Blog posts may be reprinted without permission,
provided a link to is included.

Category Archives: Animals

Keep those critters alive! But if not …

the things from Marseilles are at New York and may soon be expected at Washington. be so good as to have particular care taken of the squirrel & pie which came with the things from Baltimore that I may see them alive at my return. should any accident happen to the squirrel his skin & skeleton must be preserved.
Thomas Jefferson to Etienne Lemaire, August 17, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Little things can give leaders great delight.
Lemaire was Jefferson’s steward or butler at the President’s House in Washington City. Writing from Monticello, the President gave instructions for the care of specimens sent by Meriwether Lewis and arriving soon in the nation’s capital. Lewis had shipped these specimens south in April from the Mandan villages on the northern Dakota plains, where he and William Clark had wintered with the men of the Corps of Discovery. These were the items the Corps had collected in 1804 as they journeyed up the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Mandans.

Jefferson gave instructions on how to protect the “skins & furs” from “the worm-fly” and the rest of the goods from the “rats & mice.” Lemaire was to take “particular care” of the “squirrel & pie,” the prairie dog and magpies captured alive and sent to the President. If the prairie dog did not survive, “his skin & skeleton” must be preserved.

The prairie dog and one of the four magpies survived the journey, and Jefferson saw them upon his return to Washington in early October. He sent them on to Philadelphia to become part of Charles Willson Peale’s natural history museum.

Let Mr. Jefferson share his delight in most things with your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Lewis & Clark, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I love this stuff!

I now return you the inclosed with many thanks for the opportunity of perusing it, which I have done with great satisfaction. I had before observed that Faujas & Cuvier were rather at war. Cuvier is attached to artificial classification. Faujas thinks with Buffon  …  Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem & respect.
Thomas Jefferson to David Vaughn, August 15, 1805

In March, 2020, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, I interrupted my review of Jefferson’s presidential correspondence, to focus on his writings about the yellow fever from 1793 on. That project is now complete, and I return to 1805.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even very busy leaders make time for their pet projects.
Vaughn had forwarded to the President a scientific paper from Europe, on the classification of a large animal, the megalonix, believed to be a ferocious beast. Its bones had been discovered in America. Jefferson loved the large animals which roamed this continent, past and present. He had an ongoing friendly feud with European authorities who thought such animals could not exist here.

That’s not the point of this post. The point is the first sentence, Jefferson declaring he had avidly read and appreciated the scientific paper Vaughn sent. Countless presidential replies thanked people who sent him things to read. He declined to read most, citing the press of official business which left him with no time to peruse whatever they sent. Not this time. Jefferson the scientist loved this type of debate and would gladly make time for a keen personal interest.

The animal in question was later determined to be, not a fierce predator, but a giant sloth. Caspar Wistar, a famous naturalist and Jefferson contemporary, suggested in 1822 that it be named Megalonyx jeffersonii.

Mr. Jefferson has a keen personal interest in inspiring your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , |

It’s about time! First we’ve heard of him in 13 months!

we have just heard from Capt. Lewis, who wintered 1600. miles up the Missouri; all well. 45. chiefs of 6. different nations from that quarter are forwarded by him to St. Louis on their way to this place. our agent at St. Louis will endeavor to prevail on them to stay there till autumn & then come on. should they insist on coming immediately they will arrive in July, & may derange my departure.
Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, June 24, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Communication between leaders used to take a LONG time!
The President covered a number of topics in this letter to his daughter. One was receiving the first report from Meriwether Lewis since May 1804, when the Corps of Discovery departed St. Louis for the western sea. They had wintered with the Mandan Indians on the northern plains. In April, 1805, when the ice cleared on the Mississippi, most of the Corps headed west. Fifteen of the men, though, navigated the keelboat back to St. Louis, with all the plant and animal specimens collected to date. Their trove included a live prairie dog, which eventually made it all the way to Washington City!

In addition to specimens, Lewis had persuaded a number of Indian chiefs to return with the keelboat and journey on to Washington to meet the President.

The original plans for the Corps called for them to send another contingent home when they reached the mountains. Jefferson expected a second report, which never came. At the Rocky Mountains, the challenge ahead seemed so arduous that Lewis and Clark were unwilling to diminish their manpower.

Lack of a second report caused practically all to give up on the Corps, believing them to have perished somewhere in the great unknown west of the Mandan villages. Jefferson maintained confidence in Lewis for their safe return. It would be 16 more months before that confidence was rewarded by Lewis’ next letter, written from St. Louis in late September, 1806.

“I highly recommend Mr. Lee for both formal and informal presentations: …”
Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Mr. Jefferson and I come well-recommended!
Invite us to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Exploration, Horticulture, Lewis & Clark, Louisiana Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Class discrimination? Clever marketing? Or common sense?

… a thought coming into my head which may be useful to your son who is carrying the Mammoth to Europe, I take time to hint it to you. my knolege of the scene he will be on enables me to suggest what might not occur to him a stranger. when in a great city, he will find persons of every degree of wealth. to jumble these all into a room together I know from experience is very painful to the decent part of them, who would be glad to see a thing often, & would not regard paying every time but that they1 revolt at being mixed with pickpockets, chimney sweeps &c…
To Charles Willson Peale, May 5, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A practical leader offers the benefit of his experience to others.
C. W. Peale was a noted painter, scientist and museum owner. His sons had mounted a mastodon skeleton for public display in New York. In September, they would take their exhibit to cities in Europe, where they would charge admission to view it. Drawing on his experience across the Atlantic, he had a suggestion for his friend’s sons.

Jefferson said wealthier patrons would object to mingling with the lowest working classes and swindlers at an exhibit open to all. He suggested three viewings at three prices. The highest price should be charged when the “beau monde” (fashionable society) would be most likely to attend. A lower price should be offered when “merchants and respectable citizens” would have the leisure to come. The cheapest price would for the “the lower descriptions” (pickpockets, chimney sweeps, etc.). He suggested the greatest amounts paid by the fewest attendees would make up for the many at the lowest price.

He concluded with his belief they would make a fortune with this display. And when people tired of seeing it, he hoped they would sell it and make another fortune. (Jefferson loved big bones!)

“…the standing ovation you received showed how much
our members enjoyed your characterization…”
Deputy Director, Washington Association of County Officials
Mr. Jefferson hopes to bring your audience to its feet, as well.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Education, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , |

These treasures from the west must be shared with the public!

the articles which had been forwarded by capt Lewis … I am now packing up for you  …
2. skins of the white hare
2. skeletons of do [ditto].
a skeleton of the small or borrowing wolf of the prairies
a male & female Blaireau [badger] … with the skeleton of the female
13. red fox skins
skins of the male & female antelope with their skeletons.
2. skins of the burrowing squirrel of the prairies
a living burrowing squirrel [prairie dog] of the prairies.
a living magpie
a dead one preserved.
these are the descriptive words of capt. Lewis.
To Charles Willson Peale, October 6, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need their own “kid in the candy store” moments.
When Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery (aka Lewis & Clark Expedition) headed west into the unknown in April 1805, Lewis sent all the specimens collected in their first year back to the President. Jefferson was probably beside himself with excitement when these arrived!

He examined all of them, kept a few to display at Monticello, and forwarded the rest to Philadelphia, where Peale could display them in his renowned museum.

Note several entries near the bottom of the list. The Corps captured several live prairie dogs and magpies to send east. One of each survived a journey of months and 1,500 miles to delight the nation’s premier naturalist.

In this 1822 self-portrait, Peale draws the curtain back to reveal some of the wonders of his museum.

“It was a great pleasure to have you return …
Thank you very much for bringing Thomas Jefferson to life
during the presentations on July 4 and 5.”
National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Museum
Watch Patrick Lee bring Thomas Jefferson to life for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , |

Thanks for a job VERY well done!

… Not understanding the conveyance to you by post beyond Richmond, I have thought it safest to remit the 100. D. for you to Gibson & Jefferson, subject to your order, which is done this day. I was never better pleased with a riding horse than with Jacobin. it is now really a luxury to me to ride…
To John Wayles Eppes, May 27, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders gratefully express their appreciation.
In 1802, Jefferson asked his son-in-law Eppes to purchase a “super fine” horse for him. Here he thanked Eppes and paid him for the acquisition of Jacobin, the best riding horse he’d ever had.

Riding was almost a physical and emotional necessity for Jefferson. To be able to do so in “luxury” was a wonderful bonus.

Curiously, several online search results for Jefferson’s horses, including Monticello’s records, do not list a horse named Jacobin.

“Your portrayal of President Thomas Jefferson was superlative
and completely engaging …”
Policy Director, Washington State Association of Counties
Google defines  superlative as “of the highest quality or degree.” Sound good to you?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

I would rather pay too much than too little.

I formerly mentioned to you that I should want another fine horse, a match for Castor … I must pray you to look out for a fine one. I need not say here of what sort, as you know my ideas fully on that subject as well … respecting price. where the animal is superfine, we must not stand [opposed to?] giving something more than he may be worth; because in buying one not superfine the whole money is thrown away.
To John Wayles Eppes, March 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What leadership principle can be drawn from this?
Next to his books, riding a horse was Jefferson’s favorite personal activity. He owned horses throughout his life, often naming them for characters in ancient history or mythology. Here he enlisted his son-in-law’s help in finding another. Jefferson’s taste in horses was well-known within his family, because he didn’t bother to describe what he wanted. Eppes already knew.

Jefferson did not want just any horse but one that was “superfine.” He was prepared to pay a premium for such an animal, almost regarding it as an investment. He would rather waste a little extra money to buy the best than waste the entire purchase price settling for something that was just average.

“Thank you for your excellent presentation at the Business and Marketing … Seminar
in historical Boston. …a very memorable experience …”
Rural Cellular Association, Boston, MA
For an excellent and memorable presentation,
invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Animals, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

Where is the beef? RIGHT HERE!

… this morning arrived the quarter you were so kind as to send me of the Mammoth-veal [young beef]. tho’ so far advanced as to be condemned for the table, yet it retained all the beauty of it’s appearance, it’s fatness & enormous size. a repetition of such successful examples of enlarging the animal volume will do more towards correcting the erroneous opinions of European writers as to the effect of our climate on the size of animals, than any thing I have been able to do.
To Michael Fry and Nathan Coleman, October 22, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have their little quirks.
In previous posts, we’ve seen Jefferson’s consuming interest in documenting large animals in America. He had an ongoing campaign to refute the assertion of a noted French scientist who claimed the climate in North America produced animals smaller and inferior to those in Europe. Mostly, Jefferson used the largest bones he could find as proof to debunk that theory.
In this letter, he thanked those who sent him one-fourth of a “Mammoth-veal.” It had spoiled and could not be eaten, but he was impressed by its size and quality. Not only that, it gave even better scientific bragging rights to America than he’d be able to document.

“… please accept this letter of thanks and appreciation
for your outstanding presentation …”
University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Mr. Jefferson will be outstanding for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Animals, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , |

Hold your horses!

I snatch half a moment to inform you that a circumstance has occurred which will inevitably keep me a week longer or thereabouts. in the mean time my horses will wait I presume at Heron’s. my tender love to my dear Martha, & the little ones. Affectionate attachment to yourself.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, March 19, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes leaders have to hold their horses (or have them held).
When Jefferson travelled home to Monticello, he made advance arrangements to have his horses brought part way from home, that he might use them for the last segment of his journey. In this instance, he had already written to his son-in-law (married to his elder daughter Martha), asking to have those horses brought to a certain place by a certain time.

The new President was having trouble filling a key office. He was reluctant to leave Washington City until that had been accomplished. Thus, he wrote again about the delay, asking that his horses be held another week at the pre-appointed place.

Ever the doting father and grandfather, he sent along his affections for Martha and the children.

Mr. Jefferson will make every effort not be delayed when he attends your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

The sheep are OK, but the potatoes will freeze.

Your favor of the 22d. has been duly received, and, in consequence of it, my manager Mr. Biddle now sets out for the sheep, as the approach of the yeaning [birthing] season leaves no time to spare as to them. I could have wished to have made one trip serve for them and the potatoes: but I am advised that the latter would be in danger of freezing on the road. I must therefore, as to them wait for milder weather.
To Archibald Stuart, January 26, 1794

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders are dependent upon the weather!
After the weightiness of the last three posts, on the vexing issue of slavery, let us turn to mundane matters at Monticello!
Stuart was a protégé, friend, lawyer, and fellow Virginian, of Staunton, some 40 miles west of Monticello, near the mountains. The two men stayed at one another’s homes on their travels.
Jefferson had resigned as Secretary of State on December 31. He was “Now settled at home as a farmer” and must have asked Stuart about buying sheep and potatoes. Stuart replied that he had both. Jefferson dispatched his manager to bring back the sheep before it was time for them to have their lambs. He regretted not being able to get everything he needed in a single trip, but he had been warned that the potatoes would freeze over the several day journey in January. The potatoes would have to wait until spring.

“Thank you for making our conference a resounding success.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania

Mr. Jefferson delights to make your conference a resounding success, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

Leave a comment Posted in Agriculture, Animals Tagged , , , , , , , |