Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Charles Willson Peale, 13 December 1806

Museum Decr. 13th. 1806.

Dear Sir

I now write with your Polygraph by way of tryal, and find that it is absolutely necessary to hold the Pen of the left or West side, the beginning bears a little harder than I could wish in the right hand Pen, but at the other end of the line the pressure is nearly equal, after the first line the difference is scarce perceptible. The Pen-bar being longer than the width of the paralells, renders the smallest deviation from truth in the Work more conspicuous, which cannot be got over to have a Polygraph so small, with simular Machinery. we have made the Pivot pieces, connecting the machinery to the Penbar, something more substantial than usial, indeed we have not spared labour or care to make the whole of the Machinery as perfect as possible, and I hope you may find it nearly correct. The silver Pen arms & Pen tubs are put to it—The cost of which to me is about Ten Dollars, I can make no other charge as the Machinery ought to have been correct in the first Instance.

I have also done my best in filling the out line of your late friend Judge Wythe. whether you may find it equally striking as to likeness I cannot say, for my remembrance has not furnished me with any Idea’s of the form of his features, therefore it is all guess work—besides I have not had but little practice in the use of Indian Ink, or the execution might have better, indeed I was doubtful whether I should send it, but on the consideration that it was testifying my disposition to meet your wishes—If any sort of portrait or some Person capable of discribing the Judges features the likeness would have been probably much improved, profiles certainly, if well taken, gives characters very striking, indeed much better than I had concieved before I had seen the use of Mr. Hawkin’s Physiognotrace—I have upwards of 8000 profiles on sheets of paper, which furnishes a very rational amusement as often as I display them to my friends.

I wish this Polygraph had been made one Inch longer, for I find that it is a stretch to get to the bottom of the paper. That Inch in addional length of the Box, & with narrow hinges, longer paper might be used by pushing it up under the Gallows—my desire to make these Machines very small, has rendered several of them of them of very little use, I do not expect to get rid of some I have on hand—These small sizes would do very well to write on octavo paper, but this is not the practice in America. a size that will admit two widths of this Paper between the Gallows, is undoubtedly the better size.

It is with pleasure I see the proposial of giving power to establish a great National School, I hope to put my Museum into such order as to convince those of moderate capacity that it will be an important acquisition to any great seminary of learning. I am very well contented with it as to myself, but I wish to have it in my power to give a part of the value of it to my Children at the beginning of their establishments: when they may most need help. accept my best wishes for your health,

with much esteem your friend

CW Peale

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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