Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John S. Skinner, 24 February 1820

To John S. Skinner

Monticello Feb. 24. 20.


a low state of health renders writing, slow, laborious & painful but a friend has aided me by copying from my travelling notes the method of making Parmesan cheese which you requested.

I attended at a dairy at Rozzano from sunrise to sunset, made shor[t] notes on the spot of what was passing under my eye, and of the information given me by the people of the dairy, and when I returned to my lodgings at Milan, at night, I wrote them at full length.

Soon after my return to America in 1789. or a year or two after I saw in some periodical publication an account of the making Parmesan cheese furnished by Dr Franklin on the information of some person who appeared to be well informed. I remarked in it several particulars which I had omitted to note, which I recollected to be true, and several particulars omitted which I had noted and knew to be true, and thought the two accounts would be useful supplements to each other. there were two periodical works appearing at that time to one of which I know that Dr Franklin furnished some papers; these were Carey’s Museum & the American Magazine. it was probably in one of these, but possibly in some other; for I have no recollection exactly of the work in which I saw it: but it is well worth enquiry. I return the letter of mr Pickering and salute you with esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (MHi); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; edge trimmed; at foot of text: “Mr John S. Skinner”; endorsed by TJ. Printed in American Farmer 1 (1820): 410. Enclosure: enclosure to Skinner to TJ, 30 Jan. 1820.

The manuscript notes on the method of making parmesan cheese also enclosed here have not been found, but they were excerpted from TJ’s Notes of a Tour into the Southern Parts of France, &c., printed at 10 June 1787 in PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 43 vols. description ends , 11:438–9. Skinner published this description of the cheese-making process as observed by TJ, as well as TJ’s concluding section on icehouses, in the American Farmer 1 (1820): 410–1.

An article on how to make parmesan cheese “as observed by Dr. Leith,” and “by him communicated” to Benjamin Franklin was evidently furnished by Franklin for publication in the London Lloyd’s Evening Post, 20/22 Dec. 1773 (Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin [1959– ], 20:506–8). In 1789 carey’s museum republished without attribution Joseph Zappa’s answers to Arthur Young’s questions on the subject of the production of parmesan cheese, an exchange which had been published earlier in the Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary Miscellany 4 (1786): 115–7 (American Museum: or Repository of ancient and modern Fugitive Pieces 5 [1789]: 43–5 [Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4903]).

Index Entries

  • American Farmer; prints TJ’s writings search
  • American Magazine (New York); B. Franklin as contributor to search
  • American Museum: or Repository of ancient and modern Fugitive Pieces, &c. prose and poetical; and parmesan cheese search
  • American Museum: or Repository of ancient and modern Fugitive Pieces, &c. prose and poetical; B. Franklin as contributor to search
  • Carey, Mathew; publishesAmerican Museum: or Repository of ancient and modern Fugitive Pieces, &c. prose and poetical search
  • cheese; parmesan search
  • Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary Miscellany; and parmesan cheese search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; and cheese-making search
  • Italy; TJ’s travels in search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; fatiguing or painful to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; illness of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; in Europe search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes of a Tour into the Southern Parts of France, &c. search
  • Leith, Dr.; and cheese-making search
  • Lloyd’s Evening Post (London newspaper) search
  • London; Lloyd’s Evening Post search
  • newspapers; LondonLloyd’s Evening Post search
  • Pickering, Timothy; correspondence of search
  • Skinner, John Stuart; andAmerican Farmer search
  • Skinner, John Stuart; and parmesan cheese search
  • Skinner, John Stuart; letters to search
  • Young, Arthur; and cheese-making search
  • Zappa, Joseph; and cheese-making search