Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, 23 January 1803

To Charles Willson Peale

Washington Jan. 23. 1803.

Dear Sir

I thank you for mr Rembrandt Peale’s pamphlet on the Mammoth, and feeling a strong interest in his succesful exhibition of the Skeleton, shall be very happy to hear he has the great run of visitants which I expect he will have.

I was struck with the notice in the papers of mr Hawkins’s physiognotrace, of the work of which you send me some specimens, which I percieve must have been taken from Houdon’s bust. when you shall have nothing else to do, I would thank you for an explanation of the principle of it, for I presume no secret is made of it as it is placed in the Museum.

I rejoice at the progress of your collection. it is an immense work for an individual. that I must see the Mammoth is certain. but the time when, by no means so. probably I shall not know it myself till 24. hours before my departure, whether that may be this or the next year.   Accept my sincere good wishes and respects.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Albert E. Lownes, Providence, Rhode Island, 1951); at foot of text: “C. W. Peale.” PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

thank you: see Peale to TJ, 10 Jan.

A brief notice of the physiognotrace devised by John Isaac Hawkins that was on display at Peale’s museum appeared in Philadelphia newspapers on 28 Dec. “This curious machine,” the item declared, produced perhaps “the truest outlines” of any such mechanism. It was of “so simple a construction, that any person without the aid of another, can in less than a minute take their own likeness in profile.” Washington newspapers reprinted the notice early in January (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. 1:478; Washington Federalist, 3 Jan.; Georgetown Olio, 6 Jan.).

To make silhouettes of TJ with the physiognotrace, Peale apparently used a plaster copy of houdon’s bust that TJ had given to David Rittenhouse (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. 1:483n).

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