In addition to his fascination with complex scientific instruments, Thomas Jefferson enjoyed working with basic hand tools. The primary sources listed below provide evidence that Jefferson acquired and used various tools for drafting, carpentry, gardening, metal working, and other tasks.

Primary Source References

1780s. (Isaac Granger Jefferson). "My Old Master was neat a hand as ever you see to make keys and locks and small chains, iron and brass. He kept all kind of blacksmith and carpenter tools in a great case with shelves to it in his library ... been up thar a thousand times; used to car coal up thar. Old Master had a couple of small bellowses up thar."[1]

1786 March 3. (Jefferson to Rayneval). "... Vergennes having been pleased to say he would give orders at Calais for the admission of certain articles which I wish to bring with me from England ... as follows. ... 2. A box containing small tools for wooden and iron work, for my own amusement."[2]

1786 April 4. "Pd. Robinson for a chest of tools £11-3."[3]

1790 July 17. (Grevin's invoice). A leather pouch of iron tools (Crate 40) and a box containing tools (Crate 43) were part of Jefferson's furniture packed for shipment from France.[4]

1798 December 20. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "should mr Madison send for my diamond it is in the upper part of the tool chest, in the cell adjacent to the lock of the box."[5]

1801-1809. (Margaret Bayard Smith). "The apartment in which he took most interest was his cabinet; this he had arranged according to his own taste and convenience. It was a spacious room. In the centre was a long table, with drawers on each side, in which were deposited not only articles appropriate to the place, but a set of carpenter's tools in one and small garden implements in another from the use of which he derived much amusement."[6]

1806-1822. (Edmund Bacon). "He was nearly always busy upon some plan or model .... Mr. Jefferson was the most industrious person I ever saw in my life .... At all other times he was either reading, writing, talking, working upon some model, or doing something else."[7]

1809 August. (Margaret Bayard Smith). "In one of the rooms [the Library], we remarked a carpenter's workbench, with a vast assortment of tools of every kind and description. This, as being characteristic, is worthy of notice; the fabrication with his own hands of curious implements and models, being a favourite amusement."[8]

After 1826. Cornelia Randolph's floor plan of Monticello, drawn after Jefferson's death, includes no. 27, a large "Work Bench," in the South Piazza.[9]

1830 February. (Anne Royall). "[T]here were besides these [Entrance HallParlorDining RoomTea Room], four rooms on the lower floor, two on the right and two on the left, those on the right were quite small to those on the left: one was the room in which Mr. Jefferson worked, which it appeared he did, from the appearance of the room, the impliments for working in wood, squares, &c. lying about the room, – the one next to it, was Mr. Jefferson's chamber in which he died."[10]


  1. ^ Bear, Jefferson at Monticello, 18.
  2. ^ PTJ, 9:313. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ MB, 1:618. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ Grevin packing list, July 17, 1790, William Short Papers, Library of Congress. See also the editorial note following Short to Jefferson, November 7, 1790, in PTJ, 18:36-37n. Editorial note available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ PTJ, 30:604. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  6. ^ Smith, First Forty Years385.
  7. ^ Bear, Jefferson at Monticello, 73, 84.
  8. ^ Margaret Bayard Smith, A Winter in Washington (New York: Bliss and White, 1824), 3:227.
  9. ^ Cornelia Jefferson Randolph, Drawing N-563, "Monticello. Two sketches of plan showing location of furnishings and works of art," post July 4, 1826, Jefferson, Randolph and Trist Family Papers [manuscript] 1791-1874, #5385-ac, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.
  10. ^ Anne Newport Royall, Mrs. Royall's Southern Tour: Or, Second Series of the Black Book (Washington: 1830-31), 89, quoted in Peterson, Visitors, 117-18.