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Lead-Based Paint

Lead-based paint dates from ancient times. Though the dangers of lead-based paint had long been known, the product continued in widespread use during Thomas Jefferson's lifetime and long afterwards. Monticello researchers have compiled the following references to lead based paint from Jefferson's letters and other written records.

Primary Source References

1804 June 20. (Jefferson to Gibson & Jefferson). "I enclose ... a statement of ... the following items from Philadelphia: 4. kegs white lead."1

1804 December 2. (Memorandum re Painting at Monticello). "1. lb giving 1. coat to 10. yards will require 424. to ever Cwt 3. galls. oil 127 galls. oil 2. galls. turpentine 85. galls. turpentine lb. 424 white lead unground @ 13. D. Cwt. 127. galls. linseed oil @ 1.20 85. do. spirits turpentine @.50 ...."2

1805 May 2. (Jefferson to John Taggart). "I take the liberty of requesting you to purchase for me 500. lbs of unground white lead, & to ship the same by the first opportunity to Richmond."3

1805 November 9. (Jefferson to Taggart). "I have occasion for the articles of oil, paint &c. below mentioned ... 40. galls. linseed oil ... 600. ‚Ñî White lead, dry ...."4

1806 October 13. (Jefferson to Taggart). "... request to procure for me the articles below-mentioned, & to send them to Richmond ... 1. tierce of linseed oil, say 44 galls. [¶] 250. lb of unground white lead ...."5

1807 October 12. (Jefferson to Taggart). "... ask the favor of you to procure for me a barrel (say about 30. gallons) of linseed oil, and 200. lb. of dry white lead, and to request that they may be immediately forwarded to Richmond."6

1809 January 26. (Edmund Bacon to Jefferson). "NB. Burrill tells me you was to send some spanish Brown and oil for painting which he wants he says he has used 300 pounds white lead on the top of the house and that did not Give one Coat. he Also says he will need 50 or 100 pounds dry lead burrill says it will take 60 Gallons of Oil."7

1809 February 10. (William Dalzell to Jefferson). "I have taken the liberty of forwarding a sample of I beleive the first White Lead ever manufactured in the U. States."8

1809 February 15. (Jefferson to Taggart). " ... send for me to Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson at Richmond, 60 galls. linseed oil, & 100. ‚Ñî of dry white lead."9

1817 February 22. (David Higginbotham to Jefferson). "Some time ago you Said you had Some idea of painting your house again, we have now on hand the best English white Lead and Spanish brown ground in oil in quarter kegs, the price will be $4 1/2 [per] keg for the former and $3 [per] keg for the latter ...."10

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