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Toys

Throughout his political career, Thomas Jefferson enjoyed the advantages of urban dwelling. In Philadelphia, New York, and Paris, he found that the local markets were one of those advantages. Friends and family members reaped the benefits of Jefferson’s access to metropolitan shopping. Toys, for the children of friends or for his own grandchildren, were occasionally among his purchases, as indicated by the letters cited below.

Primary Source References

1785 September 11. (Jefferson to John Langdon). "P.S ... I beg leave to renew my acquaintance with Miss Langdon by sending her a Doll of the present mode, dressed in Muslin, a mode which prevailing here to an almost total exclusion of silk, has literally and truly starved a great number of people. I add to it a box in which she will find a small gentleman who will teach her a short-handed and graceful manner of going down stairs."1

1785 September 20. (Jefferson to Mary Jefferson). "... when you come here you shall have as many dolls and playthings as you want for yourself, or to send to your cousins whenever you shall have opportunities."2

1785 December 7. (John Langdon to Jefferson). "Our dear Bets, begs leave to present you with her grateful thanks, for the great honor you have been pleased to conferr on her, in sending such an agreable present: all Companies who come into the house must be entertained with the sight of her doll, and tumbling Gentleman; and she does not fail to confess her obligations to Governor Jefferson."3

1798 January 22. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "and if such a thing is to be had a game of the goose it was a promise made to the children which Richmond does not furnish the means of paying."4

1798 February 8. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "all your commissions shall be executed, not forgetting the game of the goose, if we can find out what it is; for there is some difficulty in that."5

1798 May 17. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "the children I am afraid will have forgotten me. however my memory may perhaps be hung on the game of the goose which I am to carry them."6

  • 1. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Letterpress copy available online. The postscript was missing from Jefferson's letterpress copy printed in PTJ, 8:512-13. The editors have since received a copy of the recipient's copy, with its two-part postscript. See PTJ, 27:752-53. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 2. PTJ, 8:532-33. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 3. PTJ, 9:84-85. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 4. PTJ, 30:43-44. Transcription available at Founders Online. Game of the goose is a board game, of disputed origin, that dates from the sixteenth century, or perhaps earlier.
  • 5. PTJ, 30:91-92. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 6. PTJ, 30:354-55. Transcription available at Founders Online.

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