Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Staples, 29 May 1812

To John Staples

Monticello May 29. 12.


I yesterday sent down, by a boat, 2 patterns of gudgeons, which the boatman is to deliver you; and I have to request that you will be so good as to have four of each pattern cast for me. the price, mr Gibson will be so kind as to pay you, on this letter being shewn him, instead of an order for the special amount unknown to me. altho it would be an accomodation to me to have them put on board a Milton boat as soon as ready, as they will be immediately wanting, yet that trouble being out of the ordinary course of your works, I cannot ask it, and will therefore direct some boat to call for them. I shall very shortly have to trouble you with the model of the mould board of a plough, of which I shall want about 30. cast I tender you the assurance of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); at foot of text: “John Staples esq.”; endorsed by TJ.

John Staples (1773–1828), manufacturer, was a native of Albemarle County and the son of a Scottsville merchant. TJ had known him since at least 1795. With Samuel Shelton and William Walker as partners, in 1801 Staples purchased a distillery in the town of Warren, where he was master of the Masonic lodge. He was awarded patents in 1802 and 1811 for an “Improvement in stills” and a “pendulum steam engine.” In 1805 he and his partners David Cobbs and Jeffrey Cobbs bought patent rights to produce metallic hones. Staples resided at times in Buckingham County, but in 1807 he was in Richmond serving as a juror in Aaron Burr’s treason trial. By 1809 Staples was superintendent of the state manufactory of arms and armory at Richmond, a position that carried the rank of major. He held the post until operations were suspended in about 1822. To defray the costs of running the manufactory’s foundry and boring mill, Staples initiated and promoted iron-casting services for the public. By 1814 he was an agent for Oliver Evans’s patented grinding mill screws. Four years later Staples purchased the lease to a cotton mill owned by the James River Company, which he converted to a gristmill soon known as Staples Mill. This venture achieved some success, but it produced little profit due to high rent. Staples died while working for the James River Company in Charleston, now West Virginia (Gretchen Elizabeth Staples Kroll, William Staples (circa 1675–circa 1755) of Hanover County, 2 vols. in 1 [2005], 1:120–30; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 318–9; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 28:334n; Proceedings of a Grand Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Virginia [1802?], 45; [1811], 4; List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 30, 99; TJ to Staples, 25 Jan. 1814; JSV description begins Journal of the Senate of Virginia description ends , 1808–09 sess., 75; 1821–22 sess., 35–43; 1822–23 sess., 82–3 [17 Feb. 1809, 9 Jan. 1822, 1 Feb. 1823]; Richmond Enquirer, 27 Aug. 1805, 4 Aug. 1807, 1 May, 4 Sept. 1810; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , esp. 10:71; Society of Virginia for Promoting Agriculture, Memoirs [1818]: xiii [Staples a member]; Richmond Enquirer, 9 Dec. 1819, 17 Jan., 30 Apr. 1822).

Almost two years later TJ requested that Staples’s foundry cast twenty-four iron moldboards for his renowned plough (TJ to Staples, 4 May 1814).

Index Entries

  • Burr, Aaron (1756–1836); treason trial of search
  • Cobbs, David search
  • Cobbs, Jeffrey search
  • Evans, Oliver; and grinding-mill patent search
  • Gibson, Patrick; payments made for TJ search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); and agricultural equipment acquired by TJ search
  • gudgeons (iron fittings for a pivot); for TJ search
  • James River Company search
  • patents; of J. Staples search
  • plows.; TJ’s moldboard search
  • Shelton, Samuel; business partnership of search
  • Staples, John; identified search
  • Staples, John; letters to search
  • Staples, John; makes castings for TJ search
  • Staples Mill search
  • Walker, William search