Thomas Jefferson Papers

Andrew Cock to Thomas Jefferson, 14 February 1821

From Andrew Cock

Flushing—Long Island—State of
New York—2d Mo 14th—1821—

Respected friend
Thomas Jefferson—

Be good enough to excuse the freedom I have taken in addressing thee—being a stranger—and having no right to intrude upon thy time or attention—I have however conceived that the subject which I shall mention may be of vast importance to those States where men are used for cultivateing the Earth instead of animals of a different species—

Being setled on a Farm & finding the expence of cultivateing the ground wd not be in proportion to the fall of the price of the produce, I last season constructed a Machin[e] for planting corn—and almost every kind of seed that Farmers plant—and finding the benefits of it so great, I have concluded to apply for a patent—a model is on the way to the seat of Goverment

The Machine is drawn by a Horse—and is so constructed that it will drop the corn and cover it as fast as the horse can walk—and by my experiments it performs the labour of seven—if not ten men as it will drop1 & cover an Acre in one hour.

perhaps our modes of planting may differ, therefore I’ll2 describe mine—The ground—of a sod is ploughed deep enough that in marking out for planting the plough will not tear up the sods—this marking out is done only one way (North & South is preferd) from four to five feet asunder—the manure is strewed in the furrow—the horse walks in the furrow—& the corn drops from 6 to 10 Inches apart as is wishd—and a scraper draws the loose soil in again that was thrown out in marking out the ground—from information3 it is well calculated both for Cotton & rice—or any Seed planted in drills—the dropping Machine is easily made to suit various seeds—one man can tend it—small stone on small sods is of no consequence—the scraper acting in such a manner as will clear itself of them.

There are boxes & machinery for dropping & rolling in small seeds with the same expedition—In all the descriptions of planting or sowing Machines that I have read of, they are not only complex—but very expensive—this will cost twenty five dollars only—and with careful usage will do a great deal of work with little or no expence for several seasons—in dropping the corn I prefer it at 6 to 8 Inches—and when hoeing it out—reduce it with the hoe to 8 to 10 I find it less labour and think it produces more corn than when planted in hills—If leisure permits—may I ask the favour of a line from thee—giveing me your practise & thy opinion respecting the use of such a Machine in your State—& very much Oblige

Thy Friend in the true sense
of the word

Andrew Cock

Direct to me in New York (City)

RC (Vi: Nathaniel Francis Cabell Papers); edge trimmed; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virgnia”; franked; postmarked New York, 19 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Mar. 1821 and so recorded in SJL; with later notations on address cover, including one by Nathaniel Francis Cabell stating that the letter concerned “A general Seed Drill” and another in an unidentified hand directing it “For Frank G. Ruffin Esq Shadwell.” Enclosed in TJ to Peter Minor, 9 Mar. 1821.

Andrew Cock (1769–1832), merchant and farmer, was born on Long Island, New York. By 1789 he worked as a grocer in New York City in a partnership with his brother Isaac Cock that lasted until 1794. He then operated as a merchant with various partners as Andrew Cock & Company, 1794–1803, and on his own until at least 1808. From 1802 to 1804 Cock was active in the “New-York Society for promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and protecting such of them as have been, or may be liberated.” He moved by 1810 to a farm in Flushing, Queens, New York, where he remained until about 1824. Cock won a $7.50 premium from the New York Agricultural Society in 1820 for his “machine for planting corn,” and he received a patent for it on 20 Mar. 1821. Having returned to New York City, he served as the secretary of the United States Fire Insurance Company from 1824 until his death from cholera (George William Cocks, comp., History and Genealogy of the Cock-Cocks-Cox Family [2d ed., 1914], 74; William Wade Hinshaw and others, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy [1936–50; repr. 1969–77], 3:73, 378; The New-York Directory, and Register, For the Year 1789 [New York, 1789], 21; New York Daily Advertiser, 4 Feb. 1794; New York American Citizen and General Advertiser, 30 Jan. 1802; New-York Evening Post, 3 Feb. 1803, 9 Apr. 1824, 24 July 1832; New York Mercantile Advertiser, 9 Jan. 1804, 10 Nov. 1820; Minutes of the Proceedings of the ninth American Convention for promoting the Abolition of Slavery … assembled at Philadelphia [Philadelphia, 1804], 6; New-York Gazette & General Advertiser, 30 May 1805, 12 Oct. 1814; Ming’s New-York Price-Current, 30 July 1808; DNA: RG 29, CS, N.Y., Flushing, 1810; 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 , 224; New York Statesman, 14 May 1824; Boston Courier, 26 July 1832).

1Word interlined in place of “plant.”

2Manuscript: “Ill.”

3Manuscript: “imformation.”

Index Entries

  • agriculture; and fertilization search
  • agriculture; implements of search
  • Cock, Andrew; drill of search
  • Cock, Andrew; identified search
  • Cock, Andrew; letter from search
  • corn; and drills search
  • cotton; as crop search
  • drills (sowing implements); designed by A. Cock search
  • horses; as draft animals search
  • machines; drill search
  • patents; of A. Cock search
  • rice; and agricultural implements search
  • seeds; drills for planting search