The writing setup in the cabinet today closely resembles the way it looked during Thomas Jefferson's life. Jefferson designed this space for efficiency and comfort during long hours spent at the writing table in front of you.

Audio Overview

  • Jefferson left behind over 19,000 surviving letters.
  • While Jefferson collected many devices and even redesigned some, his only true invention was a type of plow: the “moldboard plow of least resistance.”

Details about the Cabinet


The polygraph is a device used for copying letters, a machine invented by John Isaac Hawkins. It allows a writer to complete two identical letters using only one pen. Jefferson liked it so much he bought two: one for Monticello and one for the President’s House.

Bust of John Adams

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a difficult relationship. Sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, these two were as different politically as they were physically. Jefferson received a bust of Adams by John B. Binon in 1825 and kept it in this room. Jefferson and Adams first became friends during the American Revolution. Partisan politics in the 1790s damaged their friendship, but they reconciled and became pen pals, exchanging letters over the final fourteen years of their life. They both died on Independence Day in 1826.

Thomas Jefferson
“…from sun-rise to one or two oclock, and often from dinner to dark, I am drudging at the writing table. and all this to answer letters...often for persons whose names I have never before heard…who, in the most friendly dispositions, oppress me with their concerns, their pursuits, their projects, inventions and speculations, political, moral, religious, mechanical, mathematical, historical Etc. Etc. Etc.” —To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 11 January 1817


Move through the short passage on your right to enter Jefferson's bedchamber.

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