Thomas Jefferson Papers

Francis Bloodgood to Thomas Jefferson, 5 February 1820

From Francis Bloodgood

Albany february. 5th 1820

Dr Sir

I have learned from some Gentlemen in the City of New York, that you are authorised or wish to purchase a Cabinet of mineralogy for the Central College of your State—should that be correct—I take the liberty of informing you of one that is now for Sale—should not the Legislature of this State now in session purchase it, of which I have but little hopes—the Subject is now before them—It is the Cabinet of the late Dr Benjamin Dewitt Professor of mineralogy in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York, and who was the Health officer of that City—he died in September last of the fever—. of this Cabinet I know nothing myself not being a competent Judge—but am told by some of the Professors of that College.—That it is one of the best in the world—it contains Eleven thousand different specimens, and it is said that there is not one duplicate in the whole number—it possibly may not be so showey a one, as that of Coll Gibbs’s in Boston, but for Scientific purposes—I am informed by the most competent Judges, is far better.—a great part of the specimens were obtaind by the late Professor Bruce of New York, who devoted a considerable part of his life to the business, by exchangeing specimens with the most celebrated Mineralogist of Europe—The Correctness of the labeling, which is of great importance can therefore be relied on—The specimens are well numbered, assertaind & carefully catalogued by Dr Dewitt himself—there are besides those numbered several boxes of minerals, which the Doctor in his life time had not leisure to arrange and which remain in the boxes—. The College of Physicians & Surgeons are very anxious to retain the Cabinet if possible—but have not funds to purchase, They have solicited me before I took any Steps to dispose of it—to wait, until they could have the oppertunity of applying to the Legislature of this state to purchase it—being anxious myself that it should be retained in the State, I granted them their request—and they have accordingly petitioned the Legislature, and their application is before them, to secure this invaluable establishment to the state, if not to them—Econemy being as much the order of the day here this session, as it is in the General Government, I must confess the success of their application is very doubtful—they tell me however if it cannot be affected at this session, it may probably at the next—but the administratrix cannot wait—the Estate of Dr Dewitt’s is much in Debt—those Debts must be paid and the Cabinet must be sold—I write to you Sir in behalf of the Widow—who is the administratrix to the Estate.1 if you or any other person are inclined to purchase, any communication made to me on the subject shall be duly attended to—The Price is fixed at a very low sum—to wit Ten thousand Dollars in order to effect a sale—

I am sir with considerations of the greatest respect and Esteem

your most Obedt & Humble svt

Francis Bloodgood

RC (ViU: TJP); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Montecello Virginia”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Albany, 7 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as a letter from Francis “Bloodfood” received 17 Feb. 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

Francis Bloodgood (ca. 1769–1840), attorney and public official, graduated from Yale College (later Yale University) in 1787 and was practicing law in his native Albany by 1796. He served as clerk of the New York Supreme Court, 1797–1823, and as mayor of Albany in 1831 and 1833. Beginning politically as a Jeffersonian Republican allied with his relatives George Clinton and DeWitt Clinton, Bloodgood later became a National Republican, supporting protective tariffs and opposing the abolition of slavery. He owned four slaves in 1800. Bloodgood was secretary of the Board of Regents of the State University of New York, 1798–1814. A founder and longtime director of the New-York State Bank in Albany, he served as its president from 1834 until his death in Albany (Dexter, Yale Biographies description begins Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 1885–1912, 6 vols. description ends , 4:523, 532; Daniel D. Tompkins to TJ, 5 Dec. 1808 [MHi]; Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany [1850–59], esp. 3:230, 9:222, 260; Albany Register, 16 Dec. 1796; Albany Chronicle, 1 May 1797; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.Y., Albany, 1800–30; Hudson, N.Y., Bee, 11 June 1805; Boston Gazette, 4 May 1807; New-York Evening Post, 2 Feb. 1810; Albany Argus, 20 June 1820; Rochester Telegraph, 27 May 1823; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 1 Nov. 1828, 1 Feb. 1833; New-York Spectator, 31 Dec. 1830, 7 June 1834; Providence Rhode Island American and Gazette, 6, 17 Jan. 1832; Boston Courier, 28 May 1832; Hartford Connecticut Courant, 31 July 1832; Washington United States Telegraph, 14 Sept. 1835; Albany Evening Journal, 5, 7 Mar. 1840).

Benjamin DeWitt’s cabinet of mineralogy was described in A Catalogue of Minerals, contained in the cabinet of the late Benjamin DeWitt, M. D. (Albany, 1820). Although a proposal to purchase DeWitt’s mineral collection for the College of Physicians and Surgeons (later part of Columbia University) initially advanced in the New York State Assembly now in session, the following year the collection was still being advertised for sale (Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York: at their Forty-Third Session [Albany, 1820], 18, 486–7; North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal 12 [new ser., 3] [1821]: unpaginated backmatter). The widow and administrator of DeWitt, Eve Bloodgood DeWitt, was Bloodgood’s sister (New-York Evening Post, 23 May 1832).

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • A Catalogue of Minerals, contained in the cabinet of the late Benjamin DeWitt, M. D. search
  • Bloodgood, Francis; and minerals for University of Virginia search
  • Bloodgood, Francis; family of search
  • Bloodgood, Francis; identified search
  • Bloodgood, Francis; letter from search
  • Bruce, Archibald; as mineralogist search
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons (later part of Columbia University); mineral specimens for search
  • DeWitt, Benjamin; mineral collection of search
  • DeWitt, Eve Bloodgood; as administrator of B. DeWitt’s estate search
  • Gibbs, George; mineral collection of search
  • mineralogy; collections of minerals search
  • New York (city); College of Physicians and Surgeons (later part of Columbia University) search
  • New York (state); legislature of search
  • schools and colleges; College of Physicians and Surgeons (later part of Columbia University) search
  • Virginia, University of; Faculty and Curriculum; mineral specimens for search