Thomas Jefferson asked a friend to purchase prints of the famous Iron Bridge near Coalbrookdale, England, while he was living in Paris in 1786.[1] The Iron Bridge was the first structure of its kind in the world, constructed between 1777 and 1781. Although he passed very near it, Jefferson never visited the bridge himself as far as we know.

Jefferson exhibited one of the prints in the Dining Room beside a painting of the Natural Bridge. Although the prints of Coalbrookdale Bridge owned by Jefferson are lost, it is believed that the one he exhibited in the Dining Room was an engraving by William Ellis after a watercolor by Michael Angelo Rooker, which was the most popular print at the time Jefferson purchased them.[2]



  1.  David Humphreys to Jefferson, 30 January 1786, PTJ 9:241. The actual payment did not occur until April of that year; see MB 1:620.
  2.  An image of the engraving Jefferson is believed to have owned can be seen on the Coalbrookdale Iron Bridge website.


Further Sources