… 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!)