Monday, May 19, 2014

Bowled Over!

Last week there appeared a news item that I found interesting. I love Thomas Jefferson, and when I saw his name in the headline, I had to see what it was all about.
Apparently, a dealer of historic documents was selling a letter Jefferson wrote in 1805, all for the nominal price of $35,000!
It was a letter that Jefferson, president at the time, wrote to a friend, his estate manager, discussing the president's desire to have his forest of poplar trees appraised. The poplars were planted at his Virginia plantation. He was 62 at the time, and looking to portion off portions of his property to his grandchildren. It is a glimpse of Jefferson as a family man, concerned about the future, when he is gone.

It is a one-page, handwritten document that belonged to an anonymous collector, and now Raab Collection of Philadelphia will conduct the sale. Perhaps the anonymous collector is disposing of his property too.
Let's hope a museum purchases the letter, so perhaps we can enjoy seeing it occasionally. It's interesting to see one's handwriting, to analyze its characters, allowing us an insight into the man. Did he write it carefully? Was he in a hurry? Did he scratch out a word or two? (Remember, there was no wite-out then). Did he use correct punctuation, word spelling? From the fragment of the letter above, it looks like he was a careful writer.
Below, is a picture of a poplar at Monticello. Quite large, isn't it? I wonder if it was there when he built his estate, or if he planted the young tree near his windows? Well, it is quite spectacular now.
Above right is another view of the Monticello estate. You can see the plantation as it moves into the distance. And also pictured above is an example of a bowl made from poplar wood that is sold at the Monticello estate gift shop. Each one is different, and beautiful. I think I'd rather have the bowl than the letter. The artist is Frederick Williamson, and you can see how he cuts out pieces of fallen poplars, and then sets to work. At about $350 a bowl, I think it might be easier to spring for!!

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