Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Ferris, 8 June 1803

To Benjamin Ferris

Washington June 8. 1803.


Mr. Isaac Briggs informed me by letter that he had purchased for me, from you a clock and that the price of it including box & packing would be about seventy dollars. I now inclose you that sum, and will thank you to have it well packed & secure against rain, and sent by a vessel bound to Richmond addressed to the care of Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson merchants of that place. they will pay the freight. should the sum not be exact it may be [rectified] on your information to me. be so good as to send me the bill of lading when put on board that I may be enabled to apprize messrs. Gibson & Jefferson of the shipment. Accept my best wishes.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. should you be at a loss to find a vessel bound to Richmond, messrs. Jones and Howell [iron dealers], & correspondents of mine, who are in the habit of making shipments to that place, will be able to inform you.

PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “Mr. Benjamin Ferris clockmaker No. 17 N 2d street Philadelphia”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso. Recorded in SJL with notation “70. D. for clock.”

A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Benjamin Ferris (1780–1867) moved during his youth to Philadelphia and apprenticed as a watchmaker. Although successful, he abandoned the trade in 1813 and returned to Wilmington, where he worked as a conveyancer and eventually became the city surveyor. A self-educated man with a particular interest in history, he published in 1846 in Wilmington, A History of the Original Settlements on the Delaware, from Its Discovery by Hudson to the Colonization under William Penn, for which he acquired a working knowledge of Swedish. Prominent among area Quakers, he took an active role in defending the Friends from interdenominational attacks. When the Friends split into Orthodox and Hicksite movements, Ferris became one of the leading advocates of the more liberal, Hicksite side (“Benjamin Ferris,” Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, 37 [1903]; Robert W. Doherty, “A Response to Orthodoxy: The Hicksite Movement in the Society of Friends,” PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 90 [1966], 240–1).

isaac briggs informed TJ of the clock order in a letter of 2 May. A tall case clock with a simple, unornamented design, it likely was used in Monticello’s kitchen (Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello [New York, 1993], 378–9).

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