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Blinds and Shutters

From Thomas Jefferson's letters and other papers, Monticello researchers have compiled the following documentary references to blinds and shutters at Jefferson's various residences.

PRIMary SOURCE References

Monticello

1802 June 22. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "I think the outer door of the South East necessary, must be a panelled door, hung flush with the inside of the wall, and the upper pannel (instead of being glass as I before proposed) had better be of Venetian blinds, as that will give air as well as light. as soon as you have done the S.E. necessary, I would rather you should proceed with the N.W. one. I shall be at home on the 25th. of July."1

1804 May 26. (Peter Lenox to Jefferson). "Sir the blinds will Cost if the laths stand: fast 27⁄100 ⅌ foot & if moveable 33⁄100 ⅌ foot the average 30⁄100 ⅌ foot,

blinds 3 feet 3 by 3 feet 3 I = 10 feet 6 at 30⁄100–                 $ 3 15
Painting will be 37⁄100 ⅌ yard, 3 f 3 by 3 f 3 = 2 yards 3 feet      86⅓
                                                                                                 $ 4.01⅓" 2

1804 May 30. (Jefferson's notes on Peter Lenox's letter of May 26). "Mr. Lenox is desired to make [¶] 6. pr Venetian blinds with fixed laths, folding together with a rabbet at the meeting [¶] 6. pr do. with laths moving on 2. pivots. do. [¶] the stiles & rails are to be 2¼ I. deep or thick, measured horizontally [¶] the pair when shut are to be 3. f. 3. I. square accurately [¶] to be painted. [¶] All at the prices given in by mr Lenox."3

1804 June 13. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "mr Stewart should finish off the whole of the Hinges for the Venetian blinds, as all the blinds for the whole house are in hand here and will be forwarded as soon as done."4

1804 October 4. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "the blinds I find are not yet forwarded, which now I suppose we need not hurry ourselves about."5

1805 June 14. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "there are 5. arches to the Piazza, the measures of which you have taken. besides the sashes, they are to have Venetian blinds of a particular construction, now in hand here, under my own eye."6

1805 September 8. (Jefferson to Benjamin Latrobe). "... my blinds open back on hinges as in the winter we want both the light & the warmth of the sun."7

1807 October 4. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). "We have finished two large windows of this house with Venetian blinds in the place of window shutters, and shutting into the jambs as the shutters would. They are beautiful & convenient. the slats move on 2. pivots as mine do, and are made to lie close when shut into the jamb that they may occupy less thickness. I think the following windows in my house may be advantageously finished in this way, if the depth in the jamb will admit two thicknesses of the side peices of the Venetian blinds. (those here are 1⅝ I. thick & the slats 2½ I. broad.) to wit, the door & 2. windows of the Hall, the 2. windows of the square rooms which look into the N.E. portico, the 2. doors of my Cabinet which look into the little Porticles, and the window of my cabinet which looks into the Green house. if you find it practicable I would wish you to put Venetian blinds into those places in this way, instead of window shutters."8

1807 October 16. (James Dinsmore to Jefferson). "Your favour of the 4th inst. is received. I have examined the windows you wish finished with venitian blinds & find that all of them require three folds on each Side to fill up the window & barely three inches for them to shut into, so that we cannot have them more than ⅞ of an inch thick, which will render it impracticable to use blinds: the only windows in this house where they could be used are those of the Parlour & for them the Shutters are already made, besides they have out side blinds."9

President's House (Washington)

1801 May 28. (Thomas Claxton to Jefferson). "If Mr. Ingle cannot make the half blinds within a reasonable time, I could have some of them executed here very shortly—If, Sir, you should think this measure necessary, you will please to send the exact dimentions."10

1802 June 18. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). "our workman on the blinds goes on well.  he reforms a window a day."11

Philadelphia

1795 September 15. (Jefferson to Sampson Crosby). "With respect to the Venetian blinds, that you may get clear of them, I will ask the favor of you to put them into proper hands to be repaired and altered as below directed. Mr. Ingles named to me some person who would do it reasonably. Let the person who does it, pack them in a box, and I will thank you to have them forwarded. Mr. Barnes, on shewing him this letter will pay the expence, if it be done while he has money in his hands, for which reason I wish it to be done immediately. ... NB. there are of the Venetian blinds 1st. 5 large coarse ones painted white. These I would have new mounted, and painted green, and left of their present size. 2. There are some others painted green, and some not painted at all, made for windows 3. f. 3 I. wide and 6. f. 6 I. high. These I would have altered for windows 3. f. 3 I. wide and 9 f. 9 I. high. Of course three of them will make two. They will require new ferrit and cord, and to be painted green."12

Poplar Forest

1819 November 2. (John Hemmings to Jefferson). "I am going on as you request with the blinds one paire at a time I am now got 20 single flights radey for hangin these is only aenugh to Cloes 4 windows I have pine enugh to do the hol of them. mr yancey sent 50 feet & 40 fe we found in the north portico."13

1819 November 3. (Joel Yancey to Jefferson). "Hemings has no locks nor hinges for the Stair doors, I have furnishd him with the plank he wanted for the blinds ...."14

Other Residences

1811 April 1. (Jefferson to James Oldham). "Judge Cabell having consulted me as to some things to be done to his house, I advised him to apply to you to make some Venetian blinds with moveable slats. the kind I had in view may be seen in a house Dr Currie inhabited in Richmond about a dozen years ago."15

- Compiled by Ann Lucas, 9/29/95

Further Sources

  • Comstock, Helen. "Venetian Blinds in the Eighteenth Century." Magazine Antiques 53, no. 2 (1948): 131-32.
  • Dearstyne, Howard. "History: Shutters, Blinds and Umbrelloes." Architectural Review 123, no. 732 (1958): 420-22.
  • McLaughlin, Jack. "The Blind Side of Jefferson." Early American Life 20 (April 1989): 30-33, 70.
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