Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Cutbush to Thomas Jefferson, 14 February 1813

From James Cutbush

Philada Feby 14th 1813

Dr Sir

To you as a friend of his country, and a zealous promoter of the Arts, sciences and manufactures, permit me to address this letter, accompanying a prospectus of a work, which we hope will prove of advantages to the growing manufactu. of our country. Your opinion of such a work, will do more than that of any other man towards its diffusion. I have the pleasure to inform you, that I proposed you as patron to the Columbian Chemical society, to which office you were unanimously elected. We have published a volume of Memoirs

I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedient and very Humble Servt

Jas Cutbush

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Th: Jefferson Esqr &c &c”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Feb. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Proposals by Redwood Fisher, for printing by subscription, the American Artist’s Manual, or Dictionary of Practical Knowledge; in the application of philosophy to the arts and manufactures … by James Cutbush, stating that this work would be published “without delay” and would avoid “the multiplicity of theories, technical terms, and complicated processes” that generally mar similar but more expensive works, while still explaining applied scientific advances from Europe, including “Agriculture, Brewing, Bleaching, Cloth making, Spinning, Dyeing in its various branches, Farriery, Gardening, manufacturing of Glass, Iron, Salt and Saltpetre, Pottery,” and all other subjects deemed important to American manufacturers and rural readers; and explaining that the work would consist of two octavo volumes of 600 pages each, with numerous handsome engravings, at a cost of seven dollars with a board binding and eight dollars for a “substantially bound” set, with a free copy for anyone obtaining nine subscriptions and guaranteeing their payment (undated broadside in DLC: Printed Ephemera Collection; with blanks at foot for subscribers’ names, addresses, and numbers subscribed for).

James Cutbush (ca. 1788–1823), chemist and author, was a native of Philadelphia who published his first articles on applied chemistry by 1808. A student of physician Adam Seybert, Cutbush opened a chemical and apothecary business in Philadelphia’s in 1809 and gave popular lectures on science. By 1813 he was professor of chemistry, mineralogy, and natural philosophy at Philadelphia’s short-lived St. John’s College. He was an officer in several organizations promoting science, scientific education, and manufacturing. Cutbush was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1814. He retained his Philadelphia chemical shop until at least 1819, despite his appointment as assistant apothecary general for the United States Army in 1814. Cutbush typically corresponded with TJ on practical applications of science, his publications, and employment opportunities, including his unsuccessful offer in 1819 to teach at the planned University of Virginia. The following year Cutbush was appointed post surgeon at the United States Military Academy, where he was also acting professor of chemistry and mineralogy by 1822. A Freemason and a Democrat, he died at West Point. Cutbush’s publications include The Philosophy of Experimental Chemistry, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1813), The American Artist’s Manual, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1814; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library [1829] description ends , 6 [no. 221]), A Synopsis of Chemistry, Arranged Alphabetically (New York, 1821), and the posthumous System of Pyrotechny, comprehending the theory and practice, with the application of chemistry; Designed for Exhibition and for War (Philadelphia, 1825) (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Edgar F. Smith, James Cutbush, an American Chemist, 1788–1823 [1919]; Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 16 June 1809, 23 Dec. 1823; Philadelphia city directories, esp. 1813, 1814, 1819, and 1823; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 21 Jan. 1814 [MS in PPAmP]; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:349; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:542, 578, 3:223 [14, 31 Oct. 1814, 7 Dec. 1820]; Philadelphia Franklin Gazette, 4 Aug. 1819; Cutbush to TJ, 28 Jan. 1815, 27 Dec. 1819, 21 Jan. 1820; TJ to Cutbush, 7 Jan. 1820, 15 July 1823).

Founded in 1811, the Columbian Chemical Society elected TJ as its guiding patron and Cutbush as president (Memoirs of the Columbian Chemical Society, of Philadelphia 1 [1813]: vii).

Index Entries

  • Columbian Chemical Society; elects TJ as patron search
  • Cutbush, James; and Columbian Chemical Society search
  • Cutbush, James; identified search
  • Cutbush, James; letters from search
  • Cutbush, James; Proposals by Redwood Fisher, for printing by subscription, the American Artist’s Manual, or Dictionary of Practical Knowledge search
  • Cutbush, James; The American Artist’s Manual search
  • Proposals by Redwood Fisher, for printing by subscription, the American Artist’s Manual, or Dictionary of Practical Knowledge (Cutbush) search
  • subscriptions, for publications; manufacturing search
  • The American Artist’s Manual (J. Cutbush) search