James Madison Papers
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Benjamin Henry Latrobe to Dolley Madison, 17 March 1809

Benjamin Henry Latrobe to Dolley Madison

Baltimore, March 17h 1809


The time of the President U.S. is so occupied by matters of so much more importance, that I did not mention to him the subject on which you did me the favor to speak to me, the purchase of a grand piano-forte, before my departure. I have again tried the instrument I mentioned to you, & accurately examined its state of repair & construction, & altho’ I still think it a very excellent one, I cannot advise its purchase, on account of a fault in the Sound board which may in a few Years entirely ruin it. There is another upright piano forte at 650$, but it is a very inferior instrument to a third imported expressly for a private family, & which by the bill exhibited cost 530$, but which I can buy for 450$. It is of such superior tone, in strength and sweetness that I would by all means recommend its being taken at that price. I have left with my brother Mr. Hazlehurst the necessary instructions, & as soon as I have the honor to hear from you at Philadelphia, it can be immediately shipped for the city.1

May I beg the favor of you to lay this matter before the President, as soon as convenient.

I have ordered the Chairs & Letters. I shall be in Philadelphia I hope tonight. With the highest respect I am Your obedt hble Servt.

B Henry Latrobe

RC (NN). Docketed by Dolley Madison.

1Andrew Hazlehurst was Latrobe’s brother-in-law. For details concerning the pianoforte and other furnishings in the President’s House during the early months of JM’s occupancy, see Hunt-Jones, Dolley and the “Great Little Madison,” pp. 35–40.

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