To John Bartram, Jr.
Washington [June 11. 1801.]
About the latter end of this month I have to send to Philadelphia for a carriage. will you be so good as to plant for me in pots some plants of the Alpine, Hudson & Chili strawberries, one pot of [each variety]. in that way I can have them brought safely to this place, and carry them home from hence at my leisure. accept my salutations and best wishes.
PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “Mr. Bartram”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso as a letter to John Bartram and so recorded in SJL with notation “strawberries, Alpine. Hudson. Chili.”
John Bartram (b. 1743) and TJ corresponded in 1786, when TJ was in France, and they probably had personal contact during TJ’s vice presidency. With his brother William, Bartram operated the botanic garden that their father had established on the Schuylkill River outside Philadelphia (Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, The Life and Travels of John Bartram: From Lake Ontario to the River St. John [Tallahassee, 1982], 15; 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 , 2:1015; Vol. 9:228–30; Vol. 10:593; Vol. 29:391n).
A shipment of plants and trees that TJ sent to Monticello from Philadelphia in 1798 included Alpine and “Chili” Strawberries. TJ considered both varieties “immensely valuable.” Alpine strawberries, native to the lower Alps and cultivated by the French in the eighteenth century, bore fruit for a large portion of the year. TJ planted them at Monticello as early as 1774 and believed that a widespread introduction of them to America would be of great benefit. In 1809 he planted seeds of what he thought was the “genuine” Alpine strawberry, sent from Italy by Philip Mazzei. By that year TJ was again on the hunt for the Hudson and Chile varieties. The former may have been the Early Hudson or the Hudson Bay, which were varieties of Fragaria virginiana, the meadow strawberry of North America. The Chilean strawberry, which had larger fruit than European strains, originated on the western coast of South America and was introduced to France in 1714. In Europe it was cultivated and cross-bred with other types, and some gardens in British North America had specimens of it after about 1750. In 1811–12, TJ obtained the Hudson variety he sought, but he was apparently unable to find a source for the Chile strawberry (Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, Philadelphia, 1944 description ends , 51, 94, 98, 336, 346, 385, 406, 407, 431, 439, 452–3, 480, 481, 483, 490; George M. Darrow, The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology [New York, 1966], 9, 19, 24–5, 32, 35–8, 117–18, 130–1, 133, 165–6, 177, 400; 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 , 1:31; Vol. 10:228; Vol. 28:362; Vol. 30:193, 249).