Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Clymer, 12 November 1801

From George Clymer

Philadelphia Nov. 12. 1801


An inhabitant of this City, and of my own name, having made some important changes in the structure of the common forcing pump, proceeds with his invention, or improvement to Washington, where he will apply to the proper Officers, for a patent.

If he should presume, further, to offer his drawings, and specifica-tion to the inspection of the President, it will be, Sir, in Consequence of an Assurance I have ventured to give Mr. Clymer, from your philosophical taste, and the patronage you have always been ready to afford to the useful arts, that you will not be displeased with them, being, as they are thought here, the indications of a very considerable mechanical genius.—

I am, Sir, with the highest respect Your most obedt. servant

Geo Clymer

RC (PHC); at foot of text: “President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Nov. and so recorded in SJL.

Clymer, a former merchant and a signer of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution, retired from public office after the Washington administration. Clymer’s only previously recorded letter to TJ was dated 1 Sep. 1791 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Vol. 22:117).

Clymer wrote on behalf of inventor George E. Clymer, a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who had recently moved to Philadelphia. On 22 Dec. 1801, the younger Clymer was awarded a U.S. patent for an “improvement in a ship’s pump.” Clymer created the device to clear cofferdams for the construction of the first permanent bridge across the Schuylkill River. Clymer is best known as the inventor of the Columbian printing press, a highly ornamented, cast-iron hand press introduced in England in 1817 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, Washington, D.C., 1872 description ends , 26).

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