Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Caleb Lownes, 18 December 1793

To Caleb Lownes

Philadelphia. Dec. 18. 1793.


Not having yet seen the captain of the vessel to whom I had offered the transportation of my goods to Richmond, I conclude to send them by your vessels to Richmond if you chuse to take them on the terms I heretofore paid, that is to say @ 4d. the cubic foot. There are 15. boxes, containing 282. cubic feet now at Mr. Hazlehurst’s ready to be delivered, marked TJ. No. 52. to 66. There are 22. boxes containing 458 cubic feet and a pipe of wine1 about 3. miles off in the country which will come to town as soon as the weather will permit. There will be here 4. or 5. boxes, not yet ready, a number of Windsor chairs, some small parcels cubic contents not yet known. Likewise a chariot the transportation of which I am told should be 15. Dollars from hence to Richmond. If it would be2 convenient to take in the articles from the country, and those still here as they are carried down to the water side,3 they shall be sent to any place you please. This would save the trouble and expence of warehousing. For those at Mr. Hazlehurst’s I should expect the vessel would go to his wharf. I will prefer paying you the freight here, as with vessels depending on you I should be certain this would have no effect on the care taken of the things.

If I understood you yesterday, it is your custom to furnish nail rod to customers at 60. to 90 days credit. I suppose one ton will serve me the first quarter of the year by the end of which I shall be ready to work up two or three times as much every quarter, I will therefore be obliged to you to send a ton by these vessels to Richmond, paiable at three months. I take the longest term because on account of the slow transportation from Richmond to my house half that term will always be elapsed before it gets to hand. The rods should be proper for 8d. and 10 nails. All my effects will be to be delivered to Colo. Robert Gamble merchant in Richmd.

I shall be obliged to you for a line in answer to these particulars & am Sir your most obedt servt

Th: Jefferson

P.S. The boxes containing altogether books and furniture will require to be in the tightest vessel.

PrC (DLC); at foot of first page in ink: “Mr. Caleb Lownes.” Tr (ViU: Edgehill-Randolph Papers); 19th-century copy.

Caleb Lownes (ca. 1754-ca. 1828), a Quaker iron merchant at 16 North Fourth Street and 21 South Wharves in Philadelphia, began his career as an engraver who in 1778 helped design a coat of arms for Pennsylvania that was used for almost a century before the state officially adopted it in 1875. Active in civic affairs, he became a penal reformer who in the 1790s played a leading role as a creator and administrator of the innovative state penitentiary on Walnut Street and served as secretary of the citizen’s committee which cared for the sick during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic. Lownes was disowned by the Quakers for financial improprieties in 1809 and moved around 1814 to Vincennes, Indiana Territory, where he helped conduct government negotiations with the Piankashaw Indians in 1818 (Negley K. Teeters, “Caleb Lownes of Philadelphia: 1754–1828, “Prison Journal, lxiii, No. 2 [1963], 1–12; Hardie, Phila. Dir., 86; Robert L. Meriwether, W. Edwin Hemphill, Clyde N. Wilson, and others, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, 22 vols. [Columbia, S.C., 1959-], ii, 281, iii, 72).

TJ purchased nail rod from Lownes until he found him unreliable in his deliveries and switched suppliers in 1796 (TJ to James Madison, 24 Apr. 1796). This one ton order begins the history of the Monticello nailery. The most successful of TJ’s efforts to find ways to supplement the agricultural profits of his Virginia estates, it operated more or less continuously from 1794 to 1812 and intermittently from 1815 to 1823. In its first decade it returned a handsome profit, but poor management, difficulty in obtaining payment from purchasers, and failures in the supply of nailrod eventually frustrated TJ’s high hopes for the venture (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, forthcoming in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 3 Jan. 1794, and note; Betts, Farm Book, description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Princeton, 1953 description ends 426–53).

1Preceding five words interlined.

2TJ here canceled “more.”

3Preceding four words interlined.

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