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5 Surprising Facts About Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a man of many faces. Other than his obvious influence on American politics, he was intrigued by diverse cultures in the New World and embraced them in every way he was able. Jefferson accomplished a lot in his lifetime—his presidential tenure didn’t even make it into the three achievements inscribed on his gravestone. Here are a few facts you never knew about one of the most interesting men in American history.

1. He was a (proto) archaeologist.

Mastodon Mandible
Jefferson collected fossils and was obsessed with animals, especially the mammoth. He even had the bones of a mastodon (now displayed in the Monticello Entrance Hall) sent to him during his residence in the President's House in Washington, DC.  (Read about Jefferson's excavation of an Indian burial mound near Monticello.)

2. He was an architect.

Detail of Jefferson's Floor Plan for Monticello
Aside from his Monticello home, which took him nearly 40 years to complete, Jefferson was obsessed with building things—and not only as a hobby. He designed the iconic rotunda at the University of Virginia, as well as the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

3. He was a wine aficionado.

Monticello's Wine Cellar
After residing in France, Jefferson brought his love of French wine to America. He is recognized as one of the great wine experts of early America and even kept two vineyards at Monticello.

Recipe for Ice Cream in Jefferson's hand4. He was a founding foodie.

In addition to wine, French food inspired Jefferson’s palate, from the cooking within his home to his presidential dinner parties. Some of America’s most beloved foods, like ice cream, mac 'n' cheese and french fries were popularized after his interests permeated to the rest of the country.

5. He was obsessed with books.

Books at Monticello
"I cannot live without books" pillowIt's highly likely that Jefferson had the largest personal collection of books in the United States at the time. After the Library of Congress was raided by the British in 1814, Jefferson offered his personal library, which contained almost 6,500 volumes, as a replacement.

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