Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bernard McMahon to Thomas Jefferson, 28 February 1812

From Bernard McMahon

Philadelphia Feby 28th 1812

Dear Sir.

I duly received your kind letter of the 16th inst and am much obliged to you for the Brassica sempervirens.

This morning I done myself the pleasure of sending you by Mr Gilmer a box containing the following articles.

  2 Roots Amaryllis Belladonna
6 Pots of Auriculas, different kinds.
1 do of a beautiful Polyanthus
32 Roots best Tulips of Various kind
32 do Best double Hyacinths assorted.
40 plants of the Hudson Strawberry, the best kind we have here I have none nor have I seen any in America of the large Chili strawberry—
4 roots Lilium superbum. L.
4 small plants Gooseberries, large red fruit & the best I have ever seen.
Some roots Amaryllis Atamasco L.
The labels are laid in with the above and the numbers attached to the following.
No 1  Ribes odoratissemum (mihi). this is one of Capt Lewis’s, and an important shrub, the fruit very large, of a dark purple colour, the flowers yellow, showey & extremely fragrant.
No 2 Symphoricarpos leucocarpa (mihi) This is a beautiful shrub brought by C. Lewis from the River Columbia, the flower is small1 but neat, the berries hang in large clusters are of a snow white colour and continue2 on the shrubs, retaining their beauty, all the winter; especially if kept in a Green House. The shrub is perfectly hardy; I have given it the trivial english name of Snowberry-bush.
No 3 The Yellow Currant of the river Jefferson; this is specifically different from the other, but I have not yet given it a specific3 botanical name.
No 4 Cape of Good hope Grape Vine, according to Mr Peter Legaux, who says he received it originally from thence. This I am confident, from several years observation, is the variety of grape most to be depended on for giving wine to the United States, but particularly to be cultivated for that purpose in the middle and eastern states.
No 5 An improved variety of the Cape grape, somewhat earlier and better for the table, and equally good for making wine.

I am verry sorry that I cannot at present supply all your wants, but shall as soon as in my power; and that the opportunity which now offers does4 not admit of a conveyance for many articles which I wish to send you. I hope you will do me the favor of informing me whenever you hear of a favorable opportunity, for conveying them5 Excuse the confused manner in which I write, as there are several people in my store asking me questions every moment.

I would thank you to informe me whether you take the Glocester Nut to be a distinct species, as announced by Michx f. (Juglans laciniosa) or whether, if only a variety, it is nearer allied to the Juglans tomentosa Michx or to the J. squamosa Michx fi. the J. alba of his father.

I send you a few seeds by this mail, and shall send some more in a few days.

I am Sir,

With gratitude, esteem & respect Your sincere wellwisher,

Bernd McMahon

P.S. you will please to excuse me for not making any charge for the few articles sent; such I could not think of.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 4 Mar. 1812, but recorded in SJL as received a day later.

TJ planted the sweet-scented currant (ribes odoratissimum) (with mihi meaning “mine,” presumably for names assigned by McMahon himself); the common snowberry (symphoricarpos albus); and yellow currant (Ribes aureum) on 12 Mar. 1812 (Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, 1944 description ends , 474–5). TJ received the Alexander (cape or cape of good hope) grape from Pierre legaux and planted it on 11 May 1802 (Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824, 1944 description ends , 277 and plate 17 opp. p. 226). François André Michaux (michx, with f and fi probably meaning “fils” or “son”) and his father, André Michaux, cataloged native American trees and the numerous members of the Juglandaceae (hickory and walnut) family (Hortus Third description begins Liberty Hyde Bailey, Ethel Zoe Bailey, and the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium, Cornell University, Hortus Third: A Concise Dictionary of Plants Cultivated in the United States and Canada, 1976 description ends , 226, 613).

1Manuscript: “smll.”

2Word interlined in place of “hang.”

3Manuscript: “specfic.”

4Word interlined in place of “will.”

5Word interlined in place of “several other articles which I wish to send you.”

Index Entries

  • Allegheny lily search
  • Atamasco lily search
  • auricula search
  • belladonna lily search
  • botany; and Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • Cape of Good Hope; grapes in search
  • Chili strawberry search
  • Columbia River; plants along search
  • currants; sweet-scented search
  • currants; yellow search
  • food; gooseberries search
  • food; kale, sprout search
  • food; strawberries search
  • Gilmer, Harmer; and plants from Philadelphia search
  • Gloucester-nut hickory search
  • gooseberries; plants sent to TJ search
  • grapes; Alexander (Cape of Good Hope) search
  • hickory nuts; Gloucester-nut search
  • Hudson strawberry search
  • hyacinths search
  • kale; sprout search
  • Legaux, Pierre; and Alexander grape search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; plants discovered by search
  • lily; Allegheny search
  • lily; Atamasco search
  • lily; belladonna search
  • McMahon, Bernard; letters from search
  • McMahon, Bernard; sends plants to TJ search
  • McMahon, Bernard; TJ sends seeds to search
  • Michaux, André; catalogs American trees search
  • Michaux, François André; catalogs American trees search
  • plants; sent to TJ search
  • polyanthus search
  • seeds; sent by TJ search
  • snowberry search
  • strawberries; Chili search
  • strawberries; Hudson search
  • sweet-scented currants search
  • trees; F. A. Michaux catalogues search
  • trees; hickory, Gloucester-nut search
  • trees; walnut search
  • tulips; bulbs sent to TJ search
  • walnut trees search
  • yellow currants search