Thomas Jefferson's letter to Gordon, Trokes & Co., 3 June 1809 (click to enlarge)As he settled in at Monticello after his presidency ended, Thomas Jefferson took steps to keep himself supplied with tea, coffee, sugar, spices, and other groceries that he could not grow or manufacture on his own estate. In this letter he seeks to establish an ongoing relationship with a Richmond mercantile firm, urging that special care be taken in packing the goods to avoid "the ordinary plunder" and listing his usual quarterly needs, which reveal the scope of his hospitality and his distinction between fine cheese for the table and poorer cheese for cooking, where "the rich cheeses do not answer."


To Gordon, Trokes & Company
Monticello July 25. 09.
Messrs Gordon Trokes & co.

Having desired my relation mr George Jefferson to establish a correspondence for me at Richmond for the supply of my groceries & the terms of paiment to be observed, he informs me he has arranged with you for my supplies, and that paiment shall be made semi-annually. with this I shall accordingly take care to comply. I now, in consequence subjoin a list of articles which I must pray you to send by some trusty boat; mr Jefferson’s knolege of them will enable him to advise you as to their selection—in general I wish mr Randolph’s boat to be preferred when there. this list amounts to about an ordinary quarter’s consumption of 3. months.1 every thing should be packed in the strongest & securest manner to guard against depredation, the expence of which is small in comparison of the ordinary plunder. be so good as to forward an account of the articles sent & their prices. I have to acknolege a preceding reciept of 50. lb of coffee from you.

I am gentlemen Your most obedt servt

Th: Jefferson


8. lb. best tea. young Hyson usually preferred. coffee (not green) E. India is preferred.

single refined sugar. 12. loaves.

best brown sugar 200. lb.

raisins 10. lb

rice 20. lb

pearl barley 10. lb            crackers. a keg of 20. or 25. lb

spices. 1. oz. cinnamon. 1. oz. mace. 2. oz. nutmeg. 2. lb black pepper

Syrop of punch. 3. doz. bottles.

best French brandy. a keg of 10. or 15 gallons.

1. best cheese for the table.

1. poorer do for cookery. the rich cheeses do not answer for this

Cod’s tongues & sounds. 1. keg

herrings. 5. barrels of best quality.

salted white shads. 1. barrel of best quality


PoC (MHi); endorsed by TJ.

Gordon, Trokes & Company, a mercantile firm in Richmond, may have been a partnership between Richmond merchant Robert Gordon (ca. 1773-1847) and New York-based merchant Maxwell Trokes, who married Sarah H. Goode of Manchester, Virginia, in August 1809. TJ ended his relationship with the firm in 1811, concerned about his inability to make timely payments. By 1819 Gordon was listed without a partner in a Richmond city directory, and that same year saw the bankruptcy of Trokes, then identified as a Liverpool merchant in partnership with James Frisney Leitch of London and Robert Graham of Manchester, Virginia, in the firm of Maxwell Trokes & Company (MB, 2:1264; TJ to Gordon, Trokes & Co., 4 Apr. 1811; Richmond Directory, Register and Almanac, for the Year 1819 [Richmond, 1819], 48; Liverpool Mercury, 13 Sept. 1819; Richmond Enquirer, 20 Aug. 1809, 24 Aug. 1847).

Missing letters of 31 July and 29 Aug. 1809 from Gordon, Trokes & Co. are recorded in SJL as received from Richmond on 8 Aug. and 5 Sept. 1809.

1Sentence interlined.

Reprinted from The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, 1:368.


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