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Thomas Jefferson's memorandum books, the household accounts of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, and other documents include numerous references to the production, purchase, and use of soap. Monticello researchers have compiled the following references from primary sources.


1770 May 29. "Gave Jupiter to pay for soap 1/3."1

1772 March 26. "Made 46 pounds of soft soap."2

1772 March 29. "Made 12 pounds of hard soap."3

1772 May 19. "Pd. Cutty for soap 20/."4 

1773 September 13. "Pd. Amy for 20 lb. soap 12/6."5

1773 November 15. "Pd. Jenny for soap 1/3."6

1774 June 24. "Made 15 gallons of soft soap. Made 54 lb of hard soap. Gave Mrs. Mazie 20 lb of hard soap."7

1776 January 9. "Made 229 lb of hard soap 200 lb ditto soft."8

1776 August 4. "Gave barber to buy Castile soap for me 22/6."9 

1777 March 8. "Made 100. lb of soft soap."10

1777 March 14. "Made a pot of hard soap not weighed."11

1777 March 15. "Made 40 lb of soft soap."12

1777 March 25. "Made a pot of hard soap not weighed."13

1777 April 20. "Made 68 lb of soft soap."14

1778 February 25. "Made a pot of soft soap."15

1799 December 21. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "See to having the ... soap ... brought up when it shall be lodged at Columbia by Mr. Clarke."16

1801 February 22. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "[T]he stock of soap ... are already sent [from Bedford]."17

1810 August 1. "Census Monticello ... soap 110. lb."18

1819 January 17. (Jefferson to Joel Yancey). "I wrote you the last year that Dick had delivered all his articles safe ... this year his soap weighs 38. lb instead of 45 lb. ...."19

1819 December 31. (Yancey to Jefferson). "Jerrys load [from Poplar Forest to Monticello] ... 54 lb. soap."20

1820 December 22. (Yancey to Jefferson). "You will not receive [from Poplar Forest to Monticello] 51 lb. soap ...."21

1826 November 26. (Nicholas Philip Trist to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "Many thanks for the ambrosial soap — it deserves the name, and in future, I'll use no other if this can be had. I shav'd this morning with it."22


Soft Soap

3 lbs of brown (bar) soap
16 quarts of soft water
1 lb soda
shave the soap thinly in the water, add the soda—put it on the fire and after it begins to boil hard, keep it on 15 minutes—then set it away to cool.23

Hard Soap

3 lbs grease
3 gals water
1 box Babbitt concentrated lye
Boil three hours—pour into a tub—let it remain two days—cut in bars and put to dry.24


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