Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 2018


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

Volume XV, Number 7                                                                      July 1, 2018

"The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery." - Eric Foner

CREATED EQUAL:  The headlines tell the story:
  • “Monticello is Done Avoiding Jefferson’s Relationship with Sally Hemings”—New York Times
  • “Sally Hemings Gets Her Recognition at Monticello”—Washington Post
  •  “Sally Hemings Takes Center Stage”—New York Times op ed. by Annette Gordon-Reed


The news that those headlines heralded was the June 16 ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibition at Monticello devoted to the life of Sally Hemings and other members of her family.
It is located in a room along the south wing of the house that archeologists and historians believe was once inhabited by Hemings. That room, formerly a public bathroom, has been restored to what it most likely looked like when Sally Hemings was alive.

“Symbolically and emotionally, the restoration of the Hemings room is the heart of the new interpretation of Monticello,” Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote, “and it makes tangible a relationship that has been controversial since rumors of ‘Dusky Sally’ became part of the American political landscape in the early 19th century.”

Visitors to Monticello “will for the first time see Sally Hemings depicted as a central figure in life on the mountain,” Gordon-Reed, the author of The Hemingses of Monticello who spoke at the ceremonies, wrote. “This is a remarkable turn of events. For centuries, historians denied Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. This exhibit has been a long time coming, but better late than never.”

Some three hundred descendants of enslaved people who labored at Monticello were among the crowd that day, June 16, 2018—a day “that will go down go down in Monticello’s history,” as Leslie Bowman, the Thomas Jefferson’s Foundation’s President, put it in her opening remarks.


There’s an excellent on-line version of the Sally Hemings exhibit at http://bit.ly/HemingsExhibit

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has videos of the entire June 16 opening ceremonies—including remarks by Bowman, Gordon-Reed, and Monticello benefactor David Rubenstein—on its website at http://bit.ly/June16Ceremonies

R12 AT THE LEVY CENTER: That’s U.S. Naval Academy speak for the position held by Lt. Steven Ballaban, who in January was named the 12th rabbi assigned to the Academy. Rabbi Ballaban holds a BA in English Literature from Vassar, along with an MA in Hebrew Letters, and an MA and a PhD in Philosophy from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He received his rabbinical ordination in 1986, after which he went on active duty in the Navy. He later served in the Navy Reserve and in 2014 was commissioned as a chaplain. He previously served as Staff Chaplain at the Naval Air Facility in Atsugi in Japan.

How does this relate to Saving Monticello? Rabbi Ballaban, as the Naval Academy’s rabbi, is the spiritual leader of the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and the Esther and William Miller Jewish Chapel (in photo below). The Center and Chapel were dedicated in September of 2005 adjacent to Bancroft Hall, the gigantic building where all 4,000 Midshipmen live and eat their meals.

The architect included a dome on the entrance in honor of Uriah Levy’s stewardship of Monticello, which he owned from 1834 to his death in 1862, and which he repaired, restored, and preserved.



EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my July speaking events. For info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GreenBeretBook
·         Tuesday, July 3 – Talk on Ballad of the Green Beret and book signing at The Glebe retirement community, Daleville, Virginia

·         Thursday, July 26 – Talk on Ballad and book signing at Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership & Education Conference, Palm Springs, California




If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marcleepson@gmail.com  For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at marcleepson@gmail.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, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

June 2018


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson
Volume XV, Number 6  
                                                                    June 1, 2018
The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner

JOHN LOCKE IS BACK:  Most readers of this newsletter know that when Thomas Jefferson died (on July 4, 1826), he left his family with a huge debt: more than $107,000. That forced his heirs—his daughter Martha Randolph and her son Thomas Jefferson Randolph—to sell virtually all of Monticello’s furniture and furnishings (as well as his enslaved people)—and eventually Monticello itself.

That sad state of affairs is an integral part of Saving Monticello and I cover it in detail in the book. As I wrote, the Randolphs held a sale on the mountain on January 15, 1827, that lasted five days. There is no complete record of who bought the items, but family letters reveal that Jefferson’s grandchildren purchased most of the furniture and furnishings. Jefferson’s art works (including sixty-three paintings) and books were not part of the January 1827 auction.


The family decided to market the paintings and other works of art in Boston, where they thought the collection would bring better prices than in Charlottesville. They held a sale at the Boston Athenaeum in July 1828 with disappointing results. A second sale took place five years later, on July 19, 1833. It was an auction at Harding’s Gallery in Boston. Again, the results were disappointing; only a few paintings were sold.

I didn’t go into detail in the book about where the paintings went or what they sold for. But I’ve since learned that an unidentified buyer bought a portrait (for $35) that Jefferson owned of the famed Enlightenment philosopher John Locke. That painting—a copy of one from the Royal Society in London, which Jefferson purchased in 1789—had hung in the upper tier of the Parlor at Monticello in a group with Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. Jefferson called them “my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced.”

Sometime after 1833, the Locke portrait made its way to Harvard University. In 1959, Harvard donated the painting was given to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and it was restored to its place in the Parlor.

Flash forward to a few years ago. A group of visitors touring Monticello noticed that the Locke painting was in not-great condition. Inquiries were made. The visitors then generously decided to donate the funds to have it conserved. To do the work, Monticello hired Scott Nolley, who runs Fine Art Conservation of Virginia.



                                                Before                                          After
                       
In a short, but fascinating video, Nolley, Monticello Assistant Curator Emilie Johnson, and Monticello Museum Technician Caitlin Hepner explain the complex process of getting the painting back to its original 18th century condition. It involved a “reversal,” and much in-repainting and retouching.

The before-and-after images are from the page on the Monticello web site that includes the video. Take a look: http://bit.ly/2LockePainting

EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my June speaking events. For info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GreenBeretBook
·         Saturday, June 9 – Talk on Flag: An American Biography and book signing at the Maryland DAR Chapter Regents Club Luncheon, Chevy Chase, Maryland
·         Saturday, June 16  – Talk on Ballad and book signing for the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, Alexandria, Virginia
·         Thursday, June 21 – Talk on Flag and book signing for Washington (D.C.) Metro Oasis (Life-Long Learning), Bethesda, Maryland. For info and reservations, call 301-469-6800
·       Saturday, June 23 - Virginia Chapter of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, Charlottesville, Virginia
·         Tuesday, June 26   Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing for the Augustus P. Gardner American Legion Post, McLean, Virginia





If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at marcleepson@gmail.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, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.  


Friday, May 4, 2018

May 2018


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson
Volume XV, Number 5                                                                      May 1, 2018
The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner
MYSTERY SOLVED:  Readers of this newsletter may remember that we have written several times over the years about the fate of the “Levy Lions,” the four statues that Jefferson Levy had arrayed at Monticello. The lions—which were pictured oin the engraving of Monticello that was on the back of the $2 bill from 1929-1976—were sold after the Thomas Jefferson Foundation bought Monticello from Levy in 1923 and disposed of all of its non-Jefferson contents.

Decades later, we learned that two of the lions made their way to Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville. But the fate of the other two remained unknown. Until now.

Rebecca English, who lives near Charlottesville, started a quest to find the two missing Levy Lions after she thought she spotted one outside a house not far from Monticello nearly five years ago. She first wrote about that on her excellent Forsythia Hill blog in December of 2013.

In that and subsequent posts Rebecca reported on her progress (or lack thereof) trying to track down the missing lions. Then early this year she hit pay dirt. She discovered the lions at a historic home listed for sale in Hendersonville, North Carolina, near Asheville.



“I knew the second I saw the lions that they were authentic,” Rebecca writes in her blog. She did some close side-by-side comparisons of photos of the lions from the late 19th and early 20th century at Monticello and shots of the ones in North Carolina. The only discrepancy Rebecca found was “time and wear,” she wrote. “The lions are missing a few teeth but everything else matches up!”

The Levy Lions sit regally on the rear terrace (see photo above) of a historic house called Chanteloup, which was built in 1840 for a French count and countess on 28 acres of land and sometimes is known as “Little Biltmore.” In 1900 new owners brought in the pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design the terraced gardens.

Rebecca drove to Hendersonville to confirm what she suspected. “Not only was the trip to see the lions amazing,” she wrote, “but the property owners celebrated this event with us by providing lunch on the veranda. I could gaze upon the lions and the Olmsted gardens and watch the birds dip and dive down in the valley below.”


Below are photos Rebecca took and kindly gave us permission to use of the lions at Chanteloup.
You can read her entire post at http://bit.ly/LevyLionsFound




EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my May speaking events. For info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad
·         Tuesday, May 1– Talk on Ballad of the Green Beret and book signing for the Veterans Military History Group at the Silver Spring (Maryland) Senior Center.
·         Saturday, May 5 – Talk on Ballad for the Lane’s Mill DAR Chapter and book signing at monthly meeting in Centreville, Virginia
·         Monday, May 14 – Talk on What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life for the Chasseur Chapter of the United Daughters of 1812, Sandy Spring, Maryland.
·         Tuesday, May 15 – Talk on Francis Scott Key, the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the history of the American flag at the JCC of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax. More info at http://bit.ly/JCCFlag
·         Saturday, May 19 – Moderator of a 9:30 a.m. panel on Vietnam War Biography at the annual Biographers International Organization (BIO) Conference, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. For more info and to register go to https://www.regonline.com/2018BIOconference


  
If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com
For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEASWant a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at marcleepson@gmail.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, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.   

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April 2018


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson
Volume XV, Number 4                                                                      April 1, 2018
The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner
JEWS OF C’VILLE:  Virtually every large and mid-sized city in the American South has had significant Jewish communities since the mid-19th century. Charlottesville, Virginia—the home of Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia, and Monticello (owned by the Levy family from 1834-1923)—is no exception.

That was the point of a March 18 walking tour of C’ville led by long-time U-Va. History Professor Phyllis Leffler. During the tour Prof. Leffler looked at the Jewish families and businesses in that Central Virginia city, including U.S. Navy Lt. Uriah Levy (who was born in Philadelphia in 1792), who purchased Monticello in 1834.

Professor Leffler has had a long interest in the Jews of Charlottesville. In the mid-1990s she and U-Va. Anthropology Prof. Jeff Hantman were the driving forces behind an extensive exhibit at U-Va.’s Alderman Library called “To Seek the Peace of City,” which took an in-depth look at the picture. The title comes from Jeremiah 29.7: “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away ... for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”


That exhibit lives today in an extensive on-line presence at  http://bit.ly/SeekthePeace It tells the “story of colonial era Sephardic Jews and of nineteenth century immigrants first from Bavaria and Wurttemberg and then from Kovno and Minsk. It is a story of peddlers and merchants, and of involvement and leadership in local government, the arts and education. It is a story of the commitment of a few to the creation and maintenance of local civic and religious institutions.”
“To Seek the Peace of the City” is an expansion of a 1993 U-Va. exhibit, “Jewish Life at Mr. Jefferson's University,” which was presented as part of the University’s commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s 250th birthday.
On the March tour, Leffler explained that there were Jews in the city “from the earliest, pre-Revolutionary period.” But, “like many small towns there weren’t enough to constitute a community. Before the 1870s, there weren’t enough Jews to build anything.” She went on to point out that Charlottesville “was a tiny, tiny town, but for merchants and itinerant travelers, it was a location that made sense west of Richmond and on the trade route between Baltimore and Lynchburg. It was good spot for merchants to get established.”
Most of the merchants, she said, operated along what is now C’ville’s downtown mall, where they owned “shoe shops, department stores, and restaurants. “They [also] served on school, city and community boards,” she said. “They were remarkably integrated into the life of Charlottesville. As prominent merchant families, they all really took a role in the city and making it work.” (Here’s a like to the Charlottesville Daily Progress article on the tour in the: http://bit.ly/Cvillearticle)

Leffler included Uriah Levy’s nephew Jefferson Levy in her tour, as he spent considerable time in Charlottesville after buying out his uncle’s other heirs and taking control of Monticello in 1879. A committed real estate and stock speculator, Jefferson Levy (who sold Monticello to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923) bought and sold a good number of other properties in C’ville.
As I noted in Saving Monticello, his first significant purchase in the city came in 1887 when he bought a building at the corner of Park and High Streets known as the Town Hall, which had been built in 1852. Town Hall, a large, three-story Georgian style brick structure, was used as a gathering place for local groups, traveling speakers and touring theatrical companies. By the mid-1880s, though, it had fallen into disuse.



Jefferson Levy remodeled Town Hall and in 1888 renamed it the Levy Opera House. He enlarged the stage and put in a new orchestra pit with dressing rooms below it, inclined the floor to improve sight lines and installed a horseshoe-shaped gallery, new opera chairs and two boxes on the sides of the stage.

The Levy Opera House hosted the first symphony orchestra that played in Charlottesville, the Boston Symphony, which came to town in 1891. That year Jefferson Levy leased the Opera House to Jacob (“Jake”) Leterman and Ernest Oberdorfer, sons of the founders of Charlottesville's German Reform synagogue. Leterman and Oberdorfer brought in other symphony orchestras, minstrel shows and various types of theatrical productions.

In 1907, Levy leased the building to the Jefferson School for Boys, a small boarding and day prep school, for $400 a year. An addendum to the lease stipulated that if any theatrical performances were given in the Opera House, it “shall be advertised as the Levy Opera House,” and that Jefferson Levy retained the right to his box there. The school moved out in 1912. Two years later Levy sold the building, and it was subdivided into apartments. Today it has been remodeled into office space and is still known as the Levy Opera House.


EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my ten April speaking events. It’s one of the busiest months—if not the busiest—in my seventeen years of doing talks for my books. Five of the talks are on Saving Monticello. For info on my new book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad
·         Friday, April 6 – Talk on Francis Scott Key and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and book signing for the Daughters of 1812 Association of State Presidents annual banquet in Washington, D.C.

·         Tuesday, April 10 - Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing at the ExxonMobil Spouses Club luncheon in Great Falls, Virginia.

·         Tuesday, April 10 – Talk on The Civil War Battle of Monocacy based on my book, Desperate Engagement, for the Southern Maryland Civil War Roundtable at the College of Southern Maryland in LaPlata, Md. For info, go to http://somdcwrt.org

·         Wednesday, April 11 – Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing at the monthly meeting of the Arlington House DAR Chapter, Arlington, Virginia.

·         Thursday, April 12 – Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing for the National Society of Colonial Dames XVII Century National Conference, Washington, D.C.

·         Friday, April 13 – Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing at the Annual Meeting of Presidential Families of America, Washington, D.C.

·         Saturday, April 14 – Field trip at the Monocacy National Battlefield Park for the Southern Maryland Civil War Round Table, Frederick, Maryland.

·         Sunday, April 15 – Talk on Flag: An American Biography at the annual meeting of the Daughters of the Barons of Runnemede, Washington, D.C.

·         Friday, April 27 – 2:45 p.m. talk on Desperate Engagement and book signing at the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s 2018 National Civil War Conference, “Avenue of Invasion” (9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Open to the public. For more info and to register, go to http://www.shenandoahatwar.org/avenue-of-invasion

·         Friday, April 27 – 6:00 p.m. talk on Saving Monticello at the “Eat, Drink, Be Literary” event sponsored by the Hillsboro Historic Old Stone School in Hillsboro, Virginia. A fundraising event open to the public. For info email events@oldstoneschool.org or call 540-486-8001.

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com
For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at marcleepson@gmail.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, and Ballad of the Green Beret.  



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

March 2018


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson
Volume XV, Number 3                                                                      March 1, 2018

The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner

THE CLOCK (CON’T.) In the January SM Newsletter I wrote about the time in December of 1937 when a Richmond jeweler named Otto Frederick Ostergren was hired to repair Thomas Jefferson’s famed seven-day clock, which has graced the Monticello Entrance Hall since 1805.
The problem was that the clock hadn’t been working properly since the 1850s when Uriah Levy owned the place. 

To do the repair work, Ostergren had to remove the clock from the premises, and take it to his workshop. So that day in December 70-plus years ago, Mr. Ostergren showed up at Monticello and with the help of an assistant, took the clock down and carefully loaded it into the trunk of his car and then drove off to Richmond.  

Bill Bergen, the dean of the tour guides at Monticello—and a subscriber to this newsletter—emailed me after he received it and sent along an image of a photo I’d never seen. It’s an evocative (and to my mind, historic) picture of Ostergren and his assistant gently placing the clock into the trunk of his car.
Thanks to Bill for digging in out; to Jack Robertson, the Foundation Librarian at Monticello’s Jefferson Library, for discovering its provenance; and to the Library of Virginia for giving me permission to reprint it here:



THE MEDALS: The University of Virginia and Monticello will award three Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medals—the highest external honors U-Va. (which does not award honorary degrees) bestows—on April 13, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

The Medal in Architecture will go to David Adjaye, a world-renowned architect best known for his innovative sculptural designs, including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Adjaye, who was born in Tanzania, was recently knighted last year by Queen Elizabeth for his architectural work, and was named one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. His website is http://www.adjaye.com

The Medal in Citizen Leadership will go to Morgan Carrington “Cary” Fowler Jr., an agriculturalist and the former executive director of the Crop Trust. He has worked for decades on crop diversity and conservation. Fowler founded the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a heavily fortified seed bank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Svalbard Archipelago some 1,300 miles from the North Pole. It’s the world’s largest collection of crop diversity, and holds more than 930,000 distinct varieties.

The Medal in Law will go to Frank H. Easterbrook, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, and former Department of Justice official who specializes in antitrust, criminal and corporate law.

The Medal
“Thomas Jefferson was an essential architect of American life. A philosopher, revolutionary, president, scientist, diplomat, educator, farmer and epicure, Jefferson shaped the new nation,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, the president and CEO of the Foundation. “We are honored to welcome the 2018 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal recipients, each of whom, like Jefferson, has made a profound impact on our world and will inspire future generations of leaders.”

The ceremonies on April 13 include free public lectures at U-Va. by the medal recipients, a formal dinner at Monticello and a luncheon in the Dome Room of the Thomas Jefferson-designed Rotunda on the U-Va. grounds. Details at this page on Monticello's website.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: According to a recent announcement in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the good folks who own and operate Monticello, are looking for volunteers to work at the Monticello Visitor Center (pictured below). For more info, email volunteer@monticello.org or call 434-984-9869.

EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my March speaking events. For info on my new book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad
·         Monday, March 12  – Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing for the Anna Maria Fitzhugh DAR Chapter in Alexandria, Virginia
·         Thursday, March 29 - Talk on Ballad of the Green Beret for the Rotary Club of Purcellville in Purcellville, Virginia


If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please 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, and Ballad of the Green Beret.  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

February 2018

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson
Volume XV, Number 2                                                                      February 1, 2018

The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner

THE KITCHEN: The latest archaeological news at Monticello came late last year when a dig in the South Pavilion cellar discovered portions of several stoves used by Jefferson’s enslaved French-trained chef James Hemings.

An excellent, well-illustrated article in Live Science (http://bit.ly/MontKitchen) reveals what happened when researchers started digging in a space in the cellar that had been used as a visitors’ bathroom for more than fifty years before the Thomas Jefferson Foundation decided to restore the cellar to what it was in Jefferson’s time.

The article notes that the archaeological team also found a trove of other artifacts, including pottery and glass bottle fragments, animal bones, and toothbrushes, along with the original brick kitchen floor, and pieces of the fireplace and four stew stoves.


The photo above, from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, shows the recreated stew stoves.
James Hemings, who was born in 1765, was among the scores of slaves owned by Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law John Wayles. James’ mother was Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings. It’s all but certain that John Wayles was his father—as well as the father of all of James Hemings’ five full siblings, including his younger sister Sally. That meant that those Hemings siblings also were Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha’s half brothers and sisters.

Jefferson took James (and Sally) Hemings to Paris in August of 1784, when he served as U.S. Minister (Ambassador) to France, which is where James learned to cook. He was freed by Jefferson in 1796, seven years after they returned from France.

I do not mention James Hemings in Saving Monticello, as he had left Monticello well before the story I tell begins—and he died in 1801. Nor do I mention his famed younger sister Sally Hemings for the same reason. The only time the name “Hemings” comes up in my book is when I discuss Thomas Jefferson’s death in 1826 and his will.

In it, Jefferson left his walking staff to James Madison. He gave watches to each of his grandchildren, and donated his books to the University of Virginia—although they later were sold, instead, to raise cash.

A codicil in the will granted freedom to five of Monticello’s enslaved people who had learned trades, all of whom were members of the Hemings family: Joe Fossett, Burwell Culbert, and John, Madison and Eston Hemings. Burwell Culbert, who was Jefferson’s butler and main household servant, also received $300. All five newly free men were also given houses.

For more info on James Hemings, take a look at the Foundation’s excellent sketch of his life at http://bit.ly/2JamesHemings

HIS THREE DAUGHTERS: Another member of the Hemings family is one of the three women profiled in the just-published book, Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black in a Young America (Ballantine Books, 425 pp. $28, by Katherine Kerrison, a Villanova University U.S. History Professor.

Image result for jefferson's daughters

The book is a combined biography of Thomas and Martha Jefferson’s two daughters, Martha, whom Jefferson called “Patsy” (1772-1836), and Maria (1778-1804), known as “Polly”—along with Kerrison’s reconstruction of the life of Harriet Hemings, who was born in 1801, the daughter of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation and most historians believe that Jefferson and Sally Hemings had a total of six children following the death of his wife Martha in 1782. Harriet was the eldest.

Harriet Hemings was given her freedom at age 21. She left Monticello, and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1822, four years before Jefferson’s death. She never saw her mother or father after that.

According to Kerrison’s book, Harriet Hemings (who was seven-eighths white) married a white man in Washington and had several children. She and her children lived as white people.

Kerrison’s life stories of Martha and Maria, Jefferson’s white daughters, includes their time with him in Paris where fourteen-year-old Sally Hemings served as Maria’s companion. You can read the New York Times review of the book by Mary Beth Norton at http://bit.ly/DaughtersReview  and Kerrison’s recent essay on the topic in the Washington Post at http://bit.ly/JeffDaughters

EVENTS: Here’s a rundown on my February speaking events. For info on my new book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to http://bit.ly/GBBallad
·         Saturday, February 10  – Talk on Saving Monticello and book signing for the Oak Hill Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812 in McLean, Virginia
·         Sunday, February 25 - Talk on Ballad of the Green Beret for the Mayflower Society of Washington, D.C., in Vienna, Virginia

Image result for marc leepson

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For details on other upcoming events, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com

GIFT IDEASWant a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please 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, and Ballad of the Green Beret.