Tall Plain Jelly Glasses

Tall Plain Plain Jelly Glass. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.Artist/Maker: Unknown[1]

Created: late 18th century

Origin/Purchase: England

Materials: glass

Dimensions: H: 10.8 (4 1/4 in.); D (rim): 6.4 (2 1/2 in.)

Location: Dining Room

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Margaret Randolph Taylor and Olivia Alexander Taylor; by bequest to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1985

Accession Number: 1986-31-9

Historical Notes: At the end of his stay in France, Jefferson copied several of his favorite recipes. One of them explained how to make "Wine jellies." Boiled calves-feet or isinglass was combined with egg whites and a pint of madeira. The mixture was sweetened and flavored with lemon, cloves and nutmeg. "Strain it 2 or 3 times thro' a flannea till clear," wrote Jefferson; then, "Put it in glasses or moulds."[2]

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the second course of dinner typically featured a number of sweet dishes such as cakes, custards, creams, and jellies. Although sometimes made in large, elaborate molds, jellies served in individual glasses were equally popular. Round, trumpet-shaped, and footed jelly glasses corresponded to other fashionable glassware in shape and decoration.[3]

Three different styles of Monticello glasses are known. Two are plain free-blown glasses, one with a knopped stem. A third type of free-blown jelly glass has cut decoration on the rim and bowl.

On August 18, 1791, in New York, Jefferson wrote in his Memorandum Book, "Pd. for jelly glasses 3. doz. 3[dollars]."[4] Among the items inventoried at Monticello after his death were "21 cut & 3 plain jelly glasses."[5]


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 339.
  2. Thomas Jefferson, "Wine jellies," undated. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
  3. Louise Conway Belden, The Festive Tradition: Table Decoration and Desserts in America, 1650-1900 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1983), 55, 158.
  4. Jefferson, August 18, 1791, in MB, 2:830.
  5. [Martha Jefferson Randolph?], "Inventory of the furniture in the house at Monticello," Thomas Jefferson Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

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