Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, 18 March 1804

From Charles Willson Peale

Museum March 18th. 04.

Dear Sir

A french-man; an Indian trader from new Orleans, brought here in the sickly season last summer a Grisley-bear to exhibit. enclosed is one of his Bills—he expected to make a fortune by the Animal, but he was disappointed, altho’ it differed considerably from the common, yet nevertheless it was a Bear, & as such did not excite much curiosity. I bought his Bear, and intended keeping him untill he should get his full groath. The Cage of late was too small for him & last friday evening he broke the Cage & the Collar by which he was chained—fearful that some accident might happen in our attempts to confine him again, I prefered shooting him.

Please to accept a hind quarter which I have sent by the Mail Stage, directed for you.

With others I feel my obligations for your successfull treaty which gives to my Country a new sourse of Wealth, and our Philosophers so extensive a range to acquire various knowledge. The above Animal being the first of the species brought into the United States, I feel myself honored in making this tribute.

I much suspect that this Species of Bear has not been described, and therefore I shall shortly write some observations & give a drawing of it, which I mean to send to you.

I am Dear Sir with great esteem your friend

C W Peale

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thos. Jefferson Esqre.”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Mch. and so recorded in SJL. PoC (Lb in PPAmP: Peale-Sellers Papers). Enclosure: The Famous Grisly Bear (broadside in DLC: TJ Papers, 139:24013); with emendations by Peale adding his museum as the place of exhibition and altering the price of admission from half a dollar to 25 cents, and half that for children, then canceling those charges and adding notation: “NB. I gave the french-man Liberty to exhibit the Bear two weeks in the Hall of the State-House.”

Advertisements identical to the enclosed broadside appeared in October 1803 for the exhibition of the grizzly bear. The notices described the bear as having been born near the sources of the Missouri River. Its habits and size marked the species as “the most formidable wild beast of the continent of America.” In a letter of 29 Mch. to his sons Raphaelle and Rembrandt, Peale noted that he had preserved the bear and that a sample of its meat awaited them: “you may on your return taste of a Ham which is prepairing to be smoked, the other hind quarter I sent to Mr Jefferson, I have not yet heard how he liked it—perhaps its being very bloody may on sight of it have been disgusting to him” (Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 13 Oct. 1803; Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983-2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:616n, 650).

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