Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Helmbold, 3 April 1801

From George Helmbold

Philadelphia, April 3. 1801

Honoured Sir,

I hope you will not deem me impertinent if I take the liberty of addressing you:—I am editor of a german gazette in this place, and have uniformly supported the republican cause, but have been rather unsuccessful in my undertaking, owing to the rapid innovation of the english upon the german language; which makes it indispensible to proffer an application to you for an appointment to an Office, not of great profit, for I do not soar so high, but one that will enable me to pursue my avocation with more alacrity—

Some few months ago I was in hopes of my not being necessiated to make any application for an Appointment, from the prospect of success I had in view from publishing a full length portrait of yourself; but those prospects have in a great degree be rendered a nullity or illusion from another person setting up one in opposition to me, so that I shall merely clear whatever I may have expended—

From circumstances so complicated and disagreeable I am compelled to make this first application for any reward (for I do not act from sordid motives) and that too without any recommendation; for if I should be unsuccessful I should not be able to combat the sneers of my enemies or neglect of my friends—If your excellency will please to take my case into consideration you will confer a lasting obligation on

Your humble Servant

George Helmbold

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 16 Apr. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off.”

George Helmbold (d. 1821) was the son of a German immigrant papermaker and an active Republican. Since 1799 he had published the Neue Philadelphische Correspondenz, but would garner greater success as publisher from 1807 to 1812 of the comic newspaper The Tickler, for which TJ took out a year’s subscription in November 1808 (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820, Worcester, Mass., 1947, vols. description ends , 2:926–7, 954–5; Aurora, 28 Feb. 1801; David E. E. Sloane, “The Comic Writers of Philadelphia: George Helmbold’s The Tickler, Joseph C. Neal’s ‘City Worthies,’ and the Beginning of Modern Periodical Humor in America,” Victorian Periodicals Review, 28 [1995], 186–98; 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, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1235).

In September 1800, Helmbold began advertising in the Aurora his proposal for a full-length portrait of TJ. The engraving was to measure 14 by 22 inches and cost $6.00. Delivery was expected to take place in five months. On 20 Feb. 1801, however, another person, framemaker Augustus Day, announced the publication of a full-length portrait of TJ by engraver Cornelius Tiebout. Also about this time, printer Mathew Carey began to sell a bust portrait of TJ. Helmbold did not publish his full-length portrait until July 1801 (Aurora, 8 Sep. 1800, 20, 28 Feb., 2 July 1801; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877-Preston, Catalogue Daniel Preston, A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe, Westport, Conn., 2001, 2 vols. description ends , 63 [1939], 173–5).

Helmbold wrote TJ again on 7 Apr., requesting appointment to the office of purveyor of public supplies and offering to forward recommendations from Peter Muhlenberg, William Irvine, or others “of respectability” if TJ so desired (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ as received 16 Apr. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off”).

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