Thomas Jefferson Papers

Jethro Wood to Thomas Jefferson, 1 October 1816

From Jethro Wood

Aurora 10mo 1st 1816

Friend Thomas Jefferson

The Firm of which I am a partner requests thy acceptance of a plough, as a respectfull tribute to thy Ingenuity in improving that important Instrument.1 We shall feel ourselves amply recompenced by thy approbation; or, additionally obliged by any suggestion which may tend to render it more Complete.

By an accident occasioned by the warping2 of the wooden patern the edges are raised ⅓ of an Inch too3 high. The plough is now gone for new york and will be forwarded to thee as soon as possible.

With the greatest Respect I am thy friend

Jethro Wood

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Montisello Late President of the united states”; franked; postmarked Poplar Ridge, N.Y., 17 Oct., and Washington City, 29 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received from “Woods? Jethro” on 7 Nov. 1816 and so recorded in SJL.

Jethro Wood (1774–1834), inventor, was born in either Massachusetts or New York and raised in Washington County, New York. He moved permanently to Cayuga County in about 1800. Wood later became a proprietor of a female boarding school in Aurora, corresponding secretary of the Cayuga County Agricultural Society, and postmaster of Poplar Ridge. He is best known, however, for the patents he received for improved plows on 1 July 1814 and 1 Sept. 1819. Having partnered with Elias Rogers to manufacture his invention, he sent samples of their handiwork to both TJ and Emperor Alexander I of Russia. The machine was widely copied, especially in the North. Wood is sometimes credited as inventor of the cast-iron plow, but earlier examples used this material. His invention owed its popularity to a combination of design features, including longitudinal straight lines, good balance, ease of use, interchangeable parts, strength, and affordability. Although his 1819 grant was extended a further fourteen years in 1832, Wood and his family seem to have derived little financial benefit from the invention due to widespread patent infringement (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; New York Commercial Advertiser, 5 Nov. 1819; Boston Agricultural Intelligencer, and Mechanic Register, 28 Apr. 1820; Elliot G. Storke and James H. Smith, History of Cayuga County, New York [1879], 441–2, 458; 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 , 140, 206; Cherry-Valley [N.Y.] Gazette, 4 Feb. 1819; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 6:486; Documents relating to the improvements of Jethro Wood in the Construction of the Plough [1838]; New-Bedford [Mass.] Mercury, 24 Oct. 1834).

1Manuscript: “Instrumment.”

2Manuscript: “worping.”

3Manuscript: “to.”

Index Entries

  • plows; J. Wood’s cast-iron search
  • plows; TJ’s moldboard search
  • Wood, Jethro; identified search
  • Wood, Jethro; letter from search
  • Wood, Jethro; plow of search