Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Booker, 4 October 1796

To William Booker

Monticello Oct. 4. 96


I have this summer had a threshing machine made on the Scotch model, and have already got out a good part of my crop with it with great success. Hearing however that you had improved it by substituting whirls and bands for cogwheels and wallowers, I desired Colo. Coles to enquire whether your plan could be communicated. He did not see you, but Mr. Graham was kind enough to say I should have a drawing of it. This has encouraged me to send a workman and to ask your permission to let him examine it, and, on his return, make one for me. I understand you have either applied for a patent, or mean to do so. If it is not done, perhaps my experience in the Patent office may be of some service to you in preparing your petition, specification &c. I will either revise them for you or draw them originally if not done, on your furnishing materials, and the weekly post between Charlottesville and Richmond will furnish a ready conveyance for letters. If you will inform me by return of the bearer, Mr. Buck, what will be the price of your license to use your invention, I will have the price paid to you in Richmond if I build one. I am Sir Your very humble servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi); at foot of text: “Mr. Booker”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

William Booker (d. 1802), an agricultural inventor from Goochland County, Virginia, received a patent for his machine for threshing wheat in 1797, shortly after which he moved to Richmond, where he built and sold his invention. He installed threshing machines at various estates, including George Washington’s Union Farm in July 1797. Two years later, Washington engaged Booker to build a horse-powered grist mill by fixing it to a threshing machine (List of Patents, description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1792, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends 13; Virginia Argus, 12 Jan. 1798; Washington to Booker, 26 June 1797, 3 Mch. 1799 in Washington, Papers, Ret. Ser., I, 216–17, iii, 404–5; Washington, Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1976–79, 6 vols. description ends vi, 313, 356).

A letter from John Coles to TJ of 13 Nov. 1796, recorded in SJL as received on the same day, has not been found. According to SJL Coles and TJ exchanged six other letters between 24 Mch. 1794 and 2 Oct. 1800, all of which are missing.

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