Two of Jefferson''s Wine Glasses

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Created: 1790-1810

Origin/Purchase: England

Materials: Lead glass

Dimensions: H: 15.6 (6 1/8 in.); 14.6 (5 3/4 in.)

Location: Dining Room

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Frances Maury Burke; by gift or purchase to Rose Gouverneur Hoes; by descent to Laurence G. Hoes; by bequest to Camilla Hoes Pope; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1984

Accession Number: 1984-44-3a/b

Historical Notes: In a letter to M. de Neuville in 1818, Jefferson commented:

I rejoice, as a Moralist, at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine, by our national legislature. ... no nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. ... fix but the duty at the rate of other merchandise, and we can drink wine here as cheaply as we do grog: and who will not prefer it? it’s extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle.[1]

Jefferson, a connoisseur of wines and patron of viticulture in America, acquired a well-developed palate during his years abroad. The well-stocked cellar at Monticello was supplied with wines from France, Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Germany, and Italy.[2] "He has a strong preference for the wines of the continent, of which he has many sorts of excellent quality, having been more than commonly successful in his mode of importing and preserving," noted Daniel Webster in 1824.[3]

At the Monticello dinner table, wine was not served until "after the cloth was removed," with the dessert of fruit, nuts, and sweetmeats served on the bare tabletop. These two lead-glass vessels, each with a band of wheel-cut sprig and oval engraving, illustrate just one of the many styles of stemware that Jefferson owned, some of which still survive. The packing list of Jefferson's goods shipped from France in 1790 included twelve crystal goblets and "39 footed glasses."[4] Purchases of glassware were recorded in Jefferson's memorandum books between 1767 and 1821. From Monticello Martha Jefferson Randolph reminded her father in Washington in 1806, "When you send the groceries on will you remember glasses, tumblers and wine glasses both are much wan[ting here]."[5] By 1826, when a household inventory was made following Jefferson's death, only seventeen glasses remained among the household goods.[6]

-Text from Stein, Worlds, 342

Find reproductions of objects from the Monticello collections at The Shop at Monticello.


  1. ^ Jefferson to Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, December 13, 1818, in PTJ:RS, 13:489-90. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ For more information on the subject, see R. de Treville Lawrence, Sr., ed., Jefferson and Wine (The Plains, VA: Vinifera Wine Growers Association, 1976).
  3. ^ Peterson, Visitors, 98-99.
  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. ^ Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson, July 12, 1806, in Family Letters, 247. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  6. ^ [Martha Jefferson Randolph?], "Inventory of the furniture in the house at Monticello," Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society.