Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 2017

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIV, Number 3                                                                     March 1, 2017


JONAS LEVY & LAFAYETTE: As I was searching through the Library of Congress’s digital newspaper collection the other day, I happened upon the obituary of Jonas Phillips Levy, a younger brother of Uriah Levy and the father of Jefferson Monroe Levy, the two men who are at the heart of Saving Monticello.

Jonas Levy, who had a long career as a sailor and private ship captain (along with a stint in the U.S. Navy during the Mexican War), has a substantial supporting role in the book. He actively worked to keep Monticello in the family after it was confiscated by the Confederacy during the Civil War and also led the effort to have the statue of Jefferson that his brother commissioned and donated to the nation be prominently displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Plus a few other things.



In the Sept. 15, 1883, New York Times obit, I noticed something that hadn’t made an impression on me when I wrote the book: the claim that when Jonas Phillips was 17 years old in 1824, he “escorted [the Marquis de] Lafayette on board the ship Cadman, about to sail from France to this country” for what be the Revolutionary War hero’s monumental Farewell Tour of the United States.

The obit goes on to say that “the following November” Jonas “rescued Gen. Lafayette from the sinking steamer Oliver Branch on the Mississippi River. In recognition of that service Gen. Lafayette presented him with his signet ring.”

I was unaware that Jonas Levy “escorted” Lafayette to his ship. Nor had I read that Lafayette was rescued from a sinking ship in the Mississippi in November 1824. Surely, I thought, I would have come across the ship sinking when I did the research for Lafayette: Idealist General, my 2011 concise biography of the famed Marquis.

I decided to do a bit of history detective work.

First, I emailed Alan Hoffman, a prominent member of the American Friends of Lafayette and the editor of the unabridged, English version of Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: Journal of a Voyage to the United States, the detailed journal written by Lafayette’s private secretary Auguste Levasseur during the trip and later published in French.

I figured no one knows more about Lafayette’s Farewell Tour than Alan. He got back to me right away, and said it was possible that Jonas Levy may have been on Captain Francis Allen’s Cadmus crew, and added that there weren’t a lot of passengers on that packet ship’s journey across the Atlantic.



Jonas saving the Marquis during a shipwreck on the Mississippi, though, most likely never happened, Alan said. He pointed out that a steamship Lafayette was on in April and May of 1824 sunk in the Ohio River. But there was nothing in Levasseur’s detailed journal about any such incident on the Mississippi.

My next step was to re-read the photocopy of a transcribed version of an unpublished memoir Jonas Levy wrote in 1877. His great granddaughter, Harley Lewis (a grandniece of Jefferson Levy), had kindly given me the copy while I was researching Saving Monticello. I found Jonas Levy’s account of his life in 1824-25, which said he was working as a carpenter on river boats in the U.S.A. early in 1824. He shipped out on a merchant ship called the Julius Cross delivering cotton to Liverpool in March. That trip took 45 days, he wrote.

After arriving in England, Jonas wrote that he stayed in Liverpool “to see the sights for several weeks,” then shipped back to New York on the Pacific of the Black Balleine. He did not mention anything about going to France in July; nor did he mention the name “Lafayette.”

As far as rescuing the Marquis in November of 1824, if it happened, Jonas Levy didn’t bother to mention it in his memoir. After returning from his England trip, he wrote, Jonas shipped out as a carpenter on the Partia for Chile and Peru, arriving in December 1824. So, according to the memoir, Jonas Levy was at sea in South America when he was supposed to be rescuing Lafayette on the Mississippi.
I guess you could call that info in his 1883 obituary a bit of late 19th century fake news.

SALLY HEMINGS’ ROOM: Significant—and good—changes are about to take place in the interpretation of Sally Hemings’ role at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. As a front-page article in the February 19 Washington Post reported, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation is in the process of restoring a room below Monticello’s South Wing where it is believed that Sally Hemings slept. In 1941, the Foundation had turned the long disused and neglected room into a public bathroom.
The restored room, complete with furniture and other artifacts, will be open to the public in 2018. 

“It’s part of a $35 million restoration project that will bolster Monticello’s infrastructure,” the article said, “but also reconstruct and showcase buildings where enslaved people lived and worked.

“Visitors will come up here and understand that there was no place on this mountaintop that slavery wasn’t,” said Christa Dierksheide, a Foundation historian. “Thomas Jefferson was surrounded by people, and the vast majority of those people were enslaved.”

To read the entire article, go to http://bit.ly/HemingsChange

EVENTS: My next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, will be published May 1. For more info on Ballad of the Green Beret, go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad

Two events in March:
  • Tuesday, March 7 - 2:00 p.m. talk on What So Proudly We Hailed, my 2014 bio of Francis Scott Key, and book signing for the Warrenton (Va.) Antiquarian Society at the Visitors Center in downtown Warrenton. It's free and open to the public. More info at:  http://bit.ly/WarrAntiquarians

  • Thursday, March 23 – 10:00 a.m. talk on What So Proudly We Hailed and Flag: An American Biography and book signing for the University of Mary Washington ElderStudy group at the Stafford (Va.) campus.


If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including What So Proudly We Hailed, Lafayette: Idealist General, and Ballad of the Green Beret (starting in May)—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the Author Events page on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com I also have a few as new, unopened hardcover copies. Or go to marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.  





Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2017


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIV, Number 2                                                                     February 1, 2017

TOOTHSOME VIANDS: A hundred years ago, in the early winter of 1917, the U.S. Congress was making its last attempt to purchase Monticello from Jefferson Levy.

The movement to have the federal government buy Monticello from Levy—who had owned it since 1879 and had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing, restoring, and furnishing the home (and re-acquiring significant acreage)—had begun in 1912 when Maude Littleton launched a national campaign to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy to become a  shrine to Thomas Jefferson 
Bills to do that had been introduced in Congress beginning in 1912, accompanied by bombastic hearings in which Jefferson Levy staunchly defended his ownership of the house to fight the proposed government takeover. They went nowhere for five years, even after Levy agreed in 1914 to sell the house and grounds and all the furnishings to the government for $500,000.

As I wrote in Saving Monticello, the Senate Committee on Public Buildings on Grounds held a hearing on January 9, 1917, on a new Monticello resolution. This one called for the government to purchase Monticello for Levy’s asking price, and use it as a Virginia getaway for U.S. presidents, what Camp David in Maryland is now.  

On Sunday morning, January 28, 1917, a remarkable event took place. A party of 40 men and 27 women—including many members of the House Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds and their wives—boarded two special Southern Railway cars for the train trip from Washington to Charlottesville. 

A delegation from the local Chamber of Commerce met party at the Charlottesville train station and whisked them up to snow-covered Monticello in two dozen automobiles. The lead vehicle was decorated with two huge American flags.

The group gathered on Monticello’s east lawn to take in the mountain views and then proceeded to the front steps where Jefferson M. Levy and his Charlottesville neighbor, Miriam Boocock, greeted them. The guests took a guided tour of all of Monticello's rooms before sitting down to a lavish lunch in the dining room. Levy brought in a phalanx of waiters and maids—all African Americans—for the occasion.



 “The spread set out by the genial host of today was in keeping with the traditional hospitality of the famous mansion,” the Charlottesville Daily Progress, in an article headlined “Gay Party at Monticello,” reported. “An elegant menu was served the many guests, whose appetites had been whetted by the three-mile drive in the bracing mountain air, and they did full justice to the elegant and toothsome viands which had been provided.” Several newspaper and newsreel photographers were on hand. Sadly, the images they took have not survived. (The image above was taken around that time.)

The visit was not a success. The problem was Jefferson Levy’s refusal to serve wine with lunch. When the congressmen and newspapermen asked Levy to show them Jefferson’s wine cellar, Levy balked, saying he had “left the keys in New York,” the Roanoke Times reported. That brought about “much grumbling” from the distinguished guests, the paper said, “and it was freely rumored that Mr. Levy would have to materially reduce his offer below $500,000 if he expected Congress to buy the old Jefferson home.”

Whether or not that last line was tongue in cheek—or the lack of wine had any impact on Congress—Levy did not reduce his offer. Congress adjourned on March 3, 1917, without taking action on any of the Monticello resolutions. When the U.S. entered the First World War in April, the matter was dropped in Congress and never would be taken up again. Levy sold Monticello for his asking price to the newly formed Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation in 1923.

SIX HOURS & TWO MINUTES: Of course there is a website called “how long to read this” dot com. I came across it recently and timed myself (with the handy timer on the page) as I read the Saving Monticello dust jacket copy. Then after a click, the site told me:

“You read 531 words in 141 seconds and your reading speed is 225 words per minute. It will take you 6 hours and 2 minutes to complete Saving Monticello: The Levy Family’s Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built.” I’m a fairly slow reader, so I’m guessing most folks can read the book in under six hours. A good use of one’s time, I would say.

To take the test, go to http://bit.ly/SMreadtime Feel free to email me with your results—and comments.

WRONG CENTURY: In last month’s newsletter I wrote that historic Mikveh Israel synagogue, where the Phillips and Levy families worshiped in Philadelphia, was founded in 1840. I was off only by a hundred years, as several SM newsletter subscribers kindly reported.

Mikveh Israel, which bills itself as the “Synagogue of the American Revolution,” dates its founding from the 1740 establishment of its cemetery, making it the oldest formal congregation in Philadelphia. Its first building dates to 1792. Mikveh Israel is the third oldest congregation in the U.S., behind Shearith Israel in New York City (founded in 1654), Mickve Israel in Savannah (founded by, among others, Uriah Levy’s great-great grandfather Samuel Nunez in 1733), and Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island, which has the oldest actual building, which dates from 1758.
Members of the Nunez and Levy families, including Uriah Levy and his nephew Louis Napoleon Levy, also worshiped, and were active in, Shearith Israel in New York.

Apologies for the error.



OLD FRIENDS: After last month’s newsletter went out, I received a gracious email from Dan Jordan, the former head of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Dan had provided Monticello’s full and much-needed support when I was researching and writing Saving Monticello in 1999 and 2000. Now semi-retired, Dan told me he was thrilled to read that I was in contact with Harley Lewis, the Levy descendant whom I mentioned in the newsletter. They had formed a bond when Dan took over as the Foundation’s head in 1984 and immediately set out to give the Levy family the recognition it deserved for saving Monticello on two different occasions.  

This newsletter is a labor of love and I’m happy to report that it helped Dan and Harley connect by email for the first time in many years.

EVENTS: My next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, will be published May 1. For more info on Ballad of the Green Beret, go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad

One event in February:
  • Tuesday, February 7, 1:30 p.m. talk on Saving Monticello and book signing for the Woman’s Club of McLean in northern Virginia



If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including What So Proudly We Hailed, Lafayette: Idealist General, and the Barry Sadler bio (starting in May)—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.   

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 2017



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIV, Number 1                                                            January 1, 2017

JONAS PHILLIPS: The website Jewoftheweek.com devoted its mid-December page to Jonas Phillips, Uriah Phillips Levy’s beloved grandfather, and a remarkable man. Phillips is best known for his Revolutionary War patriotism and his dedication to securing full religious freedom for Jews in the new nation he fought to create.


As I wrote in Saving Monticello, he was born Jonah Phaibush in 1735 in Busek, a village in Prussia. He left Prussia in 1756 at age twenty-one to seek his fortune in the American colonies, stopping in England, and then arriving in Charleston, South Carolina. Along the way he Anglicized his names to Jonas Phillips.

A few years later Jonas Phillips moved to Albany, New York, where he became a Freemason and opened a store in which he sold food and spirits. Jonas Phillips left Albany in 1761, married Rebecca Machado a year later, and settled in New York City where he again owned and operated a retail store. He also was an auctioneer and served the Jewish community as a shohet (ritual slaughterer) and bodek (meat examiner). Jonas Phillips became a naturalized citizen in April 1771. Around 1774 he moved his growing family to Philadelphia where he opened a “vendue store” at the upper end of Third Street.

Swept up in the revolutionary fervor in New York and Philadelphia in the 1770s, Jonas Phillips spoke out publicly on British abuses of colonists’ rights. He signed a letter published in the January 23, 1770, New York Gazette supporting the strongly anti-British Non Importation Resolutions of 1765. He also participated in running the British blockade of Philadelphia. On October 31, 1778, at age 43, Jonas Phillips became a private in Capt. John Linton’s Company of Col. William Bradford’s Battalion, a Philadelphia militia unit in the Continental Army.

His most famous public religious act was the September 7, 1787, letter Jonas Phillips wrote to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Identifying himself as “one of the people called Jews of the City of Philadelphia,” he called on the body to include provisions in the Constitution they were writing to provide “all men” the “natural and unalienable Right to worship almighty God according to their own Conscience and understanding.”

He also was instrumental in raising funds to purchase a new building for the Mikveh Israel synagogue in Philadelphia in 1782. Jonas Phillips later was elected the president of that historic Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, which had been established in 1740. As the head of the congregation, he invited George Washington to attend the dedication ceremonies of its new building.
Jonas Phillips died in Philadelphia on January 29, 1803. 

He and Rebecca Phillips had 21 children, and many more grandchildren, including Uriah Phillips Levy. Uriah inherited his grandfather’s patriotism and love of the sea, running away from home at age ten to be a cabin boy on a ship. He joined the Navy when he was twenty years old, and served heroically in the War of 1812. He went on to a fifty-year Navy career (the first Jewish-American to do so), and achieved the rank of Commodore, then the highest in the Navy.

Uriah Levy also purchased Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in 1834, and repaired, restored and preserved that American architectural treasure.


THE FIRST JEWISH AMERICANS: I was delighted to get an email from Harley Lewis, a grandniece of Uriah Levy’s nephew Jefferson Levy, who owed Monticello from 1879-1923. Mrs. Lewis was extremely helpful to me when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello, and has been one of the book’s most enthusiastic supporters.

She told me she had read the item in the December newsletter about the First Jewish Americans exhibit at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library. Mrs. Lewis, who just turned 91, went on to say that she took in the exhibit with her sons and one of her grandchildren and found it “very interesting.” Uriah Levy’s “full-length portrait [above] was very exciting to see,” she said, noting that she had seen the painting at its previous homes, the Jewish Chapel at the Norfolk Naval Station, and the museum at the U.S. Naval Academy.

For more info on the exhibit, go to http://bit.ly/2NYHistSoc

EVENTS:  My next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, will be published May 1. For more info on Ballad of the Green Beret, go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad


One event in January:
  • Sunday, January 29, 1:30 p.m. talk on What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life , and book signing at the Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince Street in Manassas, Virginia. The talk is free and open to the public. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/ManassasMusee

Please email if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including What So Proudly We Hailed, Lafayette: Idealist General, and the Barry Sadler bio (starting in May)—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com



 Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 12                                                                   December 1, 2016

THE FIRST JEWISH AMERICANS:  Anytime you talk about the first Jewish Americans you have to include the members of the Nunez, Machado, Phillips, and Levy families, who arrived here in 1733 and whose ranks included some of the most illustrious people in colonial America and in the Early Republic.

“The First Jewish Americans,” the new exhibit that opened late in October at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library on Central Park West, does, in fact include Uriah P. Levy and other members of his family. The second half of the title, “Freedom and Culture in the New World,” indicates the exhibit’s theme: that the very small number of early American Jews “significantly negotiated the freedoms offered by the new nation and contributed to the flowering of American culture.”


The wide-ranging exhibit includes portraits, drawings, maps, documents, and ritual objects. It focuses on Jewish American artists, writers, and activists. Many of the objects are on loan from the Princeton University Jewish American Collection and were the basis for “By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War,” a similar exhibit that was on view at Princeton’s Art Museum earlier this year and which we covered in the May SM Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/SMMay2016


A significant part of is devoted to artifacts from Shearith Israel, the first Jewish congregation in the United States. Founded in 1654, Shearith Israel has since the 1890s been located just a few blocks from the N.Y. Historical Society on 70th Street and Central Park West.

Uriah Levy’s great grandfather, David Mendez Machado, who married Maria Caetana Nunez (known as Zipporah), the oldest daughter of the family patriarch Dr. Samuel Nunez, served as the hazzan of Shearith Isreal after moving from Savannah to New York in the late 1730s.

Uriah Levy, who was born in Philadelphia, was a member of Shearith Israel after he moved to New York City in the 1820s. One of his nephews, L. Napoleon Levy, served as the congregation’s president.


The Shearith Israel portion of the exhibit includes 18th century finial ornaments called rimmonim (above) that sit on top of Torah poles, and a Torah scroll (below) vandalized by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.



For more info on the exhibit, go to http://bit.ly/2NYHistSoc 

 

EVENTS:  My next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, will be published May 1. For more info on Ballad of the Green Beret, go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad



 Only one event in December:

  • On Saturday, December 17, 2:00 talk on Desperate Engagement, and book signing at the James M. Duncan Branch of the Alexandria, Va., Library at 2501 Commonwealth Ave. in Alexandria. It’s free and open to the public. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/DuncanBranch


Please email if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including my Francis Scott Key biography, What So Proudly We Hailed, Lafayette: Idealist General, and the Barry Sadler bio (starting in May)—at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com



Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.


Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to http://www.marcleepson.com/signedbooks.htmlto order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November 2016


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 11                                                                   November 1, 2016

THE PRIME OF HIS LIFE:  I have made great use of Google Books while doing the research for my books. That amazing service, which began in 2002, continues to digitize thousands of books from large libraries. Many of the books were published centuries ago. Among them are bound volumes of 19th century magazines. I found lots of great primary-source material in those magazines for my biographies of Francis Scott Key and the Marquis de Lafayette.

But not for Saving Monticello, since Google Books wasn’t around when I researched the book in 1999 and 2000. Although a few issues of old magazines were digitized and on line then, I mostly had to dig out magazine articles dealing with the Levys and Monticello the old-fashioned way, by looking for copies of the magazines in libraries and archives.


hese days I regularly search Google Books (and lots of other places on line) for material for this newsletter, and regularly come up with things I’d never seen before. The latest new-to-me article I found is “A True Jeffersonian and Real Democracy,” which appeared in the November 11, 1898, issue of The Illustrated American, a Harper’s Weekly-like magazine founded by Lorillard Spencer, the president of Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, in 1890.

The short article with two pictures of Monticello even contained a few facts about Jefferson Levy’s life that I hadn’t known.


Whoever wrote the factually accurate article was greatly impressed by Jefferson M. Levy, who purchased Monticello from the other heirs of his uncle Uriah Levy in 1879, and repaired, restored and preserved Monticello for more than four decades before selling it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923. Noting that he “comes from a family which has been prominent in New York for over two hundred years,” the article goes on to note that Levy, at age 56, was “in the prime of life and one of the most active men in the political and business life of the metropolis.”

Describing him as “a working, enthusiastic Democrat,” the article says that Jefferson Levy “contributed liberally” to the party over a period of twenty-five years (which I hadn’t known) and took “an active part” in the New York City Real Estate Exchange, the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade.

The article goes on to praise Uriah Levy for his Navy service and both Levys for their stewardship of Monticello. Since acquiring the place in 1879, the article notes, Jefferson Levy “has watched and preserved it with jealous care.” The home “is maintained with a care worthy of the Democratic party and in accord with its glorious traditions.”

It ends with praise for Jefferson Levy’s support of President McKinley’s “war with Spain,” aka, the Spanish-American War, and points out that Levy “contributed liberally to the various funds for the relief of the soldiers” who fought in the war.

Levy had just been elected to Congress and the article ended with an assessment of how he would do on Capitol Hill. It was upbeat, noting that he would “zealously watch and advance” the “business interests of New York,” and that he’d be “a representative, alert, energetic and particularly well informed regarding all the needs and interests of this great city.” Levy went on to serve three terms in Congress, largely fulfilling those predictions as a business-oriented, conservative Democrat. He spoke out strongly against income taxes and antitrust legislation, and was a consistent proponent of a strong U.S. military.

 

EVENTS:  My next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler, will be published May 1. We are about to change the title slightly. It will now be called Ballad of the Green Beret, with the same subtitle: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death. It’s available for presale today on Amazon

 Here are my November events:

  • On Thursday, November 3, I’ll be doing a talk at 12:00 noon at the North Cross School, in Roanoke, Virginia, on What So Proudly We Hailed. The event is free and open to the public at the North Cross School, 4254 Colonial Ave., Roanoke. 

  • On Saturday, November 5, I’ll be speaking to the Henry Clay DAR Chapter, in Annandale, Virginia, about Saving Monticello.







Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including my Francis Scott Key biography, What So Proudly We Hailed, and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette—at marc527psc@aol.com For more details on other upcoming events, go to bit.ly/ SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.  


The SM Newsletter On Line: You can read back issues of this newsletter at bit.ly/SMOnline I welcome comments. If you have received this in error, or do not wish to continue receiving it, please send an email and I’ll take you off the list.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 2016




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 10                                                          October 1, 2016

THE ROTUNDA:  The Rotunda, the iconic, Thomas Jefferson-designed centerpiece of the University of Virginia, has been undergoing extensive renovations for the last two years. The building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as is Monticello) has just reopened after $58 million worth of repairs and restoration.

Jefferson, inspired by the Pantheon in ancient Rome, worked on the design for the building late in life, in his seventies. It was completed in 1826, not long after Jefferson died. Classes were held in the building until the 1930s.


In recent years it became apparent that extensive repairs were necessary. That work, finished late this summer, includes a new domed copper roof (painted white); repaired marble columns, updated electrical systems; the addition of a 6,000-square-foot underground mechanical room; and the restoration of the eye-catching round, black Rotunda clock.

Inside, for the first time in decades, students are taking classes in newly restored rooms and studying in lounges in the Dome Room. The historical display room on the ground floor remains for visitors. A new exhibit showcases a chemical hearth that workers discovered in the wall of the Lower East Oval Room, as well as other artifacts uncovered during the renovation.

 


The Rotunda gets a brief mention Saving Monticello in the context of the disastrous fire that gutted the place in 1895. As I wrote, the University hired McKim, Mead and White, one of the nation's top architectural firms, to rebuild the Rotunda. Stanford White, the premier American architect of the late 19th century, took charge of the project.
           
While White was in Charlottesville working on the Rotunda restoration, Jefferson Levy, the owner of Monticello, made an appointment to see him. Levy told White that he was considering adding some rooms to Monticello and wanted him to draw up plans to do so. White declined. That was Jefferson Levy’s only attempt to alter Thomas Jefferson’s design of Monticello.

A few years later, in April 1899, in commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, Jefferson Levy made a gift to the University: a large regulator clock for its library, which was then in the Rotunda. Levy also donated a device that electronically controlled the bells in all the University’s lecture rooms.

EVENTS We now have a title, subtitle, cover, and pub date for my next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler. Green Beret Balladeer: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death will be published officially on May 7. It’s on Amazon at http://bit.ly/SadlerBio



Here are my October events:

  • A talk on the subject of Saving Monticello: the post-Jefferson history of the house, for the guides and Foundation staff at Monticello on Friday, October 7 
  • A book signing open to the public at the Monticello Gift Shop on Saturday, October 7, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • I’ll be the Keynote Speaker at the 20th National War of 1812 Symposium on Saturday, October 22 at the University of Baltimore. The talk will be on Francis Scott Key and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the subject of my book, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life.
 Image result for marc leepson


Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including What So Proudly We Hailed and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette—at marc527psc@aol.com For more details on other upcoming events, go to  the “Author Events” page on www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to this page of my website: http://marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 9                                                                     September 1, 2016

BOOKS:  Thomas Jefferson, as I wrote in Saving Monticello, had the largest private library in America. But Jefferson was forced to sell the entire collection because of his serious fiscal difficulties that escalated greatly his second presidential term ended in 1809. Not long after he came back to Charlottesville that year to live full time at Monticello, Jefferson decided to part with the books to try to pay off his mounting debts.

The sale took place in February of 1815 when Congress, after a spirited debate and by a small majority, agreed to buy Jefferson’s private, 6,500-odd book library for $23,950. He had offered the books to the nation after learning that British troops had burned the congressional library in Washington following the War of 1812 Battle of Bladensburg in August of 1814.


Because of his offer to expand the library, Jefferson has been known as the father of the Library of Congress, which had started in 1800. A 2000 Library of Congress exhibit on Jefferson (photo, above) included a replica of the library Jefferson sold to the nation in 1815. It filled twenty, twelve-foot high bookcases.

Soon after selling the collection, though Thomas Jefferson had seller’s remorse. “I cannot live without books,” he famously wrote to John Adams on June 10, 1815. So the Sage of Monticello began acquiring books for another personal library. When he died in 1824, Jefferson left more than $107,000 in debt to his heirs, along with instructions to donate his new library of some three thousand volumes to the University of Virginia.

But Thomas Jefferson Randolph, working to pay off his grandfather’s enormous debt, sold the bulk of the collection to a Washington, D.C., bookseller in 1829. That same year Jeff Randolph sold a historically important collection of his grandfather's printed books, bound volumes and manuscripts that dealt primarily with Virginia history to the Library of Congress.

Gromacki owns nearly 4,000 of the 6,700 books in Jefferson's Monticello library.
Sadly, in 1851 a fire engulfed much of the Library of Congress, destroying about two-thirds of the Jefferson collection. In recent years, the Library has worked diligently to find replacements. The good news is that the LOC has acquired hundreds of replacement copies from antiquarian book dealers all over the world, mainly through a large 1999 grant from Jerry and Gene Jones (yes, it’s the Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys) in its quest to reassemble the collection as it was in 1815.
I just learned that a lawyer in Chicago named Joe Gromacki, has worked for years to assemble copies of every one of the books Jefferson donated to the Library of Congress in 1815 for his own library.  According to an article in Crain’s Chicago Business, Gromacki now owns nearly 4,000 of the books. You can read the whole story at http://bit.ly/TJBookCollection


EVENTS:  We are very close to having a title and the cover design for my next book, the first ever biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I am doing more speaking on my books, including Saving Monticello. Just one event in September, though.
I’ll be doing a talk on the Marquis de Lafayette on Monday, September 26, as part of the Lynchburg College Senior Symposium in Lynchburg, Virginia. Seven others will give talks to the LC seniors in this program, which has the primary theme of “Knowledge, Justice, Leadership and Creativity.” I did at talk on the history of the American flag for the Senior Symposium in the fall of 2008, my daughter Cara’s senior year at Lynchburg.
 


Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including my Francis Scott Key, biography, What So Proudly We Hailed, and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette—at marc527psc@aol.com For more details on other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com Or go to this page of my website: http://marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.