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Blinds and Shutters

No article yet exists on blinds and shutters. Below are selected documentary references to blinds and shutters at Thomas Jefferson's various residences compiled by Monticello researchers from Jefferson's letters and other papers.

Documentary References


1802 June 22. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "I think the outer door of the South East necessary must be a panelled door, hung flush with the inside of the wall, and the upper pannel (instead of being glass as I before proposed) had better be of Venetian blinds, as that will give air as well as light. As soon as you have done the S.E. necessary, I would rather you should proceed with the N.W. one. I shall be at home on the 25. th of July."[fn]PTJ, 37:655.[/fn]

1804 May 26. (Peter Lenox to Jefferson). "Sir the blinds will cost if the laths [stand fast?] 27/100 pr foot & if moveable 33/100 pr foot the average 30/100 pr foot. Blinds 3 feet 3 by 3 feet 3 9=10 feet 6 at 30/100 $315. Painting will be 37/100 pr yard, 3f3 by 3f3 = 2 yards 3 feet
86 1/3
$4.01 1/3[fn]Massachusetts Historical Society.[/fn]

1804 May 30. (Jefferson's note to Lomax letter on May 26). "Mr. Lenox is desired to make 6. pr. Venetian blinds with fixed laths folding together with a rabet at the meeting. 6. pr. do. with laths movng on 2. pivots do. the stiles & rails are to be 2 1/4 I. deep or thick, measured horizontally. the pair when shut are to be 3 f. 3 I. square accurately to be painted All at the prices given in by Mr. Lennox."[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

1804 June 13. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "Mr. Stewart should finish off the whole of the Hinges for the Venetian blinds, as all the blinds for the whole house are in hand here and will be forwarded as soon as done."[fn]Sotheby's auction catalog 23 April 1986.[/fn]

1804 October 4. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "The blinds I find are not yet forwarded, which now I suppose we need not hurry ourselves about."[fn]Massachusetts Historical Society.[/fn]

1805 June 14. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "There are 5. arches to the Piazza, the measures of which you have taken. Besides the sashes, they are to have Venetian blinds of a particular construction, now in hand here, under my own eye."[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

1805 September 8. (Jefferson to Benjamin Latrobe). " blinds open back on hinges as in the winter we want both the light and the warmth of the sun."[fn]John C. Van Horne et al, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986), 2:140.[/fn]

1807 October 4. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "We have finished two large windows of this house with Venitian blinds in the place of window shutters, and shutting into jambs as the shutters would. They are beautiful and convenient. The slats move on 2. pivots as mine do, and are made to lie close. When shut into the jamb that they may occupy less thickness. I think the following windows in my house may be advantageously finished in this way, if the depth of the jamb will admit two thicknesses of the side pieces of the Venetian blinds (those here are 1 5/8 I. thick and the slats 2 1/2 I. broad.) To wit, the door and 2. windows of the Hall, the 2. windows of the square rooms which look into the N.E. portico, the 2. doors of my Cabinet which look into the little Porticles, and the window of my cabinet which looks into the Greenhouse. If you find it practicable, I would wish you to put Venetian blinds into the places in this way, instead of window shutters."[fn]Massachusetts Historical Society.[/fn]

1807 October 16. (James Dinsmore to Jefferson). "Your favor of the 4th. inst. is recieved [sic]. I have examined the windows you wish finished with venitian [sic] blinds and find that all of them require three folds on each side to fill up the window and barely three inches for them to shut into, so that we cannot have them more than 7.8 of an inch thick, which will render it impracticable to use blinds: the only windows in the house where they could be used are those of the Parlour and for them the Shutters are already made, besides they have out side blinds."[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

President's House (Washington)

1801 May 28. (Thomas Claxton to Jefferson). "If Mr. Ingle cannot make the half blinds within a reasonable time, I could have some of them executed here very shortly—If, Sir, you should think this measure necessary, you will please to send the exact dimentions."[fn]Ibid., 34:193.[/fn]

1802 June 18. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). "our workman on the blinds goes on well.  he reforms a window a day."[fn]Ibid., 37:615.[/fn]


1795 September 15. (Jefferson to Sampson Crosby). "With respect to the Venetian blinds, that you may get clear of them, I will ask the favor of you to put them into proper hands to be repaired and altered as below directed. Mr. Ingles named to me some person who would do it reasonably. Let the person who does it, pack them in a box, and I will thank you to have them forwarded. Mr. Barnes, on shewing him this letter will pay the expence, if it be done while he has money in his hands, for which reason I wish it to be done immediately...NB. there are of the Venetian blinds 1st. 5 large coarse ones painted white. These I would have new mounted, and painted green, and left of their present size.  2. There are some others painted green, and some not painted at all, made for windows 3. f. 3 I. wide and 6. f. 6 I. high. These I would have altered for windows 3. f. 3 I. wide and 9 f. 9 I. high. Of course three of them will make two. They will require new ferrit and cord, and to be painted green."[fn]PTJ, 28:467-8.[/fn]

Poplar Forest

1819 November 2. (John Hemmings to Jefferson). "I am going on as you request with the blinds one paire at a time I am now got 20 single flights rady for hangin these is only enugh to cloes 4. windours I have pine enough to do the hol of them. Mr. Yancey sent 50 feet & 40 f. we found in the north portico.[fn]Massachusetts Historical Society.[/fn]

1819 November 3. (Joel Yancey to Jefferson). "Hemings has no locks nor hinges for the star [stair] doors, I have furnished him with the planks he wanted for the blinds..."[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Other Residences

1811 April 1. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "Judge Cabell having consulted me as to some things to be done to his house, I advised him to apply to you to make some Venetian blinds with moveable slats. the kind I had in view may be seen in a house Dr Currie inhabited in Richmond about a dozen years ago."[fn]PTJ:RS, 3:520.[/fn]

- Compiled by Ann Lucas, September 29, 1995

Further Sources

  • Comstock, Helen.  "Venetian Blinds in the Eighteenth Century."  Magazine Antiques 53, no. 2 (1948): 131-2.
  • Dearstyne, Howard.  "History: Shutters, Blinds and Umbrelloes."  Architectural Review 123, no. 732 (1958): 420-22.
  • McLaughlin, Jack.  "The Blind Side of Jefferson."  Early American Life (April 1989): 30-33, 70.
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