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A little experiment

A few days ago I set up a Google Alert to let me know when any new material appeared on the Internet (or technically speaking, in Google's index of the Internet) with the phrase "Thomas Jefferson." Amidst all the reportage of Thomas Jefferson High School's basketball triumph over West Diddlyfunk and so forth, in each day's update is a huge preponderance of blogs, columns and news articles that quote Jefferson.

The interests of a nation...wait, scratch that.

One of our alert former fellows brought Hillary Clinton's quotation of Jefferson during her recent Secretary of State confirmation hearings to my attention.  Of course I can't help myself from checking to make sure that famous people quoting TJ have actually gotten their quotes correct, because a) I'm a stickler, and b) someone else will surely ask about it.

He didn't get to Vegas

I've just laboriously sussed out the farthest points north, south, east and west Jefferson ever traveled and put it up on the Encyclopedia here.  I find this handy when people ask us if, say, TJ ever visited Las Vegas, to be able to say, "nope, sorry, the farthest west he ever got was..."  (Okay, no one has ever asked us if he visited Vegas, but it could happen.)

Finding this was no garden tour

After a long, ridiculous search that made my head hurt real bad, I made a discovery that I hope will save many people from similar experiences: the nice people at Swem Library at the College of William and Mary have put Jefferson's "Notes on a Tour of English Gardens" up on their website.  In full color!  (Warning: massive files!)

Quotation Frustration

I know: again with the quotations!  We are experiencing a strange swell in quotation questions, however, so it's pretty much all I have to talk about these days.  There's one in particular that is bugging me, so I thought I'd throw it out to our 6 loyal readers in case there's a chance others can help crack this one.

Epic 10-part reference question

We get a lot of questions from the public asking us to verify quotations as Jeffersonian or not, but these almost always concern only a single quotation. The other week I got a query from an inquiring person that contained not one, but 10 quotations. The source of the query was a sort of chain-email calling Jefferson a "prophet" - an appellation I suspect he would not in fact like very much - and listing 10 purported Jefferson quotations.

Who is the liar now?

For my Fake TJ Stories files, and for the edification of our 6 devoted readers, I offer the following Reference Question Tale:

It is claimed, by websites and other sources various and sundry, that Thomas Jefferson, upon hearing of a meteorite crash in Connecticut in 1807 and its subsequent reportage by two professors at Yale, scoffed that it "was easier to believe that two Yankee professors could lie than to admit that stones could fall from heaven."

Jefferson still survives, unlike the other guy

Sometimes it's a little scary how persistent apocryphal stories about Jefferson are. Case in point: the perennial (for us) question, "Did Thomas Jefferson shoot someone on the White House lawn?" There's no evidence that he did, and strangely enough, the source of this particularly bizarre story seems to be the movie Swordfish.

Taking Jefferson's name in vain (again)

Sometimes it seems an uphill battle, disabusing people of the notion that Jefferson is the source of every smart, catchy thing ever said.  I was reassured this week to find out that I'm not alone in my efforts.  An intrepid blogger became suspicious of a supposed Jefferson quote that has risen to the surface during the recent financial upheaval, and decided to do some hard-core investigation.  By sheer chance, I had recently run this particular non-quotation down

Mistaken Identity

A patron asked us about a very unusual quotation the other day: apparently someone, sometime said that Thomas Jefferson was "...a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father..."; this was supposedly a comment made by Jefferson's political opponents in the election of 1800. But who actually said this? One of my neighbors in grad school once gushed that librarians were "like wolverines, man! I mean, you ask them a question and they just WON'T LET GO until they answer it!" He wasn't kidding.