Bust of Cornelia Jefferson Randolph. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Born at Monticello, Cornelia Jefferson Randolph (1799-1871) was the fifth child and third surviving daughter of Martha Jefferson Randolph and Thomas Mann Randolph. Cornelia spent much of her time at the home of her grandfather Thomas Jefferson and, as a young girl, often accompanied him on visits to Poplar Forest. She learned mechanical drawing from Jefferson and practiced by creating renderings of architectural plans for the University of Virginia. When she was a teenager Cornelia gave John Hemmings a dictionary to aid him in learning to read and write.[1]

Cornelia never married and lived at Tufton and then Edgehill, the homes of her older brother Thomas Jefferson Randolph. In the 1830s, in an effort to improve the family finances, a school was established at Edgehill where Cornelia taught drawing, painting, and sculpture. She later translated and edited The Parlor Gardener: A Treatise on the House Culture of Ornamental Plants.[2] After the Civil War, Cornelia moved to Alexandria, Virginia, to live with two of her sisters at the home of her niece Martha Jefferson Trist Burke. She died there on February 24, 1871, and was buried in the Monticello Graveyard.

Podcast: Monticello Guide Laura-Michal Balderson discusses Cornelia Jefferson Randolph's relationship with her grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, and highlights her mechanical drawings of the University of Virginia and Monticello's first floor.

(Approx. 3 min.)


Further Sources


  1. ^ Cornelia J. Randolph to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist), October 25, 1816, Nicholas Philip Trist Papers, University of North Carolina. Transcription available at Jefferson Quotes and Family Letters
  2. ^ Cornelia J. Randolph, trans., The Parlor Gardener: A Treatise on the House Culture of Ornamental Plants. Translated from the French and Adapted to American Use (Boston: J.E. Tilton & Co., 1861).