Benjamin Randolph (1721-1791) was a Philadelphia cabinetmaker from a Quaker family. Thomas Jefferson lodged with Randolph at his house on Chestnut Street while staying in Philadelphia in 1775 and 1776.[1] Jefferson later moved to the Graff House, where he wrote the Declaration of Independence, in May of 1776.[2] According to Jefferson, Randolph made the desk on which Jefferson composed the Declaration.[3]

Primary Source References

1775. (Miscellaneous Memoranda). "Fireplace in B. Randolph' parlour 2.f. 6.I. wide in the back. 3.f. 2 1/2 I. wide in front. 1.f. 8.I. in the jamb. 2 f. 10.I. high. | another of his fireplaces 2.f. 9.I. in the back 4.f. in the front."[4]

1775 July 8. "Pd. Benjamin Randolph a fortnight's lodging for self & servt. £3-15."[5]

1775 July 29. "Pd. Benjamin Randolph lodging in full £6-8-6."[6]

1775 October 16. "Pd. Randolph my part of house rent &c. 22/6."[7]

1775 November 25. "Lent Randolph to be credited in house rent £9."[8]

1775 December 28. "Pd. Randolph for a yd. of oznabrigs 2/6."[9]

1776 May 27. "Pd. Randolph for 8. days lodging 40/."[10]

1776 September 2. "Pd. B. Randolph's workmen for 3 boxes 9/."[11]

1778 September 15. (Jefferson to John Harvie). "Ben Randolph professes an Inclination to Accomodate you with an House joiner and tells me that he has been Constant in his researches after one since I informed him that his recommendation to me of a proper Character in that way would be rendering me an Agreable Service to you, but from his and other Accounts of the Scarcity of Skillful hands now following this Branch of Business and the Exorbitant prices prevalent in this City and its Vicinity, I would by no means advise you to depend on one from this Quarter."[12]

1825 November 14. (Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge) "[The desk]  was made from a drawing of my own, by Ben Randall, a cabinet maker in whose house I took my first lodgings on my arrival in Philadelphia in May 1776. and I have used it ever since."[13]

Further Sources


  1. ^ MB, 1:388, 1:399. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ MB, 1:418. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Jefferson to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, November 14, 1825, in Family Letters, 461-42. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ MB, 1:388, 1:388n55. Transcription and editorial note available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ MB, 1:401. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  6. ^ MB, 1:403. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  7. ^ MB, 1:407. Transcription available at Founders Online. Jefferson's fellow renters were Peyton and Elizabeth Harrison Randolph and Thomas and Lucy Grymes Nelson.
  8. ^ MB, 1:410. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  9. ^ MB, 1:411. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  10. ^ MB, 1:419. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  11. ^ MB, 1:424. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  12. ^ PTJ, 2:212. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  13. ^ Family Letters, 461-42. Transcription available at Founders Online.