Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Isaac Hawkins, 21 April 1802

From John Isaac Hawkins

Philadelphia 21st. April 1802


Yours of the 13th. inst. was handed me by Mr. Paterson. I should have been much surprised at the weakness of the frame of the Forte Piano I made for you, had I not previously heard of the defection of two other of my instruments, in the same particular, it gives me great pleasure however that I can assure you from sufficient Experience, that I can remedy the defect intirely, & make the instrument keep in tune as well as those I have lately made, which is much longer than any other Forte Pianos whatever, for this purpose I shall be glad you will send it as soon as possible, as I expect to go to London in a few weeks, I am very sorry that my pecuniary embarrassments oblige me to add, that I must in order to prevent delay, charge you with the repairing, I suppose about 40 dollars, but I shall do it with the positive condition that you will allow me to be indebted to you the amount, to pay as soon as I am able, which will be immediately after my arrival in England whither I go, as soon as I can raise funds for my passage, to receive property which has fallen to me by the death of a relative.

I am Sir Your Obt Sevt.

John I. Hawkins

RC (DLC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States Washington”; franked; postmarked 22 Apr.; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.

Hawkins was aware of the difficulty of keeping a FORTE PIANO in tune and, in 1800, had offered five lessons at a dollar a lesson to teach individuals how to tune their own instruments. In March 1802, he advertised that “particular business” was calling him to Europe and that all persons indebted to him should settle their accounts (Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, 19 June 1800; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 10 Mch. 1802). TJ shipped the defective forte piano to Philadelphia for repair or exchange in June 1802, but there is no record that Hawkins sent TJ a replacement (see George Jefferson to TJ, 11 June and TJ to Hawkins, 17 June).

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