and His Copying Machines [Charlottesville, 1984], 40–8; Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello [New York, 1993], 208–9; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 34; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:245).

improving rum & whiskey: Hawkins and the Reverend Burgess Allison worked together in the development of several inventions and industrial processes, including an “Improvement in the application of the principle of rectifying or improving spirits” that was patented in Allison’s name in the spring of 1803 (Bedini, Thomas Jefferson and His Copying Machines, 40; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 34; Vol. 33:104n).

1Peale here canceled “service.”

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