Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Lyon, 28 January 1802

From James Lyon

Washington City Jan. 28. 1802


I regret that my dependent state dooms me to submit almost constantly to the solicitation of favors; but I flatter myself that the more public Utility is attached to my pursuits, the favor is granted with the less irksomeness.

When I obtruded upon yourself and some others, a plan for raising the means for setting up the printing business, I fondly hoped to extend it to something great; nor is that hope extinguished; I must however suspend it, till by some means, I can throw myself into the command of a Capital; of one of the means of acquiring it, however, I am almost totally disappointed; for while some printers employ from Eight to twelve workmen on public business and even the tory I have before mentioned, from three to five, I cannot obtain enough to employ my own evening hours after leaving the public office;—it is true that through your goodness I expect to obtain a little more from the Gen. P. Office, after the expiration of this quarter.

Being thus disappointed I have turned my attention to the book printing business; and an opportunity of furnishing a library like the one projected on the paper accompanying this letter would be highly beneficial; and I have no doubt of the success of the institution under the patronage of your approbation, by confering which you will add a link to the chain of obligations, that binds in the bonds of Gratitude

Your Obedient Servt

J. Lyon

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos. Jefferson Esqr”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 28 Jan. received 27 Jan. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

I Must However Suspend It: Lyon suspended his National Magazine, or Cabinet of the United States with the 11 Jan. 1802 issue (Vol. 35:487n).

The tory: David Russell (Lyon to TJ, 8 Dec.).

In August 1801, Lyon proposed a book printing business, the Washington Printing and Bookselling Company, also known as the Franklin Press, for “the purpose of printing and selling books in the city of Washington” (Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:435; Lyon to TJ, 22 Oct. 1801).

Lyon also planned to open a circulating library on 1 June 1801 at the “first door west of President’s Square” on Pennsylvania Avenue but relinquished its control and direction to Richard Dinmore (National Intelligencer, 8 June 1801). A 17 Oct. 1801 advertisement in the front of the first issue of The National Magazine included Dinmore’s notices to subscribers to his library and his willingness to sell his goods for cash or shares in the Washington Printing and Bookselling Company.

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