Clement Biddle to Tobias Lear
Philadelphia 14th January 1790
Tobias Lear Esqr.
I have before me Your favour of the 6th & 10th Int. to answer which I could not do by last Post for want of the Necessary information respecting the Boulting Cloths.
Mr Lewis says that he is at a Loss to put up the Boulting Cloth until he knows the size that will suit he says that a Reel which in the whole length is ten feet (the Common size here) requires a Cloth of 8 feet 3 Inches long and the remainder of the Reel is Covered with Strong Linen, the price for Such sized superfine Cloth is £10 and as he expressed a Doubt from the words of your Letter I thought it best to wait your Answer by which I should only loose one post to the Southward & the Post Master will forward it with the Mail to the Nearest post Office to Mount Vernon, you will therefore please to mention if (as I suppose) the whole length of the Reel is only Nine feet two Inches,1 I have Wrote to Mr Abraham Hunt at Trenton to procure the 200 Bushels of Buckwheat as he assured me he could get it2 & I have desired his speedy Answer in Case of Failure that I might procure it in the Neighbourhood of this City in due season.
LB, PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book, 1789–92.
1. On 10 Jan. Lear wrote to Biddle: “The President has directed me to write to you, requesting, that you will procure for him, & send to Mount Vernon by the first opportunity a superfine Boulting Cloth of the first quality, to suit A Reel which is nine feet two inches in length—and five feet six inches in circumference, You will be good enough to let the above mentioned Cloth be chosen by Mr Lewis or a skillful Miller” (ViMtvL). GW needed the cloth to fit the reel of a bolting chest or flour sieve located at his sandstone merchant mill built in 1770 at the Mill plantation on Dogue Run Creek. Meal or flour was sifted from bran and other impurities through a firm fabric of transparent woven linen which came in various fine-meshed sizes and which was attached to the reel of the bolter. Lear answered Biddle’s letter on 7 Feb.: “Major Washington has sent the following dimensions of the Bolting Cloth. ‘The length of the Bolting Cloth, now in the Mill, is 8 feet 3½ inches; and the breadth 5 feet 7 inches. The length of the Reel is 9 feet 6 inches; and as Colo. Biddle observes has the difference between the Cloth and Reel covered with coarse linen.’ The President would wish you to get one agreeable to the foregoing dimensions & send it to Mount Vernon by the earliest opportunity” (PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence). Biddle notified George Augustine Washington on 11 Feb. that he would ship the cloth in two pieces to Mount Vernon by that day’s post (PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book, 1789–92). See also Biddle to Lear, 24 Jan. and 10 Feb. 1790 (PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book), and Lear to Biddle, 17 Jan. 1790 (PHi: Washington-Biddle Correspondence).
2. For GW’s attempt to secure buckwheat for Mount Vernon, see Lear to Biddle, 21 Dec. 1789. On 24 Jan. Biddle wrote Lear that “Mr Abraham Hunt has agreed to Supply the Buckwheat (having abt 200 Bushels in Store) @ 2/8—and I have the Bags in hand making & shall send them to Bring it Down in 2 or 3 Days and shall ship it by first Vessel for Alexandria” (PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book, 1789–92). The buckwheat was shipped to Alexandria in early March on the sloop Polly, commanded by Captain Ellwood (Biddle to Lear, 6 Mar. 1790, PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book). See also Biddle to Lear, 28 Jan., 9, 23 Feb. 1790, all in PHi: Clement Biddle Letter Book.