In Thomas Jefferson's era, writing instruments included quill pens, metal pens, and pencils. From Jefferson's records, Monticello researchers have compiled the following primary source references to writing instruments and ink.


1804 June 24. (Charles Willson Peale to Jefferson). "But if a steel pen is used to write with, and a quill pen in the copy, then the screw to the metal pen will be perfectly convenient for adjusting the touch of both. My letter of the 18th. contains the advantages of using the steel [pen] and quill pens together, and which may obviate the evil mentioned in yours of the 20th."[1]

1822 March 19. (Jefferson to DeWitt Clinton). "I thank you, Dear Sir, for the elegant pens you have been so kind as to send me; they perform their office admirably. I had formerly got such from Baltimore, but they were of steel, and their points rusted off immediately."[2]

1824 May 13. (Jefferson to Bernard Peyton). "I saw yesterday in the hands of mr Dyer a fountain pen, one of the best I ever saw. he said it was made for him by mr Cowan, a watchmaker of Richmond. and cost him 5. D. the outer tube was of silver, but the two leaves of the pen were gold, and no other metal will resist the corrosion of the ink. pray get the favor of mr Cowan to make such an one for me and add this to the many kind offices you render me, and which ever entitle you to my affectionate attachment."[3]

1824 May 17. (Bernard Peyton to Jefferson). "I will have the [pen] made for you, by [Cowan], as requested, immediately, & forwarded by some safe private hand."[4]

1824 May 24. (Bernard Peyton to Jefferson). "I have procured the fountain Pen you wish, which shall be ford. by the first safe private hand–price $5."[5]

1824 May 27. (Bernard Peyton to Jefferson). "Your Pencil or rather fountain Pen, I forwarded the other day, by Mr. Winn of Charlottesville, to whom I fd. your dft: in his favor."[6]



1802 January 4. "Inkstand and red inkpowder."[7]

1802 February 3. "One bottle red ink."[8]

1802 April 14. "One bottle copying ink."[8]

1802 October 20. "One bottle copying ink."[8]


  1. ^ PTJ, 43:644. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Polygraph copy available online. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Special Collections, University of Virginia Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ Ibid. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  6. ^ Ibid. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  7. ^ Jefferson's Ledger to William Duane, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Huntington Library.
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Ibid.
  10. ^ Ibid.