George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Booker, 26 June 1797

To William Booker

Mount Vernon 26th June 1797


From the good report I have had of your improved threshing machine, I am desirous of getting one or two of them erected; and as expeditiously as possible.

The Scantling for two, upon the Plan of Mr Jefferson & others, of the Scotch machine, had been got before I received the account of yours; and may, I presume, be appropriated to the latter. The purpose therefore of this letter, is to know if you would undertake to erect mine; or, if your other engagements should present your personal attendance, whether a person in whose knowledge & skill in the matter, you cd place entire confidence, could be sent; or, lastly, whether you could spare time to make me a visit for the purpose of directing my own Carpenters (six or 7 in number, & some of them competent to follow any direction) to proceed to the execution, and for which due compensation would be made you.1

I must beg the favour of a speedy answer (by Post to Alexandria) that I may know what I have to rely on—for if I cannot have them erected upon your plan in a short time, I shall ⟨proceed⟩ upon the one I had at first contemplated, so desirous am I of getting my Wheat out early. I am—Sir Your Obedt Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers.

1GW had learned about William Booker’s threshing machine from John Marshall who had recently spent the night at Mount Vernon en route to Philadelphia before departing for Paris as one of the three U.S. commissioners to negotiate with the French government. GW sent this letter to Booker under cover of a letter of this date to Edward Carrington in Richmond. On 30 June Carrington reported that he had forwarded GW’s letter to Booker, who was away from home but was expected to “return to his residence, about 18 Miles from hence” on 2 or 3 July. On 3 July Carrington forwarded a letter of the same date from Booker to GW saying that he (Booker) would be at Mount Vernon between 20 and 27 July and listing the material for building the machine that GW should have available for Booker. GW replied on 7 July in a letter sent under cover to Carrington assuring Booker that all would be in readiness for the arrival, which Carrington forwarded to Booker on 10 July. On 6 Aug. GW recorded in his Day Book: “Paid Mr Willm Booker for erecting a Thrashing Machine 40 dollars which was 15 dollars more than he asked” (Cash Memoranda, 1794-97 description begins Cash + Entries & Memorandums, 29 Sept. 1794–31 Aug. 1797. Manuscript in John Carter Brown Library, Providence. description ends ). GW wrote Booker on 15 April 1798 to report that the threshing machine made by Booker in June and July 1797 was not functioning properly. Booker returned to Mount Vernon both in 1798 and in 1799 to do further work on GW’s farm machinery. Booker received a patent for his threshing machine on 11 Mar. 1797 (List of Patents, description begins Letter from the Secretary of State Transmitting a List of All Patents Granted by the United States, the Acts of Congress Relating Thereto, and the Decisions of Courts of the United States Under the Same. U.S. Congress. House. State Dept. 21st Cong., 2d sess., H.R. Doc. 50. Washington, D.C., 1831. description ends 64). William Booker was living in Richmond and keeping a tavern when he died in 1802 (Examiner [Richmond], 16 Oct. 1802). For other references to Booker, see GW to Charles Carter, Jr., this date, and Carter to GW, 2 July 1797.

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