Peter Pelham (1721-1805) was one of Virginia's premier musicians in the late eighteenth century. Born in England, he was raised in Boston, and moved to Williamsburg by the 1750s. Raised in an artistic family, Pelham taught and played music and was the organist at Bruton Parish Church. Music could not sustain him financially, so with the aid of his well-connected associates and friends, Pelham obtained various government posts, including committee clerk of the House of Burgesses and jailer.

Thomas Jefferson knew Pelham and it is likely that he saw Pelham perform while he was in Williamsburg.Anchor

Primary Source References

1768 June 4. "Pd. for play tickets 20/."[1]

1769 May 5. "Pd. Pelham for playing on organ 2/6."[2]

1770 June 27. "Pd. P. Pelham for my commn. of county Lieutt. 40/."[3]

1770 July 28. "To Pelham for commns. + dedimus commn. to swear Lieutt. at Ct. must[er]."[4]

1779 October 30. "Pd. subscription for Pelham till Dec. 31. £6."[5]



  1. ^ MB, 1:78. Transcription available at Founders Online. Jefferson may have attended the performance of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera and other pieces. Pelham directed the music for that evening.
  2. ^ MB, 1:142. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ MB,  1:205. Transcription available at Founders Online. Jefferson was in charge of the Albemarle county militia.
  4. ^ MB, 1:34. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ MB, 1:488. Transcription available at Founders Online.