Despite claims to the contrary, we have no evidence of Thomas Jefferson's personal interest in the game of marbles or ownership of a collection of marbles. The first known appearance of this claim dates from 1972.[1] It was repeated in 1973 in Fred Ferretti's The Great American Marble Book,[2] and in a subsequent article by Ferretti on marbles for the Encyclopedia Americana.[3]

There are a number of letters where Jefferson refers to "marbles," meaning mineralogical specimens.[4] These references may have contributed to the confusion regarding Jefferson's interest in "marbles."

Further Sources

Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest. Curtilage. Playing marbles have been found during archaeological excavations at Poplar Forest, Jefferson's plantation in Bedford County, Virginia. The marbles were found at the site of an antebellum slave cabin.


  1. ^ Trudy Laing, "Don't Lose Your Marbles," Glass Magazine vol. 1 , no. 1 (1972).
  2. ^ Fred Ferretti, The Great American Marble Book (New York: Workman Publishing Co., 1973).
  3. ^ Encyclopedia Americana, international ed., s.v. "Marbles" (Danbury, CT: Grolier, 1989).
  4. ^ See, e.g., "I have not a scrip of a pen on the subject of the marbles you mention as arrived for me at Philada, neither invoice, nor advice nor letter of any sort." Jefferson to John Vaughan, October 12, 1825, Massachusetts Historical Society. Transcription available at Founders Online.