Jefferson''s Pocketknife

Artist/Maker: England, probably Sheffield

Created: 1800-1825

Origin/Purchase: England

Materials: steel, wood

Dimensions: 8.9 × 1.9 (3 1/2 × 3/4 in.)

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Ellen and Joseph Coolidge; by descent to Harold Jefferson Coolidge; by acquisition to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; by loan to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1986

Accession Number: 1986-15

Historical Notes: Jefferson recorded purchases of several knives in his memorandum books between 1767 and 1819, but it is not clear when this particular pocketknife with wooden sides and multiple blades was acquired. The handy device has twelve tools, including saw, file, drill, corkscrew, and knife blades. It is very similar to pocketknives illustrated in a pattern book of the predominant Sheffield cutlery manufacturers in 1816.[1]

This pocketknife and the others that Jefferson owned were no doubt often carried in his coat pocket. He recorded in his memorandum book in 1810, "Pd. Clasby [for] finding knife 1. [dollar]."[2]

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 431


  1. ^ Joseph Smith, Explanation or Key, to the Various Manufactories of Sheffield, with Engravings of Each Article, ed. John S. Kebabia (Sheffield: J. Smith, 1816; reprint, South Burlington, VT: Early American Industries Association, 1975), figs. 253, 254.
  2. ^ Jefferson, September 13, 1810, MB, 2:1260. Transcription available at Founders Online.