Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Moore, with Jefferson’s Note, 21 June 1802

From Thomas Moore, with Jefferson’s Note

Retreat 6th. mo 21st. 1802

Thomas Moore respectfully invites the President of the United States to examine the condition of Butter in a newly invented Refrigiratory, put in the 21st Inst. at 6 OClock P.M. 20 miles distant from Washington—

[Diagram and note by TJ:] the oval was cooper’s work
the inner parallelogram was a box of tin turned down on the top and trimmed to the oval: a. and b. were 2 square holes at which ice was put into the vacuity between the tin & wood, the butter being in the tin.

RC (DLC); addressed: “The President U.S.”; with diagram and note by TJ at foot of text; endorsed by TJ: “Cooler for butter.”

Thomas Moore (1760–1822) was a cabinetmaker in Loudoun County, Virginia, before moving to Brookeville, in Montgomery County, Maryland, north of Washington. There he farmed, and, like his brother-in-law, Isaac Briggs, was part of a Quaker community. Moore made a study of agriculture, and Briggs, earlier in 1802, probably sent TJ Moore’s pamphlet, The Great Error of American Agriculture Exposed. Moore sent a copy of that work to James Madison, hoping to promote sales of the publication to defray the printing costs. With Briggs and another brother-in-law, Moore established the Triadelphia cotton mills in Montgomery County in 1809. Working as an engineer beginning in 1805, he oversaw construction projects that included the James River and Kanawha Canal and a causeway near Washington. In 1806, TJ appointed Moore one of three commissioners to begin work on the Cumberland Road (later called the National Road). As the chief engineer for the Virginia Board of Public Works, Moore in 1820 reported on the feasibility of a canal along the Potomac River to Cumberland, Maryland, that became the first segment of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Baltimore Patriot, 11 Oct. 1822; Latrobe, Correspondence description begins John C. Van Horne and Lee W. Formwalt, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, New Haven, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , 2:209n; T. H. S. Boyd, The History of Montgomery County, Maryland, from its Earliest Settlement in 1650 to 1879 [Clarksburg, Md., 1879; repr. Baltimore, 1968], 90–2, 93; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:474–7, 714–15; Ella Kent Barnard, “Isaac Briggs, A.M., F.A.P.S.,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 7 [1912], 416; Julius Rubin, “Canal or Railroad? Imitation and Innovation in the Response to the Erie Canal in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston,” APS, Transactions, new ser., 51, pt. 7 [1961], 63; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:94–5; Vol. 36:458n; commission for Moore and others, 16 Apr. 1806, in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC).

REFRIGIRATORY: Moore soon decided that “the most appropriate term” for his invention was “refrigerator.” The OVAL tub of the device was made of cedar, with a hinged lid, insulated on the outside with rabbit fur and coarse woolen cloth. The TIN chamber held 22 one-pound pieces of butter. Although Moore designed the prototype as a means of transporting butter to market, he anticipated modifications to the design that would make refrigerators for home use and for butchers, purveyors of fresh provisions, and carrying fish to market. After he received a patent for his “Refrigerator for domestic uses” in January 1803, he sought to implement a licensing system for rights to make and use refrigerators according to his specifications. He offered to allow free use of the technology for anyone carrying modest amounts of butter to market. Moore presented himself as a practical farmer with only a “small stock of philosophical knowledge,” but his description of his invention discussed scientific principles concerning the conduction of heat and melting of ice. He calculated that the mean temperature inside a refrigerator of his design would be about 48° Fahrenheit. Because his device required the use of ice, Moore also recommended improvements in the design and insulation of icehouses (Thomas Moore, An Essay on the Most Eligible Construction of Ice-Houses. Also, a Description of the Newly Invented Machine Called the Refrigerator [Baltimore, 1803], preface, 5, 15–28; Philadelphia Gazette, 15 Sep. 1802; 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 , 31).

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