Historical Notes: Mahlon Dickerson recorded in his diary that he sat for this portrait in Philadelphia on a cloudy and rainy day May 18, 1802. He may have been accompanied by Meriwether Lewis, whom he had met the month before at a dinner hosted by Jefferson at the President's House. Dickerson, a New Jersey native, had just graduated from the College of New Jersey law school and was practicing in Philadelphia when he made his visit to Washington. He and Jefferson discussed Pennsylvania and New Jersey politics at dinner, and their meeting led to Dickerson's appointment as commissioner of bankruptcy in Philadelphia.
Of his visit with Jefferson, Dickerson wrote: "He is accused as being very slovenly in his dress, and to be sure he is not very particular in that respect, but however he may neglect his person he takes good care of his table. No man in America keeps a better." Dickerson had an active political career as New Jersey's governor, United Stats Senator for sixteen years, and secretary of the navy under Martin Van Buren.