Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Ronaldson to Thomas Jefferson, 3 July 1822

From James Ronaldson

Phila July 3–1822


Knowing you take a lively interest in all that is goeing forward in the United States, marking the improvements, and their progress towards independence of other countries, for whatever is necessary or usefull, I have taken the liberty of sending you a copy of my latest specimen of Printing type thinking it will suffer nothing from a comparison with any thing of the kind; perhaps I view it with a partiality natural to one who has occupied himself quarter of a century in bringing the foundry to its present state. Looking back twenty five years calls to recollection feelings and anxieties that are now viewed with surprise. I remember on my friend Arch Binny and Self asking the opinion of the best acquainted with the Printing, “If the Letter founding would answer in this country,”1 and the general answer was “that it would not do here for many years to come” In fourteen years Binny & Ronaldson had it may be said entirely put the foreign articles out of the US market, in this contest we were assisted by the Congress exempting Regulus of Antimony from import duty; this though a small amount of patronage as respects money, was very usefull in the infancy of the bussiness. The case is now entirely altered, for as there exists in the US a general disposition to bussiness, and the occupations in it being [comparatively]2 few, in consequence of so much of our work being done abroad, and imported here in the form of manufactured goods, the branches of employment that do succeed, are soon filled to their maximum; this is strikeingling manifast in the trades of, Printing, and paper makeing;—and the Letterfounding is fast aproaching the same state; the genius of Arch Binny simplified the processes, and by puting it within the reach of a greater range of talent, there are now in the US six letter foundries, and several Sterio ones, with the probability there will be more—Now the country has the manufactory; it may be worthy the statesmans consideration “the importance and means of secureing the raw material” haveing done my part—in establishing the manufacture, I have got too much cooled by time for careing about the other.

This retrospect brings to my recollection the pleasur and satesfaction enjoyed in an interview with you at the government house Washington, introducid by Dr Leib a conversation that then took place on the practical state of our manufactures—led me to employ a person to collect specimens of all kinds of cloth then made in this neighbourhood, and sending them to you; though their appearance was very humble yet in them I thought the embryo3 of future greatness was visible, but fancy herself could not have drawn a picture of such perfection as we have attained, without Legistlative patronage:—Thou[gh] the legistlation of Senates has been absent, that of c[ir]cumstances have come forward with irrisistable force.4 we cannot sell to foreigners produce sufficient to buy the things wanted, we must either make them, or go without; The citozens are of a character not likely to5 embrace the latter option, so we must manufacture.

It would now be very interesting to possess the collection of specimens I have refered to, they would be a curiosity.

I pray you’l pardon this, (to me unexpected) long epistle and be pleased to accept along with my esteem my ardent wishies for your health & happenes

With Great Respect I am &a

James Ronaldson

P S—If a copy of this specimen would be of any use in the library of the University now established× and I had the address one would be sent—

RC (DLC); dateline adjacent to closing and signature; edge torn; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Montecello Va”; stamp canceled; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 4 July; endorsed by TJ as received 10 July 1822 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Specimen of Printing Type, from the Letter Foundry of James Ronaldson, successor to Binny & Ronaldson (Philadelphia, 1822).

Under the provisions of a 27 Mar. 1804 “Act for imposing more specific duties on the importation of certain articles; and also, for levying and collecting light money on foreign ships or vessels, and for other purposes,” regulus of antimony, the metallic form of that element, could be imported free of duty (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 , 2:299–300; OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). sterio: “stereotype.” Writing to TJ from Philadelphia in 1806, Ronaldson had sent specimens of all kinds of cloth (Ronaldson to TJ, 22 Feb. 1806, and TJ to Ronaldson, 13 Oct. 1808 [both in DLC]).

1Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

2Brackets in original.

3Manuscript: “embroy.”

4Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

5Manuscript: “to to.”

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

× ×in your neighbourhood

Index Entries

  • antimony; used in casting type search
  • Binny, Archibald; as typefounder search
  • Binny & Ronaldson (Philadelphia firm); as typefounders search
  • Congress, U.S.; and manufacturing search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Leib, Michael; introduces J. Ronaldson search
  • manufacturing; encouragement of in U.S. search
  • manufacturing; expansion of search
  • manufacturing; foundries search
  • Ronaldson, James; and domestic manufacturing search
  • Ronaldson, James; introduced to TJ search
  • Ronaldson, James; letters from search
  • Ronaldson, James; sends cloth to TJ search
  • Ronaldson, James; Specimen of Printing Type, from the Letter Foundry of James Ronaldson, successor to Binny & Ronaldson search
  • Specimen of Printing Type, from the Letter Foundry of James Ronaldson, successor to Binny & Ronaldson search
  • taxes; customs search
  • textiles; sent to TJ search
  • type foundries search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; books and manuscripts for search