Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008-2014

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter


The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume XI, Number 12                                                                     December 1, 2014

Fact or Fiction: Matthew Kraus, a professor in the Department of Judaic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, asked me to review Commodore Levy: A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail written by the late Irving Litvak and edited by Bonny V. Fetterman (Texas Tech University Press, 672 pp, $45.00) for H-Judaic, the on-line Jewish studies network.

I was pleased to do so and my review was published late in November.

“Uriah Phillips Levy is perhaps the most celebrated member of one of the nation’s most celebrated eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Jewish American families,” I wrote, then went on to give a capsule history of the family, beginning with Dr. Samuel Nunez, UPL’s great-great grandfather who was among forty-two Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition who arrived in Savannah, Georgia, in 1733.

I then talked about Levy’s legacy as a hero of the War of 1812, and as the first Jewish-American to have a full Navy career and the first to reach the Navy’s highest rank, Commodore. And, of course, I mentioned that Levy, an ardent admirer of Thomas Jefferson, bought Monticello in 1834 when it was falling apart and repaired, restored, and preserved the place.

I went on to mention that the best treatment of Levy’s life is Ira Dye’s Uriah Levy: Reformer of the Antebellum Navy (2006). And that the 1963 bio, Navy Maverick by Donovan Fitzpatrick and Saul Saphire, was filled with speculative and poorly sourced information.

I had to report that Litvag, a former news writer for the CBS Radio Network and a long-time public relations executive, used the unreliable Navy Maverick as what he called “a road map and guide” for his Commodore Levy, which he described as “neither biography nor a work of history.”

Litvag, who died in 2005, produced a long novel replete with one invented character and oceans of made-up dialogue. The book gets most of the important facts of Levy’s long life correct. But since it’s a historical novel with large amounts of fanciful writing, it is not a completely true picture of the man’s life. Even so, while a certain amount of leeway should be allowed a historical novel, there simply are too many imagined conversations, too much labeling of emotions, and far too much speculative scene setting.

I went on to point out several inaccuracies in the book. And then I covered Litvag’s handling of the sensitive issue of Uriah Levy’s ownership of slaves at Monticello.

My conclusion: Many parts of this book are very interesting. But it is not the book to go to for a completely factual look at Uriah Levy’s life.

As far as its literary merit is concerned, I said, Litvak did a credible job. It’s not War and Peace, but contains well-imagined vignettes that highlight the often dramatic life and times of a noteworthy figure in Jewish American history. 

To read the entire review, go to http://bit.ly/UPLreview

EVENTS:  Here’s a rundown on my December events. All of them are talks on my latest book, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life.

·        Thursday, December 4 – 11:30 a.m. talk at the monthly meeting of the Albemarle DAR Chapter in Charlottesville, Virginia
·        Saturday, December 6 12:15 p.m. talk at the monthly meeting of the Fairfax DAR Chapter in Fairfax, Virginia
·        Thursday, December 11 – 7:00 p.m. talk at Kings Park Library, 9000 Burke Lake Rd., Burke, Virginia. Free and open to the public. For info, call 703-978-5600 or go to http://bit.ly/KingsParkLibrary
·        Friday, December 12 – 11:30 a.m. talk at the monthly meeting of the Commonwealth DAR Chapter, Glen Allen, Virginia
·        Saturday, December 13 11:00 a.m. talk at the monthly meeting of the Nelly Custis DAR Chapter, Alexandria, Virginia
·        Sunday, December 14 – 2:00 p.m. talk at the Thomas Balch Library, 208 W. Market St., Leesburg, Virginia. Free and open to the public. For info, call, 703-737-7150 or go to http://bit.ly/BalchTalk 


Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books. 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.


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 11                                                                        November 1, 2014

Monticello in the EB: In last month’s newsletter, I reported that the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica had asked me to expand the EB entry on Francis Scott Key based on my new biography, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life.
The editor also asked me to redo the EB entry on Monticello, which I was very pleased to do. I added an important part of the story of Monticello to the entry—what happened there after Thomas Jefferson died.
Here’s an excerpt from the entry, which was posted in mid October. It amounts to a summary of the main parts of Saving Monticello:



When Thomas Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826, he left his heirs more than $107,000 in debts. Thomas Jefferson Randolph—Jefferson’s grandson and the executor of his estate—put Monticello on the market to try to raise cash to pay off the debt. In 1827 Randolph and his mother auctioned off Jefferson’s slaves, household furniture and furnishings, supplies, grain, and farm equipment. Then they sold or gave to relatives nearly all of his artwork, along with thousands of acres of land he owned.
In 1831 the Randolphs sold the house and 552 acres to James Turner Barclay, a Charlottesville druggist, for about $7,000. Barclay sold it and 218 acres in 1834 to U.S. Navy Lieut. Uriah Phillips Levy, an ardent Jefferson admirer. Levy, the first Jewish American to make a career as a U.S. Navy officer, made much-needed repairs to Monticello and opened the house to visitors.

During the Civil War the South seized Monticello because it was owned by a Northerner. It was briefly owned by Benjamin Ficklin, a Confederate officer, but returned to the Levy family after the war. When Uriah Levy died in 1862, his heirs challenged his will, which directed that Monticello be used as an agricultural school for the orphans of navy warrant officers. Seventeen years of legal wrangling ensued, during which time Monticello fell into near ruin.

In 1879 Uriah Levy’s nephew—Jefferson Monroe Levy, a prominent New York City lawyer, stock and real estate speculator, and three-term U.S. congressman—bought out the other heirs and gained title to Monticello. He immediately began repairing and restoring Monticello and its grounds.
By 1911 a national movement was in full swing to take the house from Jefferson Levy and turn it over to the federal government to be used as a shrine to Jefferson. Bills were introduced in Congress that would have done so; none became law. In 1919 Levy put Monticello on the market. The newly formed private nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation bought Monticello and its 640 acres from Levy in December 1923 for his asking price of $500,000. Levy died soon thereafter.
To read the entire new Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Monticello, go to http://bit.ly/FSKEncyBrit  To read the FSK entry, go to http://bit.ly/FSKEncyBrit

At Monticello I spent a very enjoyable day on Saturday, October 25, signing books at the Gift Shop at Monticello. As usual, I met many interesting people and had some great conversations. What’s more, It was a picture-perfect fall day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

But don’t just take my word for it. SM Newsletter subscriber Rebecca English, who lives in Charlottesville and stopped by to say hello (with coffee!), took this great photo on one of the trails on the Monticello grounds.





 EVENTS:  Here’s a rundown on my November events:

·        Saturday, November 8 – 11:30 a.m. talk on Francis Scott Key at the monthly meeting of the George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, in Alexandria, Virginia

·        Thursday November 13 10:30 a.m. talk on Francis Scott Key at the monthly meeting of the Mount Vernon DAR Chapter, Alexandria, Virginia.

·        Thursday, November 13 – 8:00 p.m. talk on Saving Monticello as part of the NVHA Distinguished Speaker Series at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, 1441 Wiehle Ave, Reston, Virginia. The event is free and open to the public, For info, call 703-437-7733 or go to www.nvhcreston.org

·        Saturday, November 15 10:00 a.m. talk on Vietnam veterans issues at the monthly meeting of the Mine Run DAR Chapter, Germanna, Virginia

·        Tuesday, November 18 – 7:00 p.m. talk on Francis Scott Key at Middleburg Library, 101 Reed Street, Middleburg, Virginia. The event is free and open to the public. For info, call 540-687-5730.

·        Wednesday, November 19 – 5:30 p.m. talk on Francis Scott Key at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, sponsored by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. The talk is free and open to the public. For info, go to www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr

·        Thursday, November 20 – 7:30 p.m. talk on Francis Scott Key at the monthly meeting of the Stone Bridge DAR Chapter, Sterling, Virginia

·        Saturday, November 22 – 10:00 a.m. talk on Lafayette at the monthly meeting of the Jamestown Chapter, Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, Alexandria, Virginia

·        Sunday, November 23 – 3:00 p.m. talk on Francis Scott Key for the Waterford Foundation at the Old School House, 40222 Fairfax Street, Waterford, Virginia. For info, call 540-882-3018.


Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books. 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.




Saving Monticello: The Newletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 10                                                                        October 1, 2014

UPL and the War of 1812:  I had a call in mid-August from Melissa Gerr, a reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times. She was preparing an article about Jewish patriots in the War of 1812 and wanted to interview me about Saving Monticello and Uriah Levy. We did the interview and her article appeared in the September 5 issue with the title “Jewish Patriots: Balancing Jewish American Identities During the War of 1812.”

The well-done article also includes a section on Mendes Cohen (below), a first-generation Sephardic Jew who was born in Richmond and fought at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore—when Francis Scott Key wrote the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”





Cohen wasn’t watching, he was in Fort McHenry,” Marvin Pinkert, Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, told Gerr.

Cohen, Gerr notes, “volunteered for Capt. Nicholson’s Baltimore Fencibles artillery unit (volunteers were not required to swear oath upon a New Testament Bible, something Cohen refused to do) and was one of three men who bravely retrieved the main supply of gunpowder from its storage inside the fort after a bomb had landed in the magazine. Cohen and his fellow artillerymen saved the gunpowder supply—and the fort—from detonating.”




Gerr’s section of Uriah Levy notes: “Leepson’s book, Saving Monticello, is Uriah P. Levy’s story, beginning when he was born in Philadelphia in 1792 as a fifth-generation Sephardic Jewish American—unique for that time—from great-great-grandparents who escaped Lisbon during the Inquisition of 1733.”

I should point out that I tell the complete story of Monticello following Jefferson’s death—not just Uriah Levy’s, although his is at the heart of the book. I also cover the Randolph family and their decision to sell the place, the brief ownership of James Turner Barclay (1831-34) and the important role played by Uriah’s nephew Jefferson M. Levy, who owned Monticello from 1879-1923 and—like his uncle—saved it from ruin. 


Not to nitpick, but in this otherwise excellent article, Gerr also says that Uriah Levy was held in Dartmoor Prison in England after his ship, The Argus, was captured by the British. As I point out in the book, Levy was, indeed, taken prisoner (along with the rest of the crew), but there is no evidence that he was held at that infamous prison. That misstatement is from a virtually un-sourced 1960s Levy bio.

I also have to point out that while Gerr correctly notes that Levy “invested in real estate in the 1820s,” she then quotes me as saying he purchased “a farming village on the island of Manhattan” that eventually became Greenwich Village. That’s not what I said— or what’s in the book. I said that he bought eleven rooming houses in a section of New York City that was “a farming village,” and that it soon thereafter became the home of many artisans and took the name Greenwich Village.

Also, Gerr writes: “After Levy’s death in 1862 in
Brooklyn, N.Y., his nephew owned Monticello for a short time, and in 1923, he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.” Uriah Levy died in Manhattan and Jefferson Levy owned Monticello for forty-four years. You can read the entire article at http://bit.ly/LevyWarof1812

Monticello in the EB: The editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would be interested in expanding the EB entry on Francis Scott Key. I was very much interested. If you go to the EB page for the Key entry (http://bit.ly/FSKEncyBrit) you can see what I wrote, which is based on my new FSK bio, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life.
The editor also asked me to add to the entry on Monticello to include a few hundred words on the subject of Saving Monticello: what happened after Thomas Jefferson died. I have written the copy; it has not yet been posted. I’m sure it will be by November 1, the next SM Newsletter, and I’ll report on it then. Stay tuned.
STILL SELLING: I’m happy to report that Saving Monticello continues to attract new readers. Now in its sixth printing in paperback from the University of Virginia Press, SM today was listed as the 25th best-selling book on historic preservation on Amazon.com  At last count, there were fifty Amazon Reader Reviews; thirty-seven rated the book five stars; eight gave it four stars.
EVENTS:  Here’s a rundown on my October events:

  • Saturday, October  4  – A talk for the Henry Clay DAR Chapter in Annandale, Virginia on Francis Scott Key.
  • Tuesday, October 7 – A talk on Francis Scott Key for the Williamsburg, Virginia DAR Chapter
  • Saturday, October 11 – A talk for the Chevy Chase, Maryland, DAR Chapter on Francis Scott Key
  • Saturday, October 18 – A book signing of Lafayette and What So Proudly We Hailed at the Heritage Day Festival in Hillsboro, Virginia. It’s an all-day event, beginning at 10:00 a.m. I’ll be on hand till around 2:00.

What So Proudly We Hailed has been getting great buzz, including my appearance on CBS This Morning on Saturday, September 13 (in photo, above). Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books. 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 and Lafayette,& What So Proudly We Hailed.   

The SM Newsletter On Line: You can read back issues of this newsletter at http://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.






Monticello, July 2014, photo by Cara Leepson



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 9                                                              September 1, 2014

NOT MONTICELLO:  In the fifteen years that I have been involved with researching, writing, and marketing Saving Monticello, I’ve periodically come across people around the county so enamored with Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture that they have felt compelled to build their own replica. The latest is a $6-million, 10,000-square-foot, virtually full-sized Monticello that is nearly complete in Somers, Connecticut.

The latest Monticello is being built by Helen and Prestley Blake, who is ninety-nine-years old and co-founded the Friendly’s Ice Cream restaurant chain with his brother Curtis in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1935.  


Blake and his wife Helen will not live in the new Monticello. The plan is to sell it. “This is my swan song,” Prestley Blake said recently. “This is the last thing I’ll leave for posterity. I want this to be an asset to the community.”

Prestley Blake (pictured in the photo below with his brother Curtis in front of the first Friendly’s) has something in common with Uriah and Jefferson Levy, who owned Monticello from 1834 to 1923: He’s an ardent admirer of Thomas Jefferson. Since Monticello itself isn’t for sale—and never will be—Blake decided to build his own near his summer residence in Somers in Central Connecticut not far from the Massachusetts line.


Construction began last summer, and it appears the new Monticello will be complete by the end of September—a feat that Thomas Jefferson never dreamed of as he spent many years redesigning and rebuilding Monticello.

Prestley and Helen Blake took their general contractor to Virginia in May 2013 where they took pictures of  Mopnticello and picked up a book that contains Jefferson’s architectural drawings, most likely Monticello in Measured Drawings, which is published by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and has twenty-eight measured drawings created by the 1990 Historic American Buildings Survey. 

Not all of the Connecticut Monticello will be Jeffersonian, however. There will be a three-car garage, an elevator and the kitchen will be on the ground floor. “It’s basically a design-build project as we go along,” the contractor, Raymond Laplante, told the Hartford Courant.
Prestley Blake is “very adamant about the outside being like the original,” Jennifer Champigny, the interior designer, said. “But, realistically, nobody would move into the original Monticello the way it is. So the modernized part of it, he’s definitely on board with that.”
To read the entire Hartford Courant article, go to http://bit.ly/BlakeMonticello

Events:  September will be my busiest book event month ever because of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore (September 12-14) and of Francis Scott Key writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” All the events will deal with What So Proudly We Hailed, my new biography of Key. Here’s a rundown:

  • Thursday, September 4  – A talk for the Eliza Monroe Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of the War of 1812 in Alexandria, Virginia
  •  
  • Friday, September 5 – A talk at the Historic Annapolis Museum, 99 Main Street in Annapolis at 7:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. For info, call 410-990-4783

  • Tuesday, September 9  – A talk for the Kate Waller Barrett DAR Chapter in Alexandria, Virginia.

  • Tuesday, September 9  –  A live appearance on the “Aspects of Writing Radio Show” on KLAV, Las Vegas at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time

  • Wednesday, September 10 – An appearance on “Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast” on WPPR-FM, Baltimore.

  • Wednesday, September 10 – A talk at 7:00 p.m. at Washington Adventist University, Tacoma Park, Maryland

  • Thursday, September 11 – A talk at 6:30 p.m. at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street in Baltimore.

  • Friday, September 12 – A live appearance on WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time.

  • Saturday, September 13 – The Keynote Speech at the Francis Scott Key Legacy Society Dinner at the Virginia Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

  • Sunday, September 14 – A book signing at the Barnes & Noble Power Plant in downtown Baltimore, from noon to 3:00 p.m. at 601 E. Pratt St., 410-385-1709.

  • Monday, September 15 – A 7:00 p.m. talk at Rust in Leesburg, Virginia,. 380 Old Waterford Rd 703-777-0323
           
  • Thursday, September 18 – A talk at the monthly meeting of Vietnam Veterans of America Northern Virginia Chapter 227, Neighbor’s Restaurant, 262D Cedar Lane, Vienna, Virginia. Open to the public.




What So Proudly We Hailed has been getting great buzz. Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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.



                                         Monticello, May 2014, photo by Cara Leepson

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 8                                                  August 1, 2014


THE ROTUNDA:  Jefferson Levy, who owned Monticello from 1879 until he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, was a wealthy lawyer and real estate and stock speculator who split his time between New York City and Charlottesville. Levy had real estate holdings in both places—and also played the part of a civic-minded citizen in New York and Virginia.

In April 1899, for example, in commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, Jefferson Levy gave the University of Virginia a large regulator clock for its library and a device that electronically controlled the bells in all the University’s lecture rooms.

He also presented the University with two 56-inch steel clock dials for the centerpiece of the school, the Thomas-Jefferson designed Rotunda overlooking the main part of the Jefferson’s original “Academical Village,” the Lawn. The original clocks had been lost in a disastrous 1895 fire.


The Rotunda—which, along with Monticello, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Statue of Liberty, is a UNESCO World Heritage site—and the 1895 fire are in the news today as U-Va. has begun a $42-million dollar restoration and renovation of the building. The structure was rebuilt after the fire by the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. Stanford White (1853-1906) himself—the designer of the old Madison Square Garden in New York who was considered the premier American architect of the late 19th century—took charge of the project.
           
A view of the Rotunda—which Thomas Jefferson modeled after the Pantheon in Rome—from the Lawn surrounded by the buildings in which the University’s first students and professors lived and classes were held. A select group of fourth-year students today gets to live in rooms on the Lawn.
  
White rebuilt the Rotunda with his own touches, including adding a staircase on the rear entrance (seen from the road) and two new wings. More changes were made in 1938 and in 1976, restoring more of elements of Jefferson’s original design. Last year a new copper roof was installed and extensive repairs made to the masonry and windows.

The new restoration and renovation, which is being paid for with private contributions and state money, will include lots of nuts and bolts work on the buildings mechanical systems. Plus, workers will be–among other things—replacing the portico roofs, installing a new elevator, replacing the Dome Room ceiling, repairing and installing new drains, and doing extensive landscaping on the courtyards and the north terraces.

“The overarching goals of this work are to protect and sustain the University of Virginia’s most important architectural asset,” David Neuman, the University’s Architect, said.
U-Va. has an excellent web page that tells the entire story of the Rotunda:  http://rotunda.virginia.edu


A NOVEL LIFE: Texas Tech University Press has just published Commodore Levy: A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail, a fictionalized account of the life of Uriah Phillips Levy, who owned Monticello from 1834 until his death in 1862. The book was written by the late Irving Litvag, who died before it was published. Bonny V. Fetterman completed the manuscript. 



Levy’s “life is tailor-made for an historical novel, and, after years of painstaking research, Irving Litvag has written it,” Brandies University Jewish Studies Professor Jonathan Sarna said of the book, calling it “a one-of-a-kind portrait of an early American Jewish hero.”

Look for our review in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.

Events:  Here’s a rundown my August events:

Saturday, August 2  – I will be taking part in the Hillsboro Farmers Market from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the historic Old Stone School in the small Western Loudoun County, Virginia, town of Hillsboro, signing copies of What So Proudly We Hailed and Lafayette. It’s a fundraiser for the Hillsboro Community Association, which maintains the school.

Friday, August 15 – I’ll be appearing live on “Midday with Dan Rodricks” on WYPR-FM, the Baltimore NPR station, from 1:00 to 2:00 Eastern time, talking about What So Proudly We Hailed

Tuesday August 19  – A talk on What So Proudly We Hailed at 7:00 p.m. at the Riversdale House Museum, 4811 Riverdale Rd., Riverdale Park, Maryland.

Saturday, August 23  – My part in the all-day Frederick Under the Flag commemoration will be an 11:00 a.m. talk on What So Proudly We Hailed at the Frederick (Hessian) Barracks on the Campus of Maryland School for the Deaf, 101 Clarke Place in Frederick, Maryland. For more info call 301-600-4045 or go to http://bit.ly/FrederickEvent

What So Proudly We Hailed is the first full-length Francis Scott Key biography in more than seventy-five years. It’s been getting great buzz. Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Monticello photo by Cara Rose Leepson, June 2014


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume XI, Number 7                                                  July 1, 2014


UPL’S WILL: As I noted in Saving Monticello, when Uriah Levy died on March 22, 1862, he left behind a large estate—and one very strange will, most notably the section dealing with what he wanted to be done with Monticello. Levy had written his will four years earlier. At the time of his death, in addition to Monticello and the surrounding acreage, he owned more than two dozen properties in New York, primarily rooming houses and other residential real estate in Greenwich Village. That property subsequently was valued at $330,600, a very tidy mid-19th century sum.


Levy bequeathed all of his city property to his young wife, Virginia Lopez Levy, along with all his household furniture. Upon her death or marriage, he directed that the furniture go to his favorite nephew, Asahel—referred to in the will as “Ashel”—S. Levy, a New York City lawyer, one of eight executors his uncle named for his estate.

As for Monticello, the will reads: “I give, devise and bequeath my Farm and Estate at Monticello in Virginia, formerly belonging to President Jefferson” along with a significant chunk of New York City real estate, to “the People of the United States” for “the sole and only purpose of establishing and maintaining” there “an Agricultural School for the purpose of educating as practical farmers children of the warrant office of the United States Navy whose Fathers are dead.”

No one who has studied Uriah Levy’s life has come to close to figuring out what was in his mind when he decided to turn Monticello into a farm school for Navy warrant officers’ orphan boys. Nor do we know why he directed that, failing Congress’s approval of the plan, Monticello should go to the state of Virginia for the same purpose. If Virginia refused, Jefferson’s mansion was to go to the Portuguese Hebrew congregations of New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond.

Congress never took action on the bequest and Levy’s heirs sued his estate starting what would become a seventeen-year legal battle during which a all-but-neglected Monticello almost went into ruin. But that’s another story—one that is at the center of Saving Monticello.

March 24, 1862, New York Daily Tribune notice of Uriah Levy's death

When I was doing research for the book, I found a copy of Levy’s will in the files of the Jewish Historical Society of New York. I recently came across an article reporting that the will had been admitted to probate that appeared in The New York Times on May 28, 1862. The headline reads: “LOCAL INTELLIGENCE.; The Will of Commodore Uriah P. Levy. VALUABLE REQUEST TO THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT PRIVATE LEGACIES.

The anonymous reporter got his details right. Here are some excerpts:

The will of Commodore LEVY was presented to the Surrogate yesterday for probate. Its provisions are of great public interest, and call for detailed notice:

The Executors named in the will are Benjamin F. Butler, D.V.S. Coddington, Ashael S. Levy, and Jos. H. Patten, of this City; Dr. Joshua Cohen, and Jacob S. Cohen, of Baltimore; George Carr, Esq., of Charlottesville, Va., and Dr. Blake, of Washington.
Mrs. Levy receives only her right of dower and all the household furniture, plate, &c., so long as she shall remain unmarried, excepting what is otherwise bequeathed to revert upon her death or marriage. Capt. Levy’s nephew, Ashel S. Levy, receives the Washington farm, in Albemarle, Va., with all the negro slaves, &c., and $5,000 in cash; also, his gold box with the freedom of the City of New-York.

He leaves to his brother, Joseph M. Levy, $1,000 in cash, and mortgage on his house in Baltimore; to his brother, Isaac Levy, $1,000, and all debts due him on notes; to Mitchell M. Levy, son of his brother, Joseph P. Levy, $1,000 in cash; to Eliza Hendricks, of Cincinnati, Ohio, the income of $1,000; to his nephew, Morton Phillips, of New-Orleans, his gold hunting-watch and $500; to Col. T. Moses, of South Carolina, a large silver urn, formerly belonging to Dr. Phillips, on which is to be engraved, “From Capt. Uriah P. Levy, United States Navy, to his kinsman, Col. Franklin Moses, State Senator of the State of South Carolina, as a testimony of my affection.”
There are also legacies of $100 each to Capt. John B. Montgomery, Capt. Lawrence Kearney and Capt. Francis Gregory, United States Navy, and Benjamin F. Butler, to purchase mourning rings. To Lieuts. Peter Turner and John Moffatt United States Navy, and Dr. J. Cohen and Jacob J. Cohen, Jr., Col. M. Cohen. United States Navy: Lieut. Lanier, Capt. William Mervine and Commodore Thomas Ap C. Jones, each $25, to purchase mourning rings.
The will directs the executors to erect a monument at Cypress Hills, to consist of a full length statue of Capt. Levy, in iron or bronze, in the full uniform of a Captain of the United States Navy, and holding in his hand a scroll on which shall be inscribed: "Under this Monument," or, "In Memory of Uriah P. Levy, Captain in the United States Navy, Father of the Law for the Abolition of the Barbarous Practice of Corporeal Punishment in the Navy of the United States." The monument is to cost $6,000, and the body is to be buried under it.
To the Historical Society are bequeathed three paintings -- "The Wreck of the Medusa Frigate," by Gericault; "The Descent of the Infant Jesus," and "Virgin Confessing the Bishop of Rouen," and a Rural Scene, by Carl Bonner.

Events:  My new book, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life, the first biography of Key in more than seventy-five years, was published on June 24. I’m happy with the early reviews, including one in The Washington Post, which ended with: “Marc Leepson makes the story flow and offers an interesting snapshot of one of the best-known — and least-known — figures in American history.”


Most of my events in coming months will be in conjunction with the Key bio, but I have several talks scheduled for my other books. Here’s what’s happening in July:

  • Friday, July 4 – I will talking about What So Proudly We Hailed on at least three radio programs: The Dave Plier Show on WGN in Chicago at 7:10 a.m. Central time; The Warren Pierce Show on WJT in Detroit at 7:50 a.m. Eastern time; and NPR’s “Hear and Now” on differing times depending on your local station.

  • Saturday, July 5 – A talk and book signing on Desperate Engagement, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Sesquicentennial Sacred Trust Talks and Book Signing Event at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The event is free and open to the public. Several great historians also will be speaking that day, including Ed Ayres and Bud Robertson. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/DEGettysburg

  • Sunday, July 6  – A talk on What So Proudly We Hailed and book signing at the Curious Iguana bookstore in downtown Frederick Maryland at 12 North Patrick Street. For info, call 301-695-2500.

  • Saturday, July 12 – A talk on Desperate Engagement and book signing at the B&O Railroad Museum in Ellicott City, Maryland, at 1:00 p.m. For info go to, wwwborail.com  or call 410-752-2490.

  • Thursday, July 17 – A 6:00 p.m. talk on What So Proudly We Hailed and book signing at the Society of the Cincinnati’s magnificent Anderson House, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. It’s free and open to the public with light refreshments after the talk. For info, 202-785-2040.

  • Sunday, July 20 – A talk on the Key book and a book signing beginning at 4:00 p.m. at the Barns of Rose Hill, in downtown Berryville, Virginia, at 95 Chalmers Court. For info, call 540-535-8974 or go to http://bit.ly/RoseHillBarns

  • Wednesday, July 23 – A talk on What So Proudly We Hailed and signing in the “Books on Broad” series at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond at 800 E. Broad Street. The event begins at 5:30 with a wine and cheese reception. It is free and open to the public. For info, call 804-356-1928 or go to http://bit.ly/FSKLVA

  • Friday, July 25 – I will be part of all-day Star-Spangled Banner Symposium sponsored by Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of American History in Washington. The program begins at 9:30 a.m. with a behind-the-scenes look at the Star-Spangled Banner (the flag) and continues through the afternoon. My talk on Francis Scott Key begins at 2:30. A book signing follows. For more info, call 202-633-8595 or go to http://bit.ly/AmerHistFSK
Please email if you’d like to arrange an event for any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 6                                                              June 1, 2014


The U.S.S. Levy:  Uriah Phillips Levy, whose life story is at the center of Saving Monticello, served in the U.S. Navy for fifty years. He joined the Navy in 1812 when he was twenty years old, and served until his death in 1862. He was the first Jewish-American to have a full Navy career and the first Jewish Commodore, the Navy’s highest rank at the time.

A hero of the War of 1812, Levy is one of the most-honored Jewish Navy officers. The Jewish chapel at Norfolk Naval Station was named for him in 1959. The first Jewish chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis was dedicated as the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel in 2005. And during World War II the U.S. Navy named a destroyer escort after him.


The USS Levy, a Cannon class destroyer escort (above), was launched and christened (by a grand niece of Uriah Levy) in March of 1943, commissioned in May, and served throughout the southern and central Pacific from August 1943 until the war ended two years later. Its main job was escorting naval fleet ships, but in 1945 the Levy saw plenty of action, bombarding and blockading Japanese-held islands in the Marshalls.

The ship’s officers hosted the surrender ceremonies of Japanese forces at Mille (sometimes spelled “Mili”) Atoll in the Marshall Islands group on August 22 —the first formal surrender of Japanese territory in World War II. The surrender came four days after members of the Levy crew had landed on the island, exchanged fire with the Japanese, and began making arrangements for the formal surrender.


The ceremonies (above) took less than an hour. “Generally the mood aboard the ship was one of happy relief,” Levy crew member Chuck Hays later told the Destroyers Escort Sailors Association. “The captain used the PA to pass the word of what was going on as it happened. Not a lot of shouting and such, just back slapping and congratulating each other among the crew. There was a saying in those days in the Pacific: ‘Golden Gate in ’48.’ Well, we knew we wouldn't have to wait that long anymore to get home.”

The U.S. flag was formally raised over Mille on August 28, and most of the Japanese troops left the following day. The Levy also was present on September 5, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered at Jaluit Atoll, a ceremony that took place aboard her sister ship the USS McConnel.


The ship went out of active service in November of 1945, was decommissioned in 1947, and put in mothballs in Norfolk as part of the Navy’s Atlantic Inactive Fleet. The Pentagon sold the USS Levy for scrap on June 18, 1974, to the Boston Medals Company of Baltimore. The price: $94,666.66.

A ‘New’ Letter: When is an 1805 letter a new letter? When it is written by Thomas Jefferson, hitherto unknown, and discovered in 2014 in a private collection. The letter in question was written by President Thomas Jefferson on July 24, 1805, to Bowling Clark, his former overseer at Monticello and Poplar Forest,. It deals with Jefferson’s “country house,” Poplar Forest (below) in Bedford County, Virginia.

The letter indicates that Jefferson was contemplating what would become of his family after his death. That is an aspect of Jefferson’s life that I cover in Saving Monticello as his dismal financial situation when he died in 1826 (he was more than $107,000 in debt) led directly to the family selling Monticello.
In the 1905 letter, Jefferson asks Clark to do an appraisal of the property to help eventually divide it up among his grandchildren. “This renders it necessary that I The recently discovered letter written by President Thomas Jefferson about dividing up his Poplar Forest plantation among his eight grandchildren. The letter asks for an appraisal of the propertyshould understand the separate value of each portion of them distinctly,” Jefferson wrote. “As no person is so well acquainted with them as yourself, I must ask a favor of you to consider the questions on the paper enclosed, and to write at the end of each the answer in figures, and to send me the same paper to Monticello, by the first post.”

As I noted in Saving Monticello, Thomas Jefferson did not wind up dividing the property up among his grandchildren. In his will, the Sage of Monticello gave the entire property to his grandson Francis Eppes, the son of Jefferson’s deceased daughter Maria and her husband (and cousin) John Wayles Eppes.  
The letter is being sold by The Raab Collection of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/1805JeffersonLtr


Events:  My next book, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life, the first biography of Key in more than seventy-five years, will be published later this month. Most of my events in coming months will be in conjunction with the new book, but I have several talks scheduled for my other books. Here’s a rundown my June events:

  • Saturday, June 14 – I will be taking part in a Flag Day flag retirement ceremony at 11:00 a.m. at Battley Cycles, 7830 Airpark Rd., Gaithersburg, Maryland, sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America’s Montgomery County, Maryland Chapter 642. I’ll be signing copies of Flag: An American Biography following my remarks at the ceremony.

  • Wednesday, June 18 – A talk and book signing on What So Proudly We Hailed, beginning at 11:50 for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University at the Loudoun Campus, 21641 Ridgetop Circle, Sterling, Virginia. Reservations required. To do so, call 703-503-3384.

  • Tuesday, June 24 – On the official publication date of What So Proudly We Hailed, I’ll be speaking about the book at the annual brunch of the DAR National Chairman’s Association in Washington, D.C. during that organization’s annual national meeting—called Continental Congress—in the Nation’s Capital.

  • Thursday, June 26 – A talk on What So Proudly We Hailed and book signing at the National Archives of the United States at 12:00 noon. The talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater at the Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW in Washington, D.C.

  • Sunday, June 29 – A talk on the Key book for a fundraising event for the Mosby Heritage Area Association at historic Oak Hill, the home of President James Monroe, in Aldie, Virginia. Seating is limited. For info, call 540-687-6681 or go to www.mosbyheritagearea.org/events.html


What So Proudly We Hailed is the first full-length Francis Scott Key biography in more than seventy-five years. You can get a preview at the book’s Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD  Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for that book—or for any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XI, Number 5                                                              
          May 1, 2014

  
Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday: It happened once before, in 2010. The folks at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation asked me to represent Monticello at the annual commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on April 13 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. I felt honored presenting Monticello’s wreath that day. It was a memorable occasion, held inside the memorial on a rainy, blustery day.


                                       Looking out over the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial

In late March this year Leslie Bowman, the head of the Foundation, asked me to lay the wreath again on the 13th. Again, I gratefully accepted. This year’s Thomas Jefferson’s birthday turned out to be a gorgeous, brightly sunny Palm Sunday so the ceremonies took place outside on the steps facing the Tidal Basin.

The famed D.C. cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Thousands upon thousands of tourists and local people streamed to the Tidal Basin area that morning to see them. The ceremonies began at 11:00. Nineteen organizations presented wreaths. The presidential wreath had been laid earlier in the morning. At around 10:45 the Color Guard from the Military District of Washington marched in. A three-piece Army band played patriotic airs.

Paul Hays of the Washington, D.C., Sons of the American Revolution chapter emceed, as he has done for many years. He announced the names of the organizations and their representatives. We went up the memorial steps one at a time. Three fourths of the way up, I met a member of the military color guard who did the not-so-heavy lifting, putting the wreath in place as I ceremonially touched it. Then a moment of silence before I walked back down to podium area.

The following photographs, taken by my wife Janna, show me standing behind the wreath after the ceremonies and walking up the steps to place the wreath.



  
The Slavery Exhibit: The latest stop for the “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” exhibit is the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The exhibit, a co-production of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, opened on April 9 and runs through October 19.


The exhibit was first shown at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. in 2012. The Foundation maintains an excellent on-line version of the exhibit at www.monticello.org/slavery-at-monticello

Events:  Here’s a rundown on the events I have scheduled this month:

  • Saturday, May 17 - I will be moderating two panels and sitting on a third at the Biographers International Organization’s 5th Annual Compleat Biographer Conference on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus. This will be my third BIO Conference. I’ve enjoyed taking part in the first two—and learned a few things, as well. I was elected to the BIO’s Board of Directors last year. For info, go the BIO website. 

  • Thursday, May 22 - I will be doing a talk at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Chesterfield Country Public Library in Chesterfield, Virginia, on the Marquis de Lafayette. Details: http://bit.ly/ChestLibrary


I am setting up talks and book signings for my next book, What So Proudly We Hailed, the first full-length Francis Scott Key biography in more than seventy-five years. It will be published on June 24. You can get a preview at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD

Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event—or an event on any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Volume XI, Number 4                                                      
April 1, 2014

  
An Ethical Question: I’m a regular reader of “The Ethicist” column by Chuck Klosterman in The New York Times Magazine. In the March 9 issue the first question The Ethicist addressed had to do with something that Uriah and Jefferson Levy were very familiar with during their 1834-1923 ownership of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

The question—which is at the heart of Saving Monticello—was: “Does a person who buys a home of historic or architectural significance have a different relationship to the public than a person who owns a home of no significance?”

Klosterman answered that “sharing a privately owned historic home with the public” is not “ethically reasonable.” People will want to see the home, he said, but owners “don’t have to be complicit in this process, and they’re certainly not obligated to allow trespassing.”

On the other hand, Klosterman said, he believed that the owner of “a home of considerable significance” has ‘a different relationship to the public.’” If, for example, he argued, “a noteworthy historical figure died in one of the home’s bedrooms, historians and interested parties should be allowed to see the bedroom for academic purposes (at the owner’s convenience).”

The bottom ethical line, according to The Ethicist: “Basically, if you own something with unique cultural substance, you should electively allow the rest of the culture to share the experience—but not at the public’s discretion. Regardless of its beauty or fame, it’s still a private residence, and the people living inside it are still private citizens.”


                                                                Jefferson M. Levy

As I make clear in Saving Monticello, that is “electively sharing” Monticello is exactly what Uriah and Jefferson Levy did during the nearly ninety years they owned it. Both Levys allowed the public to visit the grounds, and on a fairly regular basis invited guests inside Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture for receptions, dinners, and other gatherings.

Rare Images: SM Newsletter subscriber Stephanie Lipscomb has kindly given me permission to reproduce several images from the collection of her mother, Barbara Graves, of family memorabilia. Barbara Graves is the great granddaughter of Eliza Coleman, who worked for many years—as I noted in Saving Monticello—as gatekeeper at Monticello when Jefferson Levy owned the place and when Thomas Rhodes was superintendent.

The Gatehouse - Thomas Jefferson Foundation photo

One is a postcard from around 1910. It is written to Rhodes’ son Fred. The family lived at Monticello when the elder Rhodes was in charge of overseeing the repairs and restoration of Monticello from soon after Jefferson Levy bought out Uriah Levy’s other heirs in 1879 until several years after Levy sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation in 1923. The image on the card, “Monticello Lodge,” is of the old gate house where Eliza Coleman worked.

The other is a photograph below was taken around the same time. Monticello employees Robert Samson, William Page, and Benjamin Carr are standing with Thomas Rhodes the West Portico steps.

If you would like to see the images, I can send you the emailed version of this newsletter. To do so, please email me at marc527psc@aol.com


Events:  Here’s a rundown on the events I have scheduled this month:

  • Saturday, April 12, a talk on Francis Scott Key at the annual Luncheon Meeting of the Daughters of Colonial Wars in Washington, D.C.

  •  Sunday, April 13, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, I will be representing the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (and Monticello) at the annual wreath-laying ceremony at 11:00 a.m. at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

  • Tuesday April 15, a talk on Saving Monticello at the monthly meeting of the Southern Fauquier Historical Society in Bristersburg, Virginia. For info, go to www.fauquierhistorylive.org

  • Wednesday, April 16, a BBC radio interview (for later broadcast) for a documentary on the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the National Anthem, and its relationship with the American flag.    


I am now setting up talks and book signings for the my next book, What So Proudly We Hailed, the first full-length Francis Scott Key biography in more than seventy-five years. It will be published on June 24. You can get a preview at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event—or an event on any of my other books, including Saving MonticelloMarc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitte


               Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XI, Number 3                                                                                      March 1, 2014

POTUS at Monticello: There were at least three firsts at Monticello on Monday, February 10, when President Obama and French President François Hollande paid a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s house during Hollande’s official state visit to the United States.

The first first: No French president ever had visited the home of one of the nation’s earliest and most fervent Francophiles. As the Thomas Jefferson Foundation put it: “President Hollande was no doubt the most distinguished French visitor to the mountaintop since Jefferson welcomed his old comrade, the Marquis de Lafayette, in 1824.”
The second and third firsts: It was President Obama’s first visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture and the first time that a sitting U.S. President came to the mountain with the head of another nation.


After the tour with Foundation head Leslie Greene Bowman (above), President Obama—alluding to the crucial French support of the American Revolution (including the service of the Marquis de Lafayette) said that Monticello symbolized the “incredible history between the United States and France,” and the “incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States.”

Jefferson’s house also represented the “complicated history of the United States,” President Obama said, as well as the “complex relations” between Jefferson and the institution of slavery. For France and the United States, he said, Monticello is “a reminder that we’re going to continue to fight on behalf of the rights of all peoples.”

Edgar Bronfman, 1929-2014 : Edgar M. Bronfman, the philanthropic former chairman of the Seagram Company and one-time president of the World Jewish Congress, died December 21 of last year at age 84.

As I noted in Saving Monticello, Mr. Bronfman (below) played an important role in the June 7, 1985, ceremonies that were held at the newly refurbished gravesite of Rachel Levy along Monticello’s Mulberry Row—ceremonies that recognized the Levy family’s invaluable stewardship of Monticello.


Bronfman, who at the time owned a large estate not far from Monticello in Albemarle County, made the principal address during the ceremonies. In his remarks, he focused on Thomas Jefferson and Uriah Levy.

Monticello, Bronfman said, “was rescued from destruction by a Jewish-American naval officer whose own fiery independence led him through a highly successful but storm-tossed career in the service of his country.”

Natural Bridge Sold: As I mentioned in Saving Monticello, in 1774 Thomas Jefferson bought a beautiful and unique piece of property in the Shenandoah Valley from King George III of England: a 215-foot-tell limestone arch called Natural Bridge and the 157 acres surrounding it. Jefferson paid twenty shillings for Natural Bridge, believing he would make money from travelers who came there to see the spectacular natural rock bridge formation. Jefferson took the first step in that direction in 1803 by building a two-room log cabin on the site.

As with so many of his other business ventures, however, Jefferson’s Natural Bridge money-making plan foundered. Centuries later, however, other entrepreneurs did turn Natural Bridge into a profitable tourist attraction.



The latest news from Natural Bridge is very good. The site will become a Virginia state park under the terms of an innovative real estate transaction finalized early in February. Natural Bridge’s owner, Angelo Puglisi, donated the property to the newly established Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, which will run the state park. Puglisi received millions in conservation tax credits, along with $8.6 million for the 1,500 acres he owned near Natural Bridge. The entire property is estimated to be worth some $20 million.


“This is truly a historic day for a very special place,” Faye Cooper, executive director of the Valley Conservation Council, told the Roanoke Times newspaper. “Everyone acknowledges the historic value with Jefferson having owned it. But it has special significance as a rather large property with a great variety of conservation values—scenic ecological, underlying caverns, rare forest connections—ad the geological features are truly extraordinary to tell the history of the region.”

The Levy Lions at Cheekwood: In the last two SM newsletters we’ve chronicled the history detective work of Rebecca English of Charlottesville, who has been trying to track down the four “Levy lions” that once graced Monticello under Jefferson Levy’s stewardship.

Two of the lions are at the Cheekwood Museum in Nashville. SM newsletter reader Lorrie Mills kindly sent a close-up picture (below) that she took of one of the two ball-footted lions (with its tail missing) when she visited Cheekwood in 2010. For more on Rebecca English’s quest to find the four lions, including several other photos, go to: http://bit.ly/LevyLions



Events:  With the next book—What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life—completed, I am turning my attention to talks and other events. I have several in March. On Saturday, March 8, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette for the Old Dominion DAR Chapter in Alexandria, Virginia. On Monday, March 10, I’m speaking about Saving Monticello to a group of high school social studies teachers in Washington, D.C., who are in town with the nonprofit Close-Up Foundation.

On Thursday, March 13, I’ll also do a talk on Saving Monticello at the monthly meeting of the Mount Vernon DAR Chapter, also in Alexandria, Virginia. On Sunday, March 16, I’ll be in Richmond, Virginia, to speak about Lafayette at the annual meeting of the Descendants of Peter Francisco in the Old House Chamber of the Virginia House of Delegates at the Virginia State Capitol—the building that Thomas Jefferson designed.

On Wednesday, March 26, I’ll be back in Daleville, Virginia, to do a talk on Desperate Engagement at the Glebe Retirement Community. And on Friday, March 28, I’ll be taking part once again in the Reading Between the Wines fundraising event for the Loudoun Literacy Council at Sunset Hill Vineyards in Purcellville, Virginia. For info on that, go to www.loudounliteracy.org

I am now working on setting up talks and book signings for What So Proudly We Hailed, the first full-length Key biography in more than seventy-five years—which will be published on June 24. You can get a preview at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD

Please email me if you’d like to arrange a talk on any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XI, Number 2 February 1, 2014


The Levy Lions (con’t): Rebecca English of Charlottesville, inspired by reading Saving Monticello, has continued her research into the fate of the four “Levy Lions” that once adorned Monticello. A tenacious researcher, Rebecca recently discovered several additional images of the lions that I’d never seen. 

To recap: Jefferson Levy placed four marble lions on the grounds probably around the turn of the 20th century. Two of them—with their front paws holding a shield containing a stylized letter “L”—sat beside the steps leading up to the house from Mulberry Row. 


The other two lions, which stood on either side of the West Front entrance, didn’t have shields. The distinguishing feature was a ball under the left front paw. The photo above is a close-up of one of the latter pair. Those are the lions that made their way onto the image of Monticello that appeared on the back of the 1928 two-dollar bill.

As I reported in Saving Monticello, the two ball-footed lions left Charlottesville sometime after the Thomas Jefferson Foundation bought Monticello in 1923. They reside today in the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville.

Doing research at U-Va’s Alderman Library and at the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Historical Society library, Rebecca found out that a woman named Josephine Henderson bought those two lions from the Foundation probably in 1928 when all of Jefferson Levy’s Monticello furniture and furnishings were auctioned, and gave them to her sister who lived in Nashville.

“Hence,” Rebecca writes in her blog, Forsythia Hill Finds, it was “the future fate of two of the four lions to reside in Nashville. I’m concluding that this was the same Mrs. Mark (Josephine) Henderson who owned Michie Tavern and coordinated its move, board by board, from Earlysville [Virginia] to its present location down the road from Monticello.” 


It appears that Mrs. Henderson shipped the lions to Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. Rebecca English interviewed John Lamb, Belle Meade’s curator, who told her that the plantation’s owner subsequently donated the lions to Cheekwood Gardens. Lamb provided Rebecca with a color picture (above) taken in the 1940s of those lions at Belle Meade Plantation.

As I reported in the December SM newsletter, Rebecca had thought she found one of the ball-footed lions on Canterbury Road in Charlottesville. She took a picture of it, but realized it was a different statue after comparing it to photos taken of the lions in 1912 at Monticello. 


And what of the fate of the shielded lions? She’s still working on tracking them down. The photo at left shows one of them in 1912.The link for Rebecca’s blog is http://forsythiahill.blogspot.com

Also of interest: While reading through old microfilmed copies of the Charlottesville Daily Progress in Alderman Library Rebecca found an advertisement (below) that appeared in the November 16, 1928, issue. It was placed by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to announce the auction that would be held the next day to sell off furniture and furnishings that Jefferson Levy conveyed to the Foundation when he sold Monticello in 1923. I had not seen this piece of Monticello history before. The image that appears below is a shot Rebecca took of the ad on the microfilm screen.


GW Digital Encyclopedia:  Early last year the folks at Mount Vernon introduced the Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington, an on-line, interactive resource  containing entries that are linked to primary source materials and objects from Mount Vernon’s collection. 


The entries are written a group of historians, including yours truly. The editors asked me to contribute two entries, on Lafayette and George Washington and on Lafayette at Valley Forge.   

The link to the former is http://bit.ly/GWLaf and the latter is http://bit.ly/LafValleyForge

Appearances:  This week I will finish going over the galley proofs of my next book—the first full-length biography of Francis Scott Key in more than seventy-five years. It will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on June 24. The title is What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life. You can look at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD

I am working on setting up talks and book signings for the Key bio. Feel free to email me if you’d like to arrange one—or for a talk on any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on all of my upcoming events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Gift Ideas:  If you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Marc527psc@aol.com 




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson  Volume XI, Number 1                                                              January 1, 2014 

 Jefferson’s Books: Although Saving Monticello begins, in essence, on July 4, 1826, the day Thomas Jefferson died, I go back in the first chapter to 1809, when the nation’s third President finished his second term, left Washington, and came to Monticello to live out his days. There was a not-insignificant fly in the ointment, however: Jefferson’s debts—about $11,000—which dated back to before the American Revolution.

The Sage of Monticello planned on paying off those debts with his farming and business ventures back home in Virginia. He was wrong.

Jefferson’s debts only increased during the last seventeen years of his life. When he died on July 4, 1826, the debt his heirs inherited had soared to $107,000.

As I note in the book, Jefferson was so strapped for cash that in 1815, a year after the British burned the congressional library (and other government buildings) in Washington, during the War of 1812, Jefferson offered his entire library of more than 6,000 volumes (the largest collection in the young United States) to the nation.

After a spirited debate Congress (by a small majority) agreed to buy the Jefferson collection of 6,487 books for $23,950. Because of his generous (if self-preserving) offer to expand the library, Jefferson has been known as the father of the Library of Congress, which had started in 1800 and had consisted of some 3,000 volumes before the disastrous British burning.

I did a fair amount of research for Saving Monticello in the Library of Congress in 2000. In a happy coincidence, the LOC had just mounted an impressive exhibit on Jefferson, which included a replica of the library he sold to the nation in 1815. It filled twenty, twelve-foot high bookcases.



In the intervening fourteen years the rare book folks at the LOC have done a great deal of work trying to find copies of the books that Jefferson sold to the nation—books that were lost in another fire, this one accidentally set in 1851. In that conflagration two-thirds of the books that Jefferson had donated burned to ashes.

An excellent article by Anthony Brandt in last month’s Town and Country magazine gives a good recap of what’s gone into this effort. Jefferson’s amazing collection of books, Brandt wrote, “included the Greek and Roman classics, both in translation and in the original languages, which Jefferson read fluently.” It also included a good number of architectural books, as well as hundreds of political tracts and pamphlets (in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German), and books on winemaking, gardening, and American and world history.

“He owned a set of Diderot’s great Encyclopedie,” Brandt noted, “one of the most magnificent achievements of the Enlightenment, and, of course, the books of many other philosophes, many of whom Jefferson knew personally from the five years he spent in Paris as the U.S. minister to the French court.”

Brandt writes that the exhibit of Jefferson’s books is the LOC’s most popular attraction, drawing more than a million visitors a year. Today, it contains more many more volumes (more than 6,000) than it did in 2000. “Jefferson’s original library,” Brandt noted, “has been almost completely reconstituted—not the burned books themselves, obviously, but duplicates, the same editions, published by the same publishers in the same years, in the same cities. The story of how this was done stands as the greatest feat of bookmanship in our time.”


He goes on to describe the work of the LOC rare book specialists who have been responsible for the “bookmanship”: curator Dan DeSimone; Mark Dimunation, who heads the Rare Book and Special Collections division; and E. Millicent Sowerby, who started the work of cataloging Jefferson’s books in 1942. The work has been funded in recent years by large private donations, including a significant amount from Gene Jones and her husband Jerry Jones, the controversial owner of the Dallas Cowboys.


You can read the entire article on line at http://bit.ly/JeffBooks


More on the Levy Lions: Last month I took note of Rebecca English and her recent quest—spurred on by reading Saving Monticello—to discover what happened to the two sets of “Levy Lions” that adorned the grounds of Monticello during Jefferson Levy’s stewardship (1879-1923). In doing her research Rebecca found several great photos I had never seen of the lions at the Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs Division page on line.

The photo above is my favorite of the lot, a pic of the two lions with shields with the cursive letter “L,” which stood on  beside the steps leading up to the house from Mulberry Row. I especially love the hand-lettered sign on the tree, which says: “Visitors Allowed in the Grounds Twenty Minutes. Do Not Pull or Break the Shrubbery. No Lunching on the Grounds.”

For more on Rebecca English’s quest to find the four lions, including several other photos, go to: http://forsythiahill.blogspot.com

FSK:  We are almost at the bound-galley stage with of my next book, a biography of Francis Scott Key—the first full-length Key bio in more than seventy-five years—which will be published on June 24. The title is What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life. You can get a preview at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD


I am now working on setting up talks and book signings for the Key bio. Please email me if you’d like to arrange one—or for a talk on any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on my speaking events for 2014, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 12                                                             December 1, 2013


The Levy Lions: As I point out in Saving Monticello, historic preservationists are indebted to the Levy family not just for repairing, restoring, and preserving Jefferson’s house and property, but also for not adding onto or doing any kind of remodeling of  the house.

One of the few things that Jefferson Levy (who owned Monticello from 1879 until he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923) did to alter the appearance of the place was to put two large white marble lions with the letter “L” carved on their chests on the brick retaining walls beside the steps leading up to the house from Mulberry Row.

Levy also had a second pair of large lions—without the “L”—installed on either side of the West Front entrance (see photo above). He also displayed three marble statues of Venus, Apollo, and Jupiter on the lawn. 

All four Levy lions were auctioned off by the Foundation—along with all of the furniture and furnishings that Levy had conveyed with the property—on November 17, 1928. Coincidentally, that year the U.S. Treasury Department came up with a new design for the two-dollar bill. The front featured a portrait of Thomas Jefferson. The design on the back (below) centered around an engraving of Monticello by J.C. Benzing, in which the Levy lions may be seen sitting on either side of the West portico steps. 



The newly designed two-dollar bills were printed and distributed for the first time in 1929. On July 12, 1929, Gene Oglivie, the manager of the University Branch of the Charlottesville's People's National Bank, made the front page of the Charlottesville Daily Progress, with the news that he was the first person to discover what the article called a “defect, or at least a discrepancy in the recently introduced two-dollar bill.” Oglivie, the newspaper said, pointed out that the Levy lions “were not on the grounds at Monticello [in 1929]. Nor were they there during the regime of Jefferson.”

The Treasury Department denied that the bill contained any sort of defect or error. The Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington announced July 17 that the engraving was intended to represent Monticello as it appeared in the early 20th century, not in Jefferson’s time. The design, a Treasury official said, was copied from a photograph of Monticello taken before the bill’s design was started—in other words, before the Foundation auctioned off the Levy lions in 1928.
The two-dollar bill was modified slightly in 1953 and 1963, but the Levy lions remained on the back. In 1976, the back of the bill was completely redesigned. A scene depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence replaced Monticello.
As for the actual Levy lions, one of the ones without the letter “L” sits in front of a private house on Canterbury Road in Charlottesville. The whereabouts of its matched pair is unknown. The large lions adorned with the letter “L” were acquired by the family of Mrs. Meredith Caldwell and donated to the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville where they are on display today.
Thanks to the Forsythia Hill Blog, which included the photo of the Canterbury Road lion, inspired to do by Saving Monticello. As the blog’s creatore posted recently:
“I was fascinated to read in the book that one of the lions was still in Charlottesville on Canterbury Road (which just happens to be my favorite neighborhood in C’ville) so I decided to take a drive to see if it was visible. I was so surprised to find the Levy Lion!
“This fascinating book reveals that without the Levy family there might have not been a home standing at Monticello for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to preserve. This estate, which has so much meaning to so many, could have been lost forever.”
To read the entire post go to: http://bit.ly/ForsythiaHill
The Nickel: Speaking of Monticello and money, there’s a succinct article on the evolution of the Jefferson nickel in the current on-line issue of “Coin Week.” by Charles Morgan. The U.S. Mint, Morgan writes, “frustrated by wear and die issues related the Indian Head nickel, wasted no time replacing the design once the statutory 25 year production period came to a close” in 1938.

The winning design, featuring President Thomas Jefferson on one side the image of Monticello on the other, was chosen after a national competition. Many coin experts, Morgan notes, “were not impressed… One point of contention was the head-on architectural motif (Monticello) that served as the reverse design. Some felt that architectural motifs were beneath the dignity of our national coinage.”

Still, Morgan points out, “Monticello remains on the reverse after all these years, and many other buildings and monuments have adorned American coinage since.”


Appearances:  I have just finished going over the copy edits for next book, a biography of Francis Scott Key—the first full-length Key bio in more than seventy-five years—which will be published on June 24, 2014. The title is What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life. You can look at the book’s pre-pub Amazon page at http://amzn.to/1imbiKD

I am now working on setting up talks and book signings for the Key bio. Feel free to email me if you’d like to arrange one—or for a talk on any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

As for this month, On Friday, December 6, I’ll be taking part in the Friends and Family Open House event from 2:00 p.m to 7:00 at the Library of Virginia Shop in the Library of Virginia in Richmond. I’ll be among a group of other Virginia authors signing our books. In my case, it’ll be Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Desperate Engagement, and Flag. The Virginia Shop is located on the ground floor of the Library of Virginia at 800 East Broad Street, downtown Richmond. For info, call 804-692-3524.

On Saturday, December 7, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette at the monthly meeting of the Freedom Hill DAR Chapter in McLean, Virginia. The following Saturday, December 14, I’ll do the talk for the Providence DAR Chapter in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

On Monday, December 16, I’ll be speaking on Lafayette at the Winchester Book Gallery bookstore in Winchester, Virginia at 6:00 p.m. and signing books till 8:00. For more info, call, 540-667-3144.

For more details on all of my upcoming events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Volume X, Number 11                                                             November 1, 2013


Publick Thanksgivin: As I point out in Saving Monticello, Jefferson Levy, who owned Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture from 1879-1923, did not live there full time. The New York City resident did, however, spent good amounts of time at Monticello, including many summer weekends; he also made it a point to be there on the Fourth of July. Levy also often celebrated Thanksgiving on the mountain outside Charlottesville.

Thomas Jefferson, it turns out, had a hand in the evolution of the official Thanksgiving holiday. It happened in 1779 when the 36-year-old Jefferson was serving his first of two years as Virginia’s governor during the American Revolution.

Jefferson followed the direction of the Continental Congress, which notified all the state governors that it would be a good idea to set aside a day of public thanksgiving that fall. Jefferson forwarded the directive to the Virginia House of Delegates, which came up with an official proclamation. Jefferson signed it on November 11, 1779. The proclamation called for a day of “Thanksgiving and Prayer” on December 9, 1779.

Ten years later, in 1789, the first Congress of the United States passed a resolution asking that the President proclaim a national day of thanksgiving. President George Washington responded by issuing a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” After that, Washington’s successors issued their own Thanksgiving Proclamations.

During Jefferson’s eight years as the nation’s President (from 1802-09), however, he wasn’t exactly a fan of the Thanksgiving proclamation. His main objection was tying Thanksgiving with prayer. Responding to a request in 1808 from Reverend Samuel Miller, a Presbyterian minister, that the government set aside a national day of fasting and prayer, Jefferson wrote a long letter in which he strongly argued for the separation of church and state and strongly defended states’ rights.
The Constitution, Jefferson said prohibited “intermeddling” of the government and “religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”  This comes from, he said, “not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S.”

No “power to prescribe any religious exercise” or “to assume authority in religious discipline,” Jefferson said, “has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority.”

He went on to say that he did not believe that it was “for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them.”

Fasting and prayer, he said, “are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline.” Jefferson concluded with these words: “Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it.”
You can read the letter in its entirety at http://bit.ly/Churchstate

By the way, the nation didn’t begin commemorating Thanksgiving regularly on the last Thursday of November until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln’s T’giving Proclamation that dark Civil War year called for the holiday to be celerbated that day.

One Beautiful House: Jon Meacham, the historian and author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (among other books), has an article in the current issue of House Beautiful magazine called “The Jefferson Ideal: A Closer Look at Life at Monticello.” Written with the help of Susan Stein, Monticello’s long-time head curator (who also helped me immeasurably with Saving Monticello), the article—like Meacham’s book—has only good things to say about Thomas Jefferson and his Essay in Architecture.

President and philosopher, patriot and intellectual, aesthete and architect, Thomas Jefferson is the Founder who charms us most,” Meacham enthuses. “His mind was always in motion, his curiosity always roaming.”

The goes on to look at Monticello, where Jefferson “most fully modeled the art of living to his countrymen in the new nation…. He and his Monticello were a little like the sun itself: at the center of the universe.”

Meachum gives us a room-by-room rundown on Monticello’s furniture and furnishings and what life was like when Jefferson lived there.“He believed in dining well,” Meachum says. “He had cooks trained in the arts of French cuisine after 1784 and thought of wine as ‘a necessary of life.’”

You can read the illustrated article on line at  http://bit.ly/1dzcp3W

Thanks to two SM Newsletter subscribers—David Nachman, Levy descendant; and my cousin-in-law Ellen Tamaroff—for letting me know about the article


Appearances:  I’m all but finished with my next book, a biography of Francis Scott Key—the first full-length Key bio in more than seventy-five years—which will be published on June 24, 2014. I am now working on setting up talks and book signings for the Key bio. Feel free to email me if you’d like to arrange one—or for any of my other books, including Saving Monticello. Marc527psc@aol.com

I have two events in November. On Thursday, November 7, I will be the guest speaker at the Veterans Day Program held at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. I’ll be doing a talk on the fighting that took place on July 11 and 12, 1864, outside Washington, when Confederate Gen. Jubal Early attacked the nation’s capital. It’s the subject of my book, Desperate Engagement. GPO employees picked up weapons and helped defend Washington during the fighting.


On Saturday, November 23, I will be going back to Gray Ghost Vineyards & Winery in Amissville,Virginia, to be part of their 11th Civil War Author’s Day. I’ll be signing copies of all of my books from 11-5:00 p.m., and doing a short talk on Desperate Engagement at 2:30. I’ll be drinking wine, too. Gray Ghost’s address is 14706 Lee Highway, Amissville 20106. That’s Route 211, south of Warrenton, Va. For info, call 540-937-4869 or go to http://www.grayghostvineyards.com/

For more details on all of my upcoming events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 10
                                                                                            October 1, 2013



Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge: One of highlights of researching Saving Monticello was poring over the treasure trove of Jefferson family letters at Alderman Library at the University of Virginia. One of the best things about that the collection of family letters is the fact that one of Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughters, Ellen Wayles Randolph, married Joseph Coolidge, Jr. of Massachusetts in May of 1825, and the young couple then set up housekeeping in Boston.




Since well-educated women of the day such as Ellen wrote lots of letters, that meant a steady stream of correspondence between Ellen—whom the family called Eleanora—and her mother, grandfather, and siblings who had been living at Monticello since 1809. A good number covered the years I was interested, from the time of Thomas Jefferson’s death in 1826 to the sale of Monticello to Uriah Levy in 1834.

I quoted liberally from those letters in the book Here’s one example, a line from a letter from 22-year-old Mary Jefferson Randolph wrote to her older sister late in 1826, describing the family’s eminent move from Monticello: “You may suppose how unwilling we are to leave our home in a few weeks, perhaps never to return to it and how much we… prefer lingering here till the last moment.”

And this, from a January 1827 letter from Mary to Ellen describing what happened at the auction of Monticello’s furniture and furnishings: “During five days that the sale lasted, you may imagine what must have been the state of our feelings, such a scene playing out actually within sight [and with people] bringing us fresh details of everything that was going on….” It is better, Mary said, “to submit to any personal inconveniences, however numerous and annoying they may be, than to live in a state of society where such things as trade are of daily occurrence…”

Joseph Coolidge, Jr., a prosperous businessman, traveled extensively. Ellen met him in London in 1838 and stayed there for nine months. The full text of her journal from that stay recently was published for the first time in a University of Virginia Press book, Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Victorian England, edited by Ann Lucas Birle of the International Center for Jefferson Studies and Lisa A. Francavilla, the Managing Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Retirement Series.  
The journal offers Ellen’s perceptive thoughts on the early days of Queen Victoria’s reign, about world-class art she saw in public and private collections, and conversations she had with luminaries such as Thomas Carlyle.

The GW Library : I was invited to attend the Grand Opening Ceremony on Friday, September 27, for the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon—officially, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

It was quite an event. I’d say about 400-500 people were there for the outdoor ceremony, which began at 11:00. The U.S. Army Band played patriotic airs, then the Army’s Fife and Drum Corps took to the stage in colonial garb and played more music. The Army’s Continental Color Guard presented the colors, then came the Pledge of Allegiance led by a group of local elementary school children and the Star-Spangled Banner beautifully sung by the Army Band’s soloist, Sergeant First Class Leigh Ann Hinton.


Sometimes at these types of events the speakers tend to go on too long. Not this day. No one did, and most had insightful things to day. The august list included the new President of Mount Vernon, Curtis Viebranz; Virginia’s two Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; Ann Bookout, who heads the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (which owns and operates Mount Vernon); Fred W. Smith, the major donor to the library; Douglas Bradburn, the just-appointed Library Director; and David McCullough, the eminent historian. McCullough gave a terrific Keynote speech in which he focused on what George Washington read and how it had an impact on the momentous occasions in his life—of which there were more than a few.


Appearances:  Later this week I will be sending the final edited version of my biography of Francis Scott Key to my editor at Palgrave in New York. The book—the first full-length Key bio in more than seventy-five years—will be published next July 1.

I’ve now scheduling events for that book (starting next June) as well as my other books. I have two events this month. On Saturday, October 12, I’ll be the guest speaker at the annual Yorktown Luncheon at the Ft. McNair Officers Club in Washington, D.C., for the D.C. American Revolution Roundtable. I’ll be speaking on the Marquis de Lafayette and his important role in the Revolution.  

The following day, Sunday, October 13, I’ll be signing copies of Lafayette, Desperate Engagement, Flag, and Saving Monticello at Common Grounds, a great coffee shop in Middleburg, Virginia, where I live. The address is 114 W. Washington Street. I’ll be there from 1:00 to 3:00. Second Chapter Books, our local bookstore, will be doing the vending. For info, call 540-687-7065. The website is www.middleburgcommongrounds.com


For more details on all of my upcoming events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is 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. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter





Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 9           September 1, 2013


Mordecai Noah: Uriah Phillips Levy, one of the two main characters in Saving Monticello, wasn’t the only direct descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez (who fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1733 and became one of the founders of Savannah, Georgia) to make a name for himself in the first half of the 19th century. One of Levy’s cousins, Mordecai Manuel Noah—the son of Zepporah Phillips, one of UPL’s grandfather Jonas Phillips’s daughters—was one of the era’s best-known figures. Noah wore many hats: diplomat, author, playwright, journalist, and patriot. He also was an outspoken, prominent Jewish lay leader in New York, and one of the best known Jewish-Americans in the Early Republic.


Mordecai Noah was born in Philadelphia, on July 19, 1785, seven years before his cousin Uriah Levy came into this world in the City of Brotherly Love. His mother died when Noah was a small child and he was raised by his grandfather Jonas Phillips, who also had a strong influence on his grandson Uriah Levy. Phillips, as I note in Saving Monticello, was a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America in 1756, became a naturalized citizen in 1771, and in 1778 joined the Philadelphia Militia to fight against the British.

He inculcated love of country among his many grandchildren, including Mordecai Noah and Uriah Levy.

Mordecai Noah came under his grandfather’s patriotic spell. Noah didn’t join the Navy at age 20 as his cousin did, however. Instead, Noah moved to Charleston, where he studied the law and got into politics. He wrote a series of patriotic newspaper articles in which he strongly supported the Madison Administration and the War of 1812. That led to an appointment to become U.S. Consul in Tunis in 1813.

Noah then moved to New York City, where he remained active in journalism writing for The National Advocate, which was published by his uncle, Naphtali Phillips, later becoming its editor. He also wrote several books, including a one detailing his travels in Europe and service as U.S. Counsel in what were known then as the Barbary States.

In 1818, Mordecai Noah gave a speech at Shearith Israel in New York that centered on the long history of Jewish persecution. A copy of that speech made its way to Monticello.



Thomas Jefferson wrote to Noah on May 28, 1818, saying he had read the speech “with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from it some valuable facts about Jewish history which I did not know before.

“Your sect by its sufferings has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance, inherent in every sect, disclaimed by all while feeble, and practised by all when in power. Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our religious as they do our civil rights by putting all on an equal footing, but more remains to be done.”

Mordecai Noah later gained fame for working to have the State of New York set aside a parcel of land on Grand Island on the Niagara River as a Jewish homeland. That never came to pass, but Noah, working with a group of Masons and Christian Zionists, raised enough money to buy a good deal of the island in 1825. He tried to start a Jewish colony there called Ararat, but it never came to fruition. He later came to believe that the best place for a Jewish homeland was Palestine, and lectured and wrote widely on that topic. He died in 1851.

Appearances:  As I near the completion of my biography of Francis Scott Key—which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan next July 1—I have begun scheduling speaking events.This month, I’ll be doing at talk on my book Flag: An American Biography on Saturday, September 14, for the For Harrison SAR in Harrisonburg, Virginia. And o Saturday, September 21, I’ll be signing copies of Saving Monticello and Lafayette at the Museum Shop at Monticello from around noon to 5:00. If you’re in the Charlottesville area, come on by—you don’t need to get a ticket to tour the house to visit the shop.




Events: I am now available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement. I’ll be speaking about Francis Scott Key after July 1, 2014.

For more details on all of my upcoming events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter















Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 8                                                 August 1, 2013


The Levy Opera House: The plaque attached to the front of the formidable, neo-classical three-story brick building at the corner of High and Park Streets on Court Square in downtown Charlottesville says, “Town Hall/Levy Opera House.” The Levy in question is Jefferson Levy, the eccentric real estate and stock speculator who owned Monticello from 1879 to 1923 when he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs it today.



As I note in Saving Monticello, Jefferson Levy made his living buying and selling properties, mainly in New York City where he lived, and in Charlottesville, where he had his “summer house,” Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

The Town Hall was the first significant property Jefferson Levy bought in Charlottesville. He took title to the building known in 1887, eight years after buying out his uncle Uriah Levy’s heirs and taking ownership of Monticello. Town Hall was built in 1853, and used as a gathering place for local groups, traveling speakers, and touring theatrical companies. During the Civil War, like many other buildings in Virginia, it served as a hospital for wounded soldiers. By the mid-1880s 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 became the center of culture in C-ville. It hosted the first symphony orchestra that played in the city, the Boston Symphony, which came to town in 1891. That year Jefferson Levy leased the Opera House to 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, facing competition from movie houses, Levy leased the building to the Jefferson School for Boys, a small boarding and day prep school. The lease stipulated that if any theatrical performances were given, it “shall be advertised as the Levy Opera House,” and that Jefferson Levy retained the right to his box. The school moved out in 1912. Two years later Levy sold the building, and it was subdivided into apartments. It was remodeled into office space, its current use, in 1981.

Rumor has it that University of Virginia students started the now institutionalized chant “Wah-Hoo-Wah” at the Opera House. Although the official nickname of the school’s sports teams is the Cavaliers, the unofficial nickname is Wahoos, or Hoos for short. Here’s a possible explanation from thesaber.com, a website devoted to U-Va. sports:

“Legend attributes the yell to Natalie Floyd Otey, who sang the ballad ‘Where ‘er You Are, There Shall My Love Be’ at Charlottesville's Levy Opera House in 1893. The predominantly student audience noticed that Otey warbled the first three words of the song between each of the stanzas and decided to join in the refrain. By evening’s end, goes the legend, the crowd had corrupted ‘Where' er You Are’ into ‘Wah-Hoo-Wah.’”
For more, go to www.thesabre.com/traditions





JULY 4th: The 51st Monticello Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization took place at Monticello on July 4. The featured speaker at this year’s rendition of the oldest continuous U.S. naturalization ceremony outside of a courtroom was long-time Charlottesville resident Dave Matthews, the leader of the popular rock band. Matthews was born in South Africa, came to this country in 1969, grew up in Charlottesville, and  became a naturalized American citizen in 1980.

Seventy-nine people from thirty-six countries become U.S. citizens at this year’s sold-out event. “We are a nation of immigrants,” Matthews told the crowd. “Our future history belongs to you as much as to anyone. This is the America of jazz and the blues and rock ‘n’ roll and the Civil Rrights Movement and putting a man on the moon and of the atomic bomb. This is the America of a complicated history.”

     Thomas Jefferson Foundation President Leslie Greene Bowman & Dave Matthews

Appearances:  I am taking the month of August off as far as events are concerned. I’m wrapping up my biography of Francis Scott Key, who—by the way—was born on this day, August 1, 1779, at his family plantation, Terra Rubra, in what is now Carroll County, Maryland.

I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting in September. I’ll be speaking about Francis Scott Key after July 1, 2014.

For more details on my 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com  

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 7                                                                    July 1, 2013


Founders On Line: The University of Virginia Press, the publisher of the paperback edition (now it its fifth printing) of Saving Monticello, last month launched an exciting new website, Founders Online (http://bit.ly/FoundersDocs). It’s exciting, that is, if you get excited (as I do) about being able to read more some 120,000 original documents from six of the nation’s founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Franklin) online. The site has made nearly 120,000 documents freely accessible to the public. 

Two years in the making, this digital project, which was developed by the U-Va. Press’s electronic imprint called Rotunda, was launched June 13 at ceremonies held at the National Archives in Washington. Working with a National Archives grant, the Rotunda folks have transcribed and digitizing all of the correspondence and other documents in the 242 published volumes of the six Founders. In the next three years an additional 55,000 unpublished and in-process documents will be posted on the extremely reader-friendly site, which is searchable by word or phrase.

The project represents the latest high-tech development in a scholarly effort that began in 1950 with the publication of the first volume of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson by Princeton University Press.

 “Students and researchers will be able to view transcribed, unpublished letters as they are being researched and annotated by the documentary project editors and staff,” the Press said in a press release. “Together, some 175,000 documents are projected to be on the Founders Online site.”

Former U-Va. Press director Penny Kaiserlian, who acquired the paperback rights to Saving Monticello, and the Press’s current interim director Mark Saunders, who has headed the marketing of the book since it was published in 2003, were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.
 
When I first learned of the site soon after it launched, I immediately went there. Naturally, my first search was for “Francis Scott Key.” I was delighted to find a letter that Key wrote to James Madison in February of 1807. The young Washington lawyer was about to argue his first case in the U.S. Supreme Court, representing a man named Samuel Swartwout who was charged with treason.


The Jefferson Administration prosecuted Swartwout and Justus Erich Bollman for being part of an alleged conspiracy led by Aaron Burr. Jefferson’s rival supposedly had hatched his conspiracy in 1805 and 1806 as he traveled extensively throughout the Ohio Valley. Rumors circulated that Burr was lobbying the western states to secede from the Union and create a new empire. There also was speculation that the mercurial Burr was recruiting men to form an army to attack Mexico or even to make war on the United States. None of the schemes came close to fruition.

Bollman, who was a medical doctor, and Swartout, a close associate of Burr, were arrested after delivering coded, allegedly treasonous, messages for Burr. In his letter to Secretary of State Madison, Key and his co-counsel William H. Dorsey pleaded with the future president to use his influence to allow them to interview their client, who was being held prison under a military guard in the Marine Barracks in Washington.
Here’s the gist of the lette:

“We have applied to the Commandant & have been refused admittance to consult with him as his Counsel,” Key wrote. “We then sollicited the Secretary at War to grant us an order for an interview, who informed us that he had nothing to do with it & would give us no further answer.
“We now Sir most respectfully present to you a similar request & beg that we may receive permission as Counsel for the accused to communicate with him upon a subject highly important to his interest which will be agitated in Court tomorrow, and if not convenient (however we may wish it) to afford us an answer this evening we will do ourselves the honor of calling on you at 10 O’Clock tomorrow upon our way to Court.
If Sir, this application to you should be considered as irregular we pray you to receive it as addressed through you to His Excellency the President of the United States.

You can read the entire letter at http://bit.ly/FSKLetter


Appearances:  I have only one event July as I near completion of my next book, a biography of Francis Scott Key, which will be published a year from today, on July 1, 2014. On Saturday, July 6, I’ll be on an authors’ panel at the Second Annual Hunt Country Writers’ Retreat, which will be held at the Parish Hall on Washington Street in MiddleburgVirginia, where I live. My friends Jan Neuharth and Genie Ford are putting on the two-day conference. For info, email info@huntcountrysuspense.com


I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving MonticelloLafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting September 1. And, I’ll be speaking about Francis Scott Key after July 1,  2014.

For more details on these and my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

             

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 6                                                                    June 1, 2013


Natural Bridge for Sale: As I noted in Saving Monticello, Thomas Jefferson once owned Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Jefferson had bought that scenic property and 157 surrounding acres in 1774 from King George III for a grand total of twenty shillings. His plan was to earn money from travelers who came there to see the spectacular natural rock bridge formation. Jefferson took the first step in that direction in 1803 by building a two-room log cabin on the site.

But, as was the case with nearly all of Thomas Jefferson’s business ventures, the Natural Bridge enterprise never went anywhere and Jefferson was forced to sell it to try to pay off his debts.


Natural Bridge just went up for sale again, according to an article in The Roanoke Times. The property now consists of 1,600 acres, which includes Natural Bridge Caverns and a 150-room hotel. Its primary owner, Washington, D.C., real estate developer Angelo Puglisi, will be selling off parcels of the property, but says he wants the 500-million-year-old, 215-foot-high bridge itself to become a national or state park.

Officials in Rockbridge County—which is named after the bridge—are working with Puglisi to try to keep the bridge open to the public. “We are hoping that the bridge, at the very least, is preserved for the public,” County Administrator Spencer Suter said. “This is our county’s namesake. It is integral to our tourism and our economy, so we will work with [Puglisi] to achieve the best possible outcome.”

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

No Strings Attached: In April, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, received one of its largest gifts since buying Monticello from Jefferson Levy in 1923: $10 million from David M. Rubenstein, the noted philanthropist who is the co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, the massive Washington, D.C., asset management company that is best known for its leveraged buyouts.
Unlike many large bequests to historic sites such as Monticello, this one was unrestricted—that is, Rubenstein (in the right in the photo with the historian Jon Meacham) told the Foundation they could use it as they saw fit.
David Rubenstein, right, with the historian Jon Meacham
The Foundation announced that it will use the money to do three things: to help restore the all-but-bare upper floors of the house; to upgrade the house’s aging electrical and climate-control systems in the house; and to reconstruct Mulberry Row, the plantation community in which Monticello’s slaves and workers lived. Mulberry Row is also where Uriah Levy’s mother Rachel Levy is buried. The gravesite, which was refurbished in 1984, contains a plaque acknowledging the Levy family’s stewardship of Monticello from 1834-1923.
“We are deeply grateful to David Rubenstein for this magnanimous and transformative gift,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, the President and CEO of the Foundation. “This will catapult our aspiration to show Monticello and the mountaintop as Jefferson knew it, revealing a more complete story of Jefferson and his plantation.”
The plan is to rebuild a house on Mulberry Row, one that Jefferson described as being one of the “servants’ houses of wood, with wooden chimneys and earth floors.”

“By bringing back the place, we bring back the people, and we’re able to put a face on slavery,” said Monticello’s Senior Curator Susan Stein. Bowman added that the cabin will mark “a huge step forward that we’re including [slavery] as an essential part of Monticello’s history. Jefferson did not live here in a vacuum.”

Fascinating Frank Key Facts: I’m coming down the home stretch on my current book, a biography of Francis Scott Key. The manuscript is due this summer. The pub date is July 1, 2014, the 200th anniversary year of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Few people know much more about Frank Key Frank than the fact that he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But, as my bio will show, Key lived a full, eventful, rich life. He was a big D.C. lawyer and a very pious family man. Frank and his wife Polly (Lloyd) had eleven children, five girls and six boys. Sadly, three of the boys died during their parents’ lifetimes.
The most tragic was the death of eight-year-old Edward Lloyd Key in 1822. The boy was playing in the sloping backyard of the Key home on Bridge Street (now M Street) in Georgetown and drowned in the Potomac River.
Daniel Murray Key became Frank and Polly’s second son to die an early, tragic death. On June 22, 1836, two weeks after his 22nd birthday, Daniel Key, a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, was killed in a duel with another Midshipman.
A year later, on May 21, 1837, John Ross Key, a lawyer who worked with his father, died at age 29, as one newspaper put it, “after a painful illness of a few days.” His wife, the former Virginia Ringgold, was pregnant at the time. Their son, John Ross Key, Jr., went to live with his grandparents in their big house on Capitol Hill.
John Ross Key, Jr. went on to become a painter of some renown in Washington. In 1908, he did a romanticized oil painting of the house that the Keys owned in Georgetown on M Street (left). It now hangs in a hallway outside Diplomatic Reception Rooms in the U.S. State Department.

Appearances:  I have only two events in June as I continue full-time writing on the FSK biography. On Friday, June 7, I’ll be doing a talk for family reunion group at an Italian restaurant in Baltimore. My topic will be researching the life of Frank Key.

On Saturday, June 22, I’ll be signing copies of Flag and Lafayette from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on the second floor outside the Museum Shop near the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit. This will be the fifth time for me doing a signing at American History since Flag was published in 2005.

I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting September 1. If you’d like to arrange a talk, feel free to email me at marc527psc@aol.com

For more details on these and my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


 Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 5                                                                    May 1, 2013



Madison, Lafayette, and Monticello: While doing research on the presidential election of 1828 for my upcoming biography of Francis Scott Key, I happened upon a letter in the Library of Congress that retired President James Madison (below) wrote on February 20 of that year. Madison was writing from Montpelier, his lavish plantation in Virginia not far from Monticello, to his and Jefferson’s mutual friend, the Marquis de Lafayette in France.

In the letter—which I had not seen when I did the research for Saving Monticello or my concise biography of Lafayette—Madison fills the French hero of the American Revolution in on “Monticello affairs” in an important time in the house’s history. As readers of SM well know, when Jefferson died two years earlier—on July 4, 1826—he was more than $107,000 in debt, a tremendous sum in 2013, and a small fortune in the 1820s. In 1828, the executors of his estate—Jefferson’s daughter Martha and her oldest son (and Thomas Jefferson’s favorite grandson) Thomas Jefferson Randolph—were struggling with the ramifications of the enormous financial burden they inherited.

The land rich and cash poor Randolphs had auctioned off Monticello’s furniture and furnishings the year before, but still faced a massive debt. In the February 20, 1828, letter Madison fills Lafayette in on what the family—specifically Jeff Randolph—was doing to try to pay off the huge debt.

“I wish I could give you fuller & better accounts of the Monticello affairs,” Madison began. Then he told Lafayette what he knew. Madison lamented the fact that no other state legislature (including Virginia’s) had joined South Carolina and Louisiana in giving $10,000 (each) to the hapless Randolphs in memory of Jefferson. A proposed lottery in Virginia—in which the winner would have received Monticello following Jefferson’s death—Madison reported correctly, “has entirely failed.”

Madison then tells Lafayette that Jefferson’s furniture and furnishings did not bring in enough money to put a dent in the debt. “The property sold, consisting of all the Items except the lands & a few pictures & other ornaments, was fortunate in the prices obtained,” he wrote. “I know not the exact amount. But a balance of debt remains, which I fear, in the sunken value and present unsalableness of landed property, will require for its discharge a more successful use of the manuscripts proper for the Press than is likely to be soon effected.”

That was an allusion to Jeff Randolph’s plan to publish Jefferson letters in the hope that big book sales would bring in much-needed cash. He had inherited his grandfather’s collection of some 40,000 letters, which included copies of every letter Thomas Jefferson wrote—copies he made as he wrote with a device called a polygraph, which held two sheets of paper and two connected pens.
the 1827 sale of

 “Considerable progress,” on that, Madison wrote, “is made, I understand, in selecting (a very delicate task) and transcribing (a tedious one) the materials for the Edition…. I have apprized Mr. Randolph of your friendly dispositions with respect to a French Edition &c, for which he is very thankful, and means to profit by.”

Madison ended the letter with an upbeat assessment of the prospects of raising enough money from that endeavor. “We can only flatter ourselves that the result will be earlier, than the promise, and prove adequate to the occasion,” he told Lafayette. “If the difficulties in the way of the enlarged plan of publication can be overcome, and the work have a sale corresponding with its intrinsic merits, it cannot fail to be very productive.”

In 1829 Jeff Randolph edited and published four volumes of his grandfather’s papers. Jeff Randolph fully realized the historical importance of the publication of the book he titled Memoirs Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Late President of the United States. He also had hoped that the publication would bring in cash, but he realized almost no profit from it.

Flash forward nearly twenty years: In 1848 Thomas Jefferson Randolph sold Thomas Jefferson’s public papers to the Library of Congress for $20,000. Those funds went toward paying off the estate’s debt, which was not completely settled until 1878, three years after Jeff Randolph’s death.

You can read the entire 1828 letter from Madison to Lafayette on line at the Library of Congress’s James Madison Collection site: http://bit.ly/MadisonLetter


Unsolicited Kudo: Here’s the entire short review that a reader called Zephyrs from Pittsburgh posted March 19 on the Saving Monticello page on Amazon.com under the headline “Wonderful Book.”

“After visiting Monticello, this book describes in exciting detail a very significant aspect of the history of this historic site that is, unfortunately, not very well known or even publicized. It is must reading for anyone who has visited this historic site or interested in
American history. Great book!!!!” Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/18lr8e7

Thank you very much, Mr. or Ms. Zephyrs.

Fascinating Frank Key Facts: I’m still writing morning, noon, and night on my biography of Francis Scott Key, which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on July 4, 2014, the 200th anniversary year of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Here is this month’s little-known Frank Key set of facts: Key defended Sam Houston in 1832 after the soon-to-be hero of the Texas Republic had savagely beaten an Ohio Congressman on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., because he had accused Houston of fraud in a House floor speech.

Key, a big D.C. lawyer, was—like Houston—a devoted supporter of Andrew Jackson. And it’s likely that Key took the thankless job of representing Houston in his trial in the U.S. House out of loyalty to Old Hickory.

The trail dragged on for a month and was the talk of Washington. The apogee (or maybe the nadir) was a two-plus-hour speech Key made on April 26 in which he wound up citing English law, English court decisions, English Parliamentary precedents, the Maryland Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the U.S. Constitution, and previous Senate and House contempt proceedings to try to make a case for his obviously guilt client. Key ended his peroration with a paean to Houston’s patriotic selflessness during the War of 1812 when he was severely wounded.
           
Sam Houston, he said, “in the ardor of youth and devotion to patriotism, heard the call of his country in the day of her danger, and took his humble, but honorable stand in the lowest rank of her defenders.” He “rose to distinction among the honored and the brave,” Key said. Yet, Houston received no financial reward for his military service. He took home “no other spoils than the scars of honest wounds, and the sword which his valor had won.”

All Sam Houston had, Key said in conclusion, was his good name—his “only earthly treasure.”  The House, he said, will “therefore pardon me if I have been unnecessarily solicitous to guard from the breath of its censure a name that has been thus earned, and is thus valued.” 

The House was not convinced. The body convicted Houston of abusing the privileges of a House member. Later that year Houston was convicted of assault in the U.S. District Court in Washington.


Appearances:  I remain in full-time writing mode on the FSK biography, and have only a few events in May. On Thursday, May 9, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette for the Thomas Lee DAR Chapter in Alexandria, Virginia.

On Saturday, May 18, I’ll be on a panel at the Fourth Annual Biographer Conference sponsored by Biographers International at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. My panel, “Crafting the Biography,” starts at 1:45. For info, go to http://bit.ly/BioConference

On Sunday evening, May 19, I will be the featured author, doing a talk on Lafayette for the Virginia Library Association Paraprofessional Forum, at the Koger South Conference Center in Richmond.

I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting in September. For more details on these and my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com  

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume X, Number 4                                                                         April 1, 2013



Samuel Nunez: One of the points I always make when doing talks on Saving Monticello is that Uriah Levy, who was born in Philadelphia in 1792, was a fifth generation American and that he came from a distinguished and accomplished Jewish-American family.

I go on to explain—as I do in the book—that Uriah Levy’s great great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Nunez, came to these shores in July of 1733 with a group of forty-odd Portuguese Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition, and that he helped found the city of Savannah, Georgia. The congregation that those pioneering Jews founded soon thereafter, Mikveh Israel, is the third oldest in the United States.

Last month I was invited to join a group on Facebook called Eunice and Nunez Families from Georgia and Beyond (www.facebook.com/groups/248268305216971) by my FB friend, Connie Eunice Nunes. She is a tenth generation descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez through the Coleman M. Nunez Eunice lineage. I have been welcomed into the group and it has been fascinating making connections with the other descendants.  

I also was invited to join another Facebook group, Descendants of Dr. Samuel Nunez (www.facebook.com/groups/nunezdescendants).

Here’s a very concise history of the Nunez-Levy connection. Samuel Nunes Ribiero was a prominent, well-to-do Portuguese physician who was born in 1668. Dr. Samuel Nunez, as he came to be known in the United States, was one of the most accomplished founders of the colony of Georgia.
           
The eventful story of how Dr. Nunez (pronounced “NOON-ish” in Portuguese) and his family escaped from the Inquisition in Portugal and wound up in Savannah in 1733 was written by one of his great great grandsons, Mordecai Manuel Noah, and published in the mid-19th century. According to this version, Dr. Nunez was a graduate of the University of Madrid who specialized in infectious diseases.


He married a young, wealthy Sephardic Jewish Spanish woman, Gracia de Sequera, and they lived in Lisbon as crypto-Jews during the Inquisition to disguise the fact that they were Jewish. Sometime in the early 1720s Dr. and Mrs. Nunez and their family were caught holding a Passover Seder in their palatial house on the banks of the Tagus River in, thrown in jail and tortured. They were saved from execution by the Grand Inquisitor, who happened to have been a patient of Dr. Nunez. The family was released from prison so that Dr. Nunez could treat the Inquisitor's bladder problem. One condition of the release was that two Inquisition enforcers would live with the family to make sure they did not relapse into the banned practice of Judaism.
           
In 1726, Dr. Nunez, his mother, wife and their two sons and a daughter made a daring escape under the noses of their Inquisitorial overseers. When the Nunez family arrived in London they found a colony of some 6,000 fellow Jewish escapees from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. Soon after arriving Dr. Nunez remarried his wife in a London synagogue. Evidence also indicates that the family fully converted to Judaism in London and that Dr. Nunez and his two sons, as part of the conversion, underwent the rite of ritual circumcision. A group of wealthy London Jews paid for the passage of a chartered ship that sailed from London in the summer of 1733 with 42 Sephardic Jews aboard. That group included the Nunez family.

After a rough voyage, the ship, the William and Sarah, arrived in Savannah on July 11, 1733. At the time there were fewer than a thousand Jews living in the British colonies.

Dr. Nunez soon made a name for himself in Savannah. The first and only medical doctor in Georgia, he helped stem an outbreak of what the family history calls “bloody flux” among Savannah's original settlers. Using a combination of medicinal drugs and folk remedies using tree barks and roots, he stemmed the epidemic. His heroic act was rewarded by an official commendation from Gov. Oglethorpe.

Dr. Nunez later opened the first pharmacy in Georgia, where he specialized in making medicines out of imported and native-grown herbs. He helped found Mikveh Israel Synagogue in July 1735, which to this day uses the Torah that was brought to Savannah by the Jews on the William and Sarah. The town of Nunez in Emanuel County, Ga., 85 miles northwest of Savannah is named for his great great grandson, Dr. Philip Nunez, a colonel in the Confederate Army who was killed in the Civil War.
“There are a good many of us descendants out here searching our lineages, and the list of surnames is broad indeed,” Connie Nunes told me. “I live in Atlanta, and have been excited to find so many [relatives] from my father’s side of my family. I have made contacts with such from Florida, to New York City, Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, California and oh yes, Georgia.”  

Fascinating Frank Key Facts: I’m still writing morning, noon and night on my upcoming biography of Francis Scott Key, which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on July 4, 2014, the 200th anniversary year of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Here is this month’s little-known Frank Key set of facts: He was a founding member in 1816—and a passionate advocate for—the American Colonization Society, a group of white men who worked to send freed black men and women to Africa. Key helped arrange the Society’s founding meeting on December 21, 1816, in Washington and worked tirelessly to support its effort for the rest of his life.

The ACS would send some 15,000 people to the west coast of Africa over the next four-plus decades. They founded the country of Liberia (“free state”) with a capital called Monrovia, which was named after President James Monroe, who paved the way for federal government support of the endeavor in 1819.

Frank Key argued legal cases, wrote legal briefs, made speeches and otherwise using his lawyerly skills to help foster the ACS goal of shipping freed blacks to Africa. Key (who was a slave owner) and the ACS stressed that their actions would help put an end to slavery, which they viewed as an insidious institution.

However, from its founding, the American Colonization Society sent only freed people—not slaves—to Africa. As Speaker of the House Henry Clay put it in a speech at the founding convention in 1816: The ACS would not “touch or agitate, in the slightest degree” on “any question of emancipation” or anything “connected with the abolition of slavery.”

The goal was colonizing freed blacks only, Clay said, because due to “the unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color,” freed black men and women “never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country.” Sending free blacks to Africa, he said, would also introduce “the arts, civilization, and Christianity” there.
           
Appearances:  Here’s a rundown on my talks in April. I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting in September. If you’d like to arrange a talk, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com
On Saturday, April 6, I will be doing a talk on Lafayette for the DAR Mine Run Chapter in Spotsylvania, Virginia. On Tuesday, April 9, I’ll speak about Lafayette for the Thomas Nelson DAR Chapter in Arlington, Virginia.

On Wednesday evening, April 10, I’ll be taking part in the Loudoun Literacy Council’s “Reading Between the Wines” fund-raising event at Sunset Hills Winery in Purcellville, Virginia. I’ll be doing a sneak preview reading from my FSK bio. For info, go to www.loudounliberacy.org

On Saturday, April 13, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette for the Baltimore DAR Chapter in Cockeysville, Md. The next day, Sunday, April 14, I’ll be speaking about Francis Scott Key at the Annual Breakfast of the National Daughters of 1812 meeting in Washington, D.C. And on Friday, April 26, I’ll be one of the speakers at the annual Loudoun County Library’s system-wide Staff Development Day at the new Gum Spring Library in South Riding, Virginia.
For more details on these, and my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


 Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume X, Number 3 March 1, 2013

New Review: I’m extremely gratified that the University of Virginia Press continues to keep Saving Monticello in print in paperback. And it’s also great that in 2013, more than twelve years after the book was published, people continue discover it and appreciate it—and write good reviews.

The latest review of the book was written by Demaris H. Miller, a perceptive reader from Rappahannock County, Virginia. He posted it February 7 on the Saving Monticello page on Amazon.com under the headline, “But for the Levy Family, Monticello Would Be Gone.”

Here’s the review:

Uriah Levy purchased Jefferson’s crumbling Monticello in 1834, and over the next 89 years the Levy family restored and protected this important piece of American History. This book may be too thorough for some readers, and there were times when the events described made me so angry, I could not read fast enough to get to better times.

I appreciated the thorough research into each of the characters involved in this intriguing chronicle. There are heroes and villains and some who were a little of both… I found [the details] fascinating. I have visited Monticello many times, but am now inspired to return and see Jefferson’s beloved creation in a whole new light.

Domestic Life: There’s an excellent article titled “New Perspectives on Domestic Life at Monticello”in the current on-line edition of Antiques & Fine Arts magazine by former Monticello curator Elizabeth Chew.

 

 In it, she talks provides many details about the people who lived at Monticello and what the house looked like before and after Jefferson was president. Ms. Chew starts the article with a rundown on the “expansive and complex” domestic arrangements at Monticello beginning in 1809 when Jefferson retired after eight years as president and moved back to Charlottesville to live full time at Monticello—something that I cover in the first part of Saving Monticello.

Fun Frank Key Facts: I’ve been in seven-day-a-week writing mode since February 1 on my upcoming biography of Francis Scott Key, which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on July 4 of next year. I’ve come up with tons of intriguing information about the life of the big-time Washington lawyer who wrote that patriotic poem on the night of September 13-14 in Baltimore Harbor.

Here are this month’s little-known Frank Key family facts: He and his wife Mary Tayloe Lloyd, known to all as Polly, were married in the Lloyd family’s opulent Annapolis home on January 19, 1802. She was 17; he was 22. The couple had eleven children, five girls and six boys.

Their first child, Elizabeth Phoebe Key, who was born on October 10, 1803, also was the last surviving Key child. She married Charles Howard of Baltimore. They had eleven children. The Howards lived in a large home on Cathedral Street in Baltimore. Elizabeth Howard died on October 9, 1897, at the family cottage in Oakland, Maryland.

The sub-headline in the article in the Baltimore Sun announcing her death said: “In Accordance with Her Custom of Nearly Half a Century, She Was Spending the Summer in the Mountains—Distinguished for Her Literary Ability and for Her Strong Southern Sympathies”

Appearances: Just one event this month as I hunker down on writing the FSK bio. I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting in September. If you’d like to arrange a talk, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com

On Sunday, March 3, I will be the featured author at the evening session of the annual Congregation Beth El Book Fair in South Orange, New Jersey. I’ll be doing a Q&A at 7:30 on my work, including Saving Monticello. The event is free and open to the public at 222 Irvington Ave., South Orange 07079. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/BethElSunday For details on my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume X, Number 2 February 1, 2013

New Review: Saving Monticello is a book with several themes. The two main ones that reviewers have focused on over the years are historic preservation and Jewish-American history. The later was starting point of the most recent review, which was posted last December 24 by Lorri M. on her “Writings and Photography” blog, which, she says, focuses on items related to “Jewish life, culture, books, films and my own writings.”

What follows are excerpts from that long, thoughtful review, which gets the facts right, and which you can read in its entirety at http://bit.ly/LorriMReview

“From the first page until the last page, I was completely engrossed with the drama presented within the pages. I found it difficult to put down, during the moments that I had to. The missing years and missing events concerning Monticello, after Thomas Jefferson’s death, have either been overlooked or not mentioned to any great extent within the chapters of history.

The Levy family basically went unnoticed within the historical context of Monticello, after Jefferson’s death in 1826. If it were not for them, Monticello would not be the historical landmark it is today. The family members were Jefferson devotees and admirers. They loved what he stood for, what his ideals were, what he represented to Americans.

When Jefferson died, he died with an extreme amount of debt. This was the determining factor that led his heirs to sell his estate. It was bought by a druggist by the name of James Turner Barclay. During his years of ownership the house fell into disrepair…. Monticello at that time, was in extreme architectural devastation and ruin.

Monticello went up for sale in 1834, once more, and Uriah Phillips Levy, a Jewish-American, purchased it. He was a United States Navy Lieutenant. He began to repair the estate …. He spared no expense in order to retain the architectural integrity of Monticello, and keep it in its original state. That lasted until the Civil War when it landed up in the hands of the Confederacy (like many other homes and estates).

[In 1879] Uriah’s nephew, Jefferson Levy took ownership. He was an unmarried businessman, who endeavored to keep up the ruined exterior and interior. He initiated repairs, restoring the house and grounds of the estate, and even tried to find the original furniture that Jefferson owned. He was tireless in his efforts, and spent tens of thousands of dollars, possibly one hundred thousand dollars, of his own money to restore the house to maximum condition.

That mattered little to a woman named Maud Littleton, who fought tooth and nail to have Monticello’s ownership removed from Levy. She was a wealthy socialite, married to a congressman. She petitioned Congress to purchase the estate from Levy’s hands, right out from under him, so to speak. He was against this, and an extremely bitter and long fight ensued.... The facts concerning this battle depict incredible moments in congressional affairs, legal affairs and Levy’s struggle to maintain ownership under the deceitful implications made by Littleton. Saving Monticello documents from actual historical records… newspaper accounts, lawsuits, county and civic documentations, brochures, etc., and extremely factual research the intensity of the battle over Monticello. It is apparent that there was an underlying tone of anti-Semitism fostering Littleton’s harsh stance. History was washed over in that respect.

And so goes the story, ending in 1923 when Jefferson Levy gave in and sold the estate for $500,000 to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. The Levy’s had ownership of the estate for a few months shy of ninety years, much, much longer than the Jefferson family owned it.

But, it did not end there, because the Levy family was never given their due. Historical records and even the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation did not readily acknowledge the Levy family’s contribution and steadfast repairs…. It took decades before they were acknowledged by the Foundation, and even at that, depending on the tour guide today, they are not always mentioned.

In the book, Leepson has given the reader an amazing overview of actual facts, data, events, timelines and the struggles that the Levy family endured. The story is compelling, especially to the history lover. He has left no stone unturned in his presentation of documentation, and his research is to be commended. His writing is brilliant.

…[As] a history lover and as a person who has been to Monticello on a few occasions, I found the book quite compelling, extremely detailed, and found it to be of historical importance.

This book should be on every high school, university, college, and public library shelf. [It] is a major contribution of educational and historical value, and is masterfully and magnificently written.

New Rabbi: The first Jewish chaplain to serve at the U.S. Naval Academy was Commander. Norman Auerbach, who arrived in Annapolis in 1985. But it wasn’t until September of 2005 when the Academy’s Jewish chaplain, Captain Irvin Elson, was able to conduct services on the Academy grounds. He did so at newly opened Uriah Levy Chapel and Jewish Center. The newest USNA Jewish chaplain, Lieutenant. Joshua Sherwin came to the Academy last June.

After being ordained in 2009, Rabbi Sherwin was commissioned as a Navy Lieutenant JG, and became chaplain of Headquarters Battalion with the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Rabbi Sherwin came to Annapolis last summer following three deployments to Afghanistan.

Appearances: I am in the writing phase of my biography of Francis Scott Key—something that is occupying the bulk of my time. But I need to get out of my office at least a few times, and so I have three events coming up this. I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement—starting in September. If you’d like to arrange a talk, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com

On Tuesday, February 12, I will celebrate Mardi Gras by doing a talk on Desperate Engagement (with a sneak peak at the life of Frank Key) at the monthly meeting of the Turner Ashby Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

The next day, Wednesday, February 13, I’ll be a guest on the Hallie Casser-Jayne radio show, streaming live at www.hallicasser-jayne.com beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. The topic of the show is “America’s Real Greatest Generation.” We’ll look at the Founding Fathers, concentrating on Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Susan Stein, the curator at Monticello, will also be on the show, along with Nancy Hayward, the director of education at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

On Sunday, February 24, I’ll be doing a book signing from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. of Saving Monticello, Flag, Desperate Engagement, and Lafayette at the Common Grounds coffee shop in Middleburg, Virginia. The address is 114 West Washington Street. Phone: 540-687-7065. There also will be a wine tasting by Breaux Vineyards. For details on my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume X, Number 1 January 1, 2013

Mrs. Littleton: One question that people often ask me is what became of Maud Littleton, the New York socialite who started a national movement in 1909 to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson. That movement failed in the end, but Mrs. Littleton’s campaign made national headlines when a bill to condemn Monticello and put it under federal government control was debated in the House of Representatives beginning in the summer of 1912. That campaign, which went on until 1917, I am sorry to report, was tinged with anti-Semitism.

As I noted in Saving Monticello, although Mrs. Littleton (as she was known in the press) harshly castigated Jefferson Levy for allegedly neglecting the upkeep of Monticello and for turning it into a shrine to Uriah Levy, she changed her tune in 1919 when Levy agreed to sell the place to the newly formed Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (which still owns Monticello today, although it is now the Thomas Jefferson Foundation). Mrs. Littleton was even welcomed onto the Foundation’s board of directors.

But Maud Littleton’s interest in Monticello had begun to wane considerably following the death of her son, who was killed in France during World War I. Soon thereafter, she took a strong interest in religion, visited the Holy Land several times and began amassing a huge collection of religious-themed books. She built a library to house the collection on the 12-acre Long Island estate where she lived with her husband, the flamboyant trial lawyer, Martin Wiley Littleton.

The building also served as a shrine to her son. “The architecture was similar to that of old Palestine, and was surrounded by a high concrete wall on which were painted scenes of Jerusalem,” a 1998 article in the Manhasset (N.Y.) Press noted.

Mrs. Littleton also lectured on the life of Christ and opened her library to students interested in the subject. Following the death of her husband in 1934, she moved to a ranch near Cody, Wyoming, with her son Martin W. Littleton, a former Nassau County, N.Y., district attorney and prominent criminal defense lawyer. He later became editor of the Cody Times.

After her death in 1953, her son donated Mrs. Littleton’s collection of some 2,000 books on theological topics to the University of Wyoming, where today they make up the Maud Littleton Collection at the university’s American Heritage Center. “Mrs. Littleton started the successful campaign to purchase for the nation Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home,” her February 15, 1953, New York Times obituary says. “A zealous fundamentalist, she traveled in the Holy Land and built a Nazarene shrine on the Littleton estate at Plandome, L.I.”

Martin Wiley Littleton, as I noted in Saving Monticello, and in this newsletter last September, was best known for his role in the 1907-08 “Trial of the Century” when he successfully defended the millionaire Harry K. Shaw in the murder of the architect Stanford White. Thaw, the playboy son of a Pittsburgh railroad magnate, murdered the nation’s top architect, Stanford White, on June 25, 1906, on the rooftop restaurant of Madison Square Garden in New York City. White had been having an affair with Thaw’s wife, the famous showgirl, Evelyn Nesbit.

Thaw’s first murder trial ended in a mistrial. Martin W. Littleton represented Thaw at his second trial and used an insanity defense. Thaw was convicted, but served only a few years at a New York state hospital for the criminally insane. The sensational case was heavily covered in the newspapers and was told in fictionalized form in the novel, film and Broadway musical Ragtime.

Appearances: I am working more than full time on my biography of Francis Scott Key, which I will complete by August 1. So I have no events scheduled for the month of January.

I have a few events scheduled for February and March and later on in the year. I will be available to do talks on all of my books—including Saving Monticello, Lafayette, Flag, and Desperate Engagement--starting in September. If you’d like to arrange a talk, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com

For details on my other 2013 events go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 12 December 1, 2012

Monticello during the Civil War: People often ask me what happened to Monticello during the Civil War. The answer is: a lot—although there was no fighting on or near the property. Still, what took place at Monticello from 1861-65 had a large bearing on the future of the house.

I cover the Civil War period in depth in Saving Monticello. What follows here is a greatly condensed version in recognition of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the conflict that was the crucible of American history.

Even though something like sixty percent of the fighting during the Civil War took place in the Commonwealth Virginia, Monticello was spared the ravages of the war. Which doesn’t mean the war didn’t have an impact. Charlottesville was a transportation crossroads during the war. Large shipments of Confederate war supplies came through town via the railroad, and the city housed many Confederate wounded. What’s more, many able-bodied troops—both Union and Confederate—came through town during the war.

Some Confederate and Union troops stopped to see Monticello. Confederate soldiers recuperating from their wounds in Charlottesville hospitals journeyed up the mountain and had picnics. Many war-time visitors—soldiers and civilians—left their marks in the mansion, literally, by writing their names on the walls of the upstairs dome room and by helping themselves to souvenir pieces of the house and even took chippings from Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone.

The other salient facts about what happened at Monticello during the Civil War are that its owner, U.S. Navy Captain Uriah Levy, died on March 22, 1862, and that he was a northerner. Because he was from the North, Monticello and all of Levy’s adjacent Virginia land was seized by the Confederacy under the sequestration terms of the Alien Enemies Act, which went into effect on August 8, 1861.


Proceedings began on October 10, 1861, while Levy was still alive, to “sequestrate” Monticello as the property of an “alien enemy.” Monticello was officially confiscated four months later, one newspaper reported, “with all its lands, negroes, cattle, farming utensils, furniture, paintings, wines, etc., together with two other farms belonging to the same owner, and valued at from $70,000 to $80,000.”

Monticello was not sold by the Confederate government until November of 1864. In the interim, it remained under the day-to-day control of Joel Wheeler, Uriah Levy’s overseer who stayed on after Levy died, and George Carr, Levy’s Charlottesville lawyer who was in charge of Levy’s estate.

Wheeler wasn’t the greatest of superintendents. He infamously milled and stored grain on the beautiful parquet floors in the parlor and allowed University of Virginia students to have parties in the house—along with others who paid him a fee to do so.

By the summer of 1864, with the Wheeler family living it the house, Monticello was feeling the effects of neglect and of the ravages of the “relick” hunters. “The place was once very pretty, but it has gone to ruin now,” a visitor wrote in August of 1864. She said there were a “thousand names” scrawled on the walls of the dome room and that Jefferson’s graveyard suffered “from the same want of attention that the house and grounds do.” Others reported that the house’s furniture had been broken or destroyed and that Jefferson's graveyard was badly defaced.

The Confederate States of America held a receiver’s sale of Monticello on November 17, 1864 after a lawsuit by Carr to stop it failed. Lieutenant Col. Benjamin Franklin Ficklin of the 50th Virginia Regiment purchased Monticello for $80,500 at the auction, which was held on the mountain. A New York Times account of that day’s events reported that “a large number of people” were present. In the crowd was Uriah Levy’s youngest brother, Jonas Phillips Levy (below), who then was living in Wilmington, North Carolina.



According to an article that appeared in the December 1, 1864, New York Times, Jonas Levy spoke to the crowd before the auction began, saying that “he intended to bid for the property himself.” Jonas Levy was not the successful bidder for the house, although he did come away with two of Uriah Levy’s former possessions: a slave and a model of one of the ships he commanded.

The colorful Ficklin (in the picture, below) was a bachelor. The best evidence indicates that he brought his aging father to live at Monticello, where he died. Other reports say that several other members of the Ficklin family also moved into Monticello, including Capt. Ficklin’s youngest sister and her husband, and a brother known as “Dissolute Willie.” One relative reports that Willie sold some of the Jefferson furniture left in the house to pay his gambling debts, and that Rev. Ficklin died in Jefferson’s bed.

Whether those family stories are true or not, we do know for certain that after the war was over the house returned to the Levy family. However, Levy’s heirs fought over his will for fourteen years, during which time Monticello, with Joel Wheeler once again in charge, fell into ruin for the second time since Thomas Jefferson’s death.



Appearances: My research on Francis Scott Key continues for the bio I am writing. In December, I will have just two talks, one of them on Saving Monticello.

It will take place on Monday, December 17. I will be speaking to the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia’s Leesburg Area Active Retiree Group at 10:30 a.m. at the Monroe Auditorium of the Leisure World Clubhouse just outside Leesburg, Virginia. For info, call 703-978-2078.

For more details about my events in 2013, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. Look for me at @MarcLeepson


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 11 November 1, 2012

Judge Tom Duke: When Jefferson Levy had to wage the legal battle of his life in 1912—defending his ownership of Monticello in the face of the movement to take it from him and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson—he hired a prominent Charlottesville attorney, Richard Thomas Walker Duke Jr., as his lawyer and chief spokesman. Levy and Duke worked closely together successfully fighting the effort to take Monticello. Duke, in fact, was Levy’s strongest and most persistent advocate during the sometimes-turbulent events of that legal battle, which lasted more than two years, and which I describe in detail in Saving Monticello.

The two men came from divergent backgrounds, but both were lawyers, Democrats, and descended from long lines of accomplished Americans. Jefferson Levy (1852-1924) was a sixth generation American whose third great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Nunez, came to these shores in 1733 with the first Jews who settled in the city of Savannah, Georgia

Tom Duke (1853-1926) was descended from one of Albemarle County’s oldest families, and one that had a long and close relationship with the Jefferson and Randolph families. His father was the prominent Charlottesville lawyer, Richard Thomas Walker Duke, Sr., (1822-1898) who served with the 46th Regiment of the Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. Known as “the Colonel,” Duke Sr. served two terms in Congress and one in the Virginia House of Delegates, and was a strong post-war proponent of the Lost Cause Theory.

His son was eight years old when the Civil War began and witnessed Virginia at war first hand during the next four years. A brilliant student, Tom Duke (at left in the photo with his brother and father) entered the University of Virginia in 1870. Among his accomplishments at Mr. Jefferson’s university: Duke won the Thomas Jefferson Prize for the best essay in 1872. He then read the law and joined his father’s firm, which later was renamed Duke and Duke. He became one of Charlottesville’s most prominent citizens until the 1920s. In addition to his legal work, Tom Duke was a prolific writer of poetry and essays, many of which found their way into popular magazines of the day.

Duke served from 1886-1901 as judge of the Corporation Court, now known as the Circuit Court, and for the rest of his life often was referred to as “Judge Duke.” He also served (as he father had) as Commonwealth’s attorney for Albemarle County (from 1916-20), and sat on the boards of a several corporations, including the Charlottesville Ice Company and the First National Bank.

Tom Duke got to know Jefferson Levy in the 1880s soon after Levy gained control of Monticello in 1879 by buying out the other descendants of his Uncle Uriah Levy, after his estate had been tied up by lawsuits for seventeen years. Levy, an extremely successful real estate and stock speculator in New York hired Tom Duke to do legal work in conjunction with Levy’s extensive real estate holdings in and around Charlottesville. Duke took up Jefferson Levy’s Monticello cause in April 1912.

He fought tenaciously against the forces arrayed against Jefferson Levy led by Maud Littleton, the wife of Levy’s fellow New York City Congressman, Martin Wiley Littleton. Tom Duke sat at Jefferson Levy’s side during the series of sometimes bombastic congressional hearings in the summer of 1912 in which Levy and Duke battled to keep Monticello in the Levy family.

“I think [Jefferson Levy] deserves the thanks of all patriotic citizens for the way in which he has preserved the place and for the way in which he has allowed the public access to it, and I am not all in sympathy with the criticism of Mr. Levy in the public press,” Tom Duke said in 1912. “I have the highest personal regard for him.”

For more on Tom Duke’s life go to http://bit.ly/TBo8Gy

‘Master of the Mountain’ Reaction: Last month we called attention to Master of the Mountain, the new book by Henry Wiencek (a colleague and friend) that deals with Thomas Jefferson and slavery—and does not exactly shed positive light on the Sage of Monticello. Since then, the book has been widely reviewed.

Most of the reviews have been sterling. That includes huge raves in The Washington Post by the esteemed book critic Jonathan Yardley (http://bit.ly/WPYardley), and in The Wall Street Journal, in which reviewer Fergus Bordewich concludes: “This book will change forever the way that we think about the author of the Declaration of Independence.” To read that entire review, go to http://on.wsj.com/WjANkU

The glaring exception to the parade of good reviews was an excoriating critique in Slate by Annette Gordon-Reed, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello. The title of the review gives a hint at what it contains: “Thomas Jefferson Was Not a Monster: Debunking a major new biography of our third president.”

Weincek, Gordon-Reed says, “loathes Thomas Jefferson. In Master of the Mountain, his attempted takedown of the man, the third president appears as a demonic figure warped one summer day by a sudden discovery that being a slaveholder could pay.” The book, she says, “fails as a work of scholarship.”

The book’s “tone and presentation,” she writes, betray a journalistic obsession with ‘the scoop.’ This sensibility leads Weincek astray in a number of ways. To begin with, it compels him to write as if he had discovered, and was writing about, things that had not been discovered and written about before. In truth, all of the important stories in this book have been told by others.” To read the entire review, go to: http://bit.ly/GordonReidreview

Appearances
: My research on Francis Scott Key continues for the bio I am writing. In November, I will take a bit of time out to do three talks.

On Saturday November 10, I will be the luncheon speaker for the Washington, D.C., DAR State Officers’ Club meeting at the Columbia Country Club. The topic: the amazing life of the Marquis de Lafayette, the subject of my last book, Lafayette: Idealist General.

On the following Saturday, November 17, I’m taking part in the Civil War Authors Day at the Gray Ghost Vineyards in Amissville, Virginia. I’ll be among nine other authors signing from books, including Saving Monticello and Desperate Engagement, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In addition, I’ll be doing a short talk on Desperate Engagement, a history of the July 9, 1864, Battle of Monocacy and Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s subsequent attack on Washington, D.C., in mid afternoon.

On Tuesday, November 27, I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello at the Kings Park Branch Library in Burke, Virginia at 7:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For info, go to http://bit.ly/BurkeLibrary

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 10 October 1, 2012

Master of the Mountain: That’s the title of a new book by Henry Wiencek that deals with Thomas Jefferson and slavery—and does not exactly shed positive light on the Sage of Monticello and the way he treated the hundreds of enslaved people who worked on the Mountain. Wiencek—the historian and author best known for The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White and An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America—comes down strongly on Jefferson for all but abandoning the “all men are created equally” ideals he espoused in the Declaration of Independence.

“Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson,” Wiencek writes in “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson,” a long, intriguing article based on the book in the current issue of Smithsonian magazine. “The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox. And by looking closely at Monticello, we can see the process by which he rationalized an abomination to the point where an absolute moral reversal was reached and he made slavery fit into America’s national enterprise.”

Wiencek backs those strong words with evidence he has unearthed from previously neglected letters and other primary-source documents. And he focuses in the article and in the book on how Jefferson treated his slaves at Monticello.

“The mansion sits atop a long tunnel through which slaves, unseen, hurried back and forth carrying platters of food, fresh tableware, ice, beer, wine and linens, while above them 20, 30 or 40 guests sat listening to Jefferson’s dinner-table conversation,” he writes. “Guests could not see or hear any of the activity, nor the links between the visible world and the invisible that magically produced Jefferson’s abundance.”

Wiencek (who is a colleague and friend) writes, among many other things, about a calculation Jefferson made in 1792 in regard to the worth of his enslaved people. “As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year,” Wiencek notes, “it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. “He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest.

“Jefferson wrote, ‘I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.’ His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets.”

To read the entire Smithsonian magazine article, go to http://bit.ly/HenryJefferson Henry Weincek’s web site is http://henrywiencek.wordpress.com/

UPL in the News: It isn’t every day that Uriah P. Levy is mentioned in a newspaper. But San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik, in her September 30 column, led with an item about Levy and his ownership of Monticello. Garchik noted that “at least one guest with a special connection to Jefferson” attended a recent reception in San Francisco for the new book Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks.

Said guest was “New Yorker Ann Tennenbaum,” Garchik wrote, “who was here for meetings of the Book Club of California and the Asian Art Museum (she’s a board member).” Tennenbaum “is a descendant of Uriah Levy, who bought Monticello in 1834.” The paragraph that follwed easily could have come from the pages of Saving Monticello:

“Jefferson had died bankrupt, and the property was in terrible condition. Levy, a famous figure who was court-martialed six times and booted out of the U.S. Navy twice after responding to anti-Semitism he faced while enlisted, had been reinstated, and eventually risen to the rank of commodore, the highest rank of that era. Later, he prospered in real estate in New York, and spent $2,700 to buy Monticello and 218 acres of land around it. The estate was bought by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923.”

To read the entire column, go to http://bit.ly/UPLDescendant

Appearances: As I continue to do the research for my next book, the biography of Francis Scott Key, I still am doing talks and other events in conjunction with my latest book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership From the Idealist General, the first concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as for Saving Monticello and my other books. Here’s the list for October.

On Tuesday, October 2, I am appearing on an episode of PBS-TV’s History Detectives, in a segment dealing with the return of a diary of a North Vietnamese soldier. The show runs on most PBS stations at 8:00 p.m. For more info, go to: http://www.theworld.org/2012/09/soldiers-diary

On Sunday, October 7, I’ll be signing copies of Saving Monticello and my other books from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the huge annual Waterford Fair in the historic village of Waterford, Virginia. More info: www.waterfordfoundation.org


On Wednesday, October 10, I will do a talk on Lafayette beginning at 10:00 a.m. for the Speaker Forum put on by the Lifelong Learning Institute of Manassas, Virginia. The event takes place at Colgan Hall on the Manassas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. For info, call 571-606-0247 or go to www.lli-manassas.org

I’ll be the guest speaker on Lafayette at a luncheon on Saturday, October 20, in Yorktown, Virginia, put on by the Virginia Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America. And I’m giving a talk on Lafayette on Thursday, October 25, at 2:15 p.m. at the annual Virginia Library Association Conference in Williamsburg.

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 9 September 1, 2012

Martin Wiley Littleton: Among the cast of colorful, real-life characters in Saving Monticello Martin Wiley Littleton plays but a cameo role. But very often when I do a talk on the book, I find time to mention the husband of Jefferson Levy’s nemesis Maud Littleton. That’s because a century ago Martin W. Littleton, a high-powered trial lawyer and a one-term member of Congress, earned a national reputation for his integral role in the first media-celebrated “Trial of the Century,” the sensational 1907-08 murder trial of the Pittsburgh millionaire Harry K. Thaw.

The Tennessee-born and Texas raised Littleton egan his legal career as a prosecuting attorney in Dallas County in the mid-1890s. He married Maud Wilson in 1896, and the couple moved to New York. Martin Wiley Littleton moved on up in the legal world in the Big Apple when he was named counselor for the Republic of Cuba. He went on to serve as the district attorney of Kings County (aka Brooklyn); and, in 1904, as the first borough president of Brooklyn. A Democrat, Martin Littleton and Jefferson Levy, the owner of Monticello, both won election to the House of Representatives in November 1910; Littleton represented New York's 1st Congressional District; Levy, the 13th.



They came to Washington the following year, 1911. As I noted in the book, both men then applied to join that city’s venerable Metropolitan Club. Levy was turned down by the elite club’s governing board because he was Jewish. The Metropolitan Club also refused to admit Martin W. Littleton because he was a self-made man.

Martin Wiley Littleton had made his legal reputation in 1908 when he successfully defended Harry K. Thaw, the playboy son of a Pittsburgh railroad magnate. Thaw had murdered the nation’s top architect, Stanford White, on June 25, 1906, on the rooftop restaurant of Madison Square Garden in New York City. Thaw did so in a fit of pique after he learned that several years earlier White had had an affair with Thaw’s wife, the famed showgirl, Evelyn Nesbit. She was sixteen years old at the time.



Thaw’s first murder trial in 1907 ended in a mistrial. Martin W. Littleton represented Thaw at his second trial and used his legal skills to present an insanity defense. Thaw was convicted, but served only a few years at a New York state hospital for the criminally insane. The sensational case was heavily covered in the newspapers and became known as the “Trial of the Century.” The events are told in fictionalized form in the 1955 film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, as well as in the novel, film and Broadway musical Ragtime.



Not long after the end of the sensational trial—on April 13, 1909—Martin and Maud Littleton traveled to Charlottesville where he delivered the Founder’s Day speech at the University of Virginia on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. After the ceremonies at the University, the Littletons visited Jefferson’s grave at Monticello. That evening Jefferson Levy invited them to dine on the mountain.

Levy was a kind and hospitable host, Mrs. Littleton, an ardent admirer of Thomas Jefferson, later said. But the visit to the home she had dreamed about for decades was a severe disappointment. “Somehow it did not enter my mind that I was going to visit [Jefferson Levy],” Mrs. Littleton said three years later at a congressional hearing. “Thomas Jefferson was uppermost in my mind. I could think of no one else. Somehow I had never connected Mr. Levy with Mr. Jefferson and Monticello. He had not entered my dreams.”



Mrs. Littleton took action. She spearheaded a nationwide campaign to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson. She had enough influence in the summer of 1912 to have a bill that would have condemned Monticello and turned it over to the government introduced in the House of Representatives. When it came up for a vote in December 101 House members voted in favor of the resolution. One hundred and forty-one members, including Jefferson M. Levy, voted against it. Ten members answered “present.” One hundred and thirty eight members, including Rep. Martin W. Littleton, did not vote.

I tell the rest of the intriguing story of Mrs. Littleton’s attempt to wrest Monticello from Jefferson Levy in the book.

Talking Monticello: The latest episode of the Hulu.com on line travel series “Up to Speed” is a quirky look at Monticello and the University of Virginia by the show’s wild-haired, off-beat historian, tour guide, and host Timothy Speed Levitch.

Among other things, Levitch’s tour of Monticello includes “conversations” he has with inanimate objects, including Jefferson’s alcove bed, portable writing desk, pantograph, and the revolving buffet door.

Levitch uses the latter conversation with both halves of the door to go into the never-comfortable topic of Jefferson’s slave ownership. Somehow the goofiness works. You can watch at http://bit.ly/SpeedMonticello

Appearances: On Tuesday, September 4, I will be part of a panel discussion during George Washington University’s four-day Forum on Writing and War. My panel, “The Veteran’s Experience-From Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq,” starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Marvin Center Amphitheater in the heart of the campus at 800 21st Street N.W. in downtown Washington. D.C. There will be a reception following the panel.

I’ll be in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for three days, doing a total of four events for the Lafyette book in conjunction with that city’s aannual Lafayette Birthday Celebration. On Thursday, September 6 (Lafayette’s birthday), I’ll be doing a talk at the Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership Luncheon. On Friday, September 7, I will be the guest lecturer at 11:00 a.m. in Yarborough Auditorium on the campus of Methodist University.

That evening, at 6:30 p.m. I will do a talk that is open to the public at the Market House in Historic Downtown Fayetteville, sponsored by the Lafayette Society. And on Saturday, September 8, I’ll be signing copies of all of my books from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the City Center Gallery and Books at 112 Hay Street. For more info on the public talk and book signing, call 910-678-8899.

I have two events on Tuesday, September 11. At 10:00 a.m. I will be back at The Glebe Independent Living Facility in Daleville, Virginia (where I spoke in July on Saving Monticello), to do a talk on Lafayette; and that evening, at 5:00 p.m. I’m speaking on the same topic at the Greenwood Library at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. For more info on that talk and book signing, which is open to the public, go to www.longwood.edu./library

On Saturday, September 15, I will be making brief remarks at the 11:00 a.m. dedication ceremony for a Historic Marker honoring Lafayette at Corbin’s Bridge in Spotsylvania, Virginia. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/LafayetteMarker For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 8 August 1, 2012

Fiske Kimball: No history of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello would be complete without mentioning the not-uncontroversial role played by Sidney Fiske Kimball in its 20th century restoration. I covered that subject in Saving Monticello, and thought it might be useful to take another look at Kimball and what he did at Monticello this month.

 Fiske Kimball, who was born in 1888, became one of the nation’s top architectural scholars. He taught architecture and fine arts at the University of Michigan, New York University, and the University of Virginia. He chaired the American Institute of Architect’s Committee on Preservation of Historic Monuments and Scenic Beauties, as well as the Archaeological Institute of America’s Committee on Colonial and National Art. From 1925 to his death in 1955 he was the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
By the second decade of the 20th century Fiske Kimball also was the nation’s foremost expert on Thomas Jefferson’s architecture. So it was no surprise that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which purchased Monticello from Jefferson M. Levy in December of 1923, asked Kimball in May of 1924 to chair its Restoration Committee. For decades Kimball was the guiding hand in Monticello’s restoration efforts, although he worked closely with Charlottesville architect Milton L. Grigg.

Kimball was a strict constructionist as he led the effort to repair and restore the mansion, its outbuildings and its grounds. That is, Kimball’s goal was for a restored Monticello to contain only original Jefferson furnishings, nearly all of which were sold or given to Jefferson family members in 1827, a year after Sage of Monticello’s death. Kimball said he would reshape Monticello so it would appear much as did during Jefferson’s retirement years from 1809-1826. That effort, of course, included erasing all traces of the nearly 90-year ownership of Monticello by Uriah P. and Jefferson M. Levy.

Almost the first thing Kimball did was to remove bathrooms, a bath tub and a stairway installed by Jefferson Levy, along with the roof dormers he added. Then he arranged to get ride of the enormous amount of furniture and furnishings that Jefferson Levy conveyed to the Foundation with the sale of the property. Jefferson Levy’s sister Amelia Mayhoff lobbied Kimball in 1928 to have portraits she had inherited of her brother and her uncle Uriah Levy that had long been hung in Monticello kept on display in the house. I provide the details of that unhappy experience in the book. Suffice it to say here that Fiske Kimball turned Mrs.Mayhoff down.

 “Naturally we sympathize very much with Mrs. Mayhoff’s feeling in the matter,” he wrote in a letter, “but the request she makes, I am sorry to say, conflicts with the most fundamental principle on which the Restoration Committee has been working.” That principle, of course, was keeping Monticello purely Jeffersonian. “Against every temptation to admit other objects into the mansion which have been offered to us as gifts, we have rigidly adhered to the principle of furnishing it exactly as it was in Jefferson’s lifetime, and of accepting nothing except original Jefferson furnishings,” Kimball said. “Many other fine objects of his own period have been offered to us, and temptation is sometimes very strong to accept these, but we have felt that only Jefferson things should be taken….”

 Rebuffed, Mrs. Mayhoff donated the full-length Uriah Levy oil portrait that hung in Monticello to the U.S. Navy. It is on display today at the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. She presented a life-sized oil painting of Jefferson Levy to the New York Democratic Club. Jefferson Levy was one of that New York City organization's founders.

 On Saturday, November 17, 1928, the Foundation held a public auction of Jefferson Levy’s former furniture at Monticello. The long list of Jefferson Levy’s items the Foundation ridded itself of included many tables and chairs, sofas, carpets, chandeliers, clocks, vases, statuary, paintings, lamps, beds, bureaus, dressers, chests, and a pair of twin beds. Some of the larger items were shipped to New York City where they were sold at auction at the Plaza Hotel early in December. After disposing everything that Jefferson Levy conveyed, Kimball was not successful in requiring Jefferson.

Today, the house has many original Jefferson pieces, but also contains period pieces and reproductions of Jefferson’s furniture and furnishings.

  Lafayette’s Grave: It’s not very well known, but an American flag flies twenty-four hours a day in the center of Paris—at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette, who was a great friend of Thomas Jefferson. On July 24, the second day of my visit to the City of Light, I went to the private Picpus Cemetery to pay my respects to the famed Marquis, the subject of my latest book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. The cemetery is open to the public for a nominal fee (two Euro) on weekdays after 2:30 p.m. It sits behind locked gates on a quiet, mostly residential street, rue de Picpus in the 12th Arrondisement, a block from the bustling Place de la Nation.
There is a small chapel, a serene garden, and the small graveyard containing the tombs and headstones of many members of the French aristocracy who lost their heads during the 1789 Revolution. Lafayette’s wife Adrienne—who is entombed beside him—was one of a group of women who founded the cemetery in 1802. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother were guillotined during the Revolution’s Terror period.

The cemeteary also contains a marker commemorating the common grave of hundreds of people whose bodies were unceremoniously buried there during the Revolution. There were no other visitors the day I was there. It was a moving experience.

  Appearances: August is a light month for me as far as talks and book signings go. As I continue doing the research for my next book, the biography of Francis Scott Key, I have just two events. I will be doing a presentation on the history of the American flag on Wednesday, August 8, at Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership Conference at the Omni Hotel in Irving, Texas, after which we will have a book signing of Flag: An American Biography. More info at www.vva.org

 And on Saturday, August 18, I’ll be signing copies of my last four books, including Saving Monticello, with a group of local writers from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Reader’s Garden of the 40th annual Lucketts Fair at the Community Center in Lucketts, Virginia, where I live in Loudoun County.

 For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com 

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

 Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume IX, Number 7 July 1, 2012

Special Fourth of July Edition: Well, not really. This issue is being produced on July 4 due to issues beyond the control of mortal humans: the severe storm that hit us here in the Northern Virginia Piedmont (and elsewhere in Virginia, and in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.) on June 29. Long story short: no power, no telephones, no Internet at home for most of three days.

I am happy to say that we are now back on our feet and that I have just put together the July 1 newsletter. This issue features a look at a new biography of Martha Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, along with a news flash related to the fact that I just signed a contract for my next book.

Read on.

Daughter Martha : Martha Jefferson “Patsy” Randolph played a significant role in the life of her father, Thomas Jefferson, including serving—with her son Thomas Jefferson Randolph—as executor of the Sage of Monticello’s estate. Patsy Randolph therefore plays a not-insignificant role in Saving Monticello because she and Jeff Randolph handled the sale of Thomas Jefferson’s possessions after his death, including Monticello.

In her new biography, Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello: Her Life and Times, University of North Carolina Press, 400 pp., $35) Cynthia A. Kierner offers only a very brief look at the sale of Monticello in 1831 to James Turner Barclay. And Kierner, who is a George Mason University History Professor, covers Uriah Levy and his ownership of Monticello in just two pages. The story of how Levy bought Monticello from Barclay in 1834 and went on to repair, restore and preserve it during the twenty-eight years he owned it is the heart of Saving Monticello.



In this, the first full-length bio of Martha Jefferson Randolph, Kierner calls Uria Levy “an ardent admirer of Thomas Jefferson, with whom the family had better relations” than they had with James Turner Barclay, “despite [Levy’s] clumsy (and not entirely serious) attempt to become a ‘complete Jeffersonian’ by courting and marrying one of the great man’s granddaughters.”

Not to nitpick—because this is a worthy book—but I’m not sure that the word “clumsy” is not appropriate here. “Naïve” might be better word, or perhaps “whimsical.” Judge for yourself after reading a version of the much fuller story of the attempt by Uriah Levy to woo one of Martha’s daughters, as I told it in SM:

During the winter of 1834-35 when Levy was at Monticello overseeing repairs to the mansion it appears that the crusty, 42-year-old bachelor Navy Captain was considering marrying one Martha’s three unattached daughters, Cornelia, 34; Mary, 31; or Septimia, 22. Levy spoke of his marital dreams in January and February 1835 to the Randolph women’s sister Virginia Randolph Trist, who lived in Washington, D.C., and Virginia mentioned them in two letters to her husband.

“Captain Levi is hear [sic]. ‘raving for a wife,’: Virginia Trist wrote to her husband on January 2, 1835. “He has thrown out hints about becoming a ‘complete Jeffersonian’ and yesterday evening he spent with us and prevented my writing to you.”

Virginia Trist elaborated on Uriah Levy’s marital plans in a February 3 letter to her husband. “Capt. Levi has been here,” she said. “He has talked in a way to make [me] think that he wishes a grand-daughter of Mr. Jefferson to go and share the comforts of his charming home with him.” Levy, she said, “also said to Cornelia that in France he was told that to make him a complete Jeffersonian he should marry a descendant of Thomas Jefferson.”

Cornelia and her sister Mary, Virginia said, “had no suspicions of mal-intention towards” Levy’s motives. “I think the Captain is willing to leave it to be decided in a family council which of the three is to be Mrs. Levi. However he has only given very broad hints as to his designs and perhaps … may change his mind.”

Uriah Levy did change his mind—if he had ever seriously considered a Randolph marriage—and no Levy-Randolph marriage materialized.

Frank Key: On this Fourth of July, I’m pleased to announce in these pages that since the last newsletter I signed a contract for my next book. It will be a biography of Francis Scott Key. Palgrave Macmillan, which published my last book—the concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette—will publish the Key bio two years from today, on July 4, 2014, the 200th anniversary year of Key writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I am pleased to be working again with a great editor, Laura Lancaster.



I learned a lot about Frank Key (as his family and friends called him) doing the research for the book proposal. Here are a few facts that I found intriguing:

Born into a prominent, slave-holding Maryland family in 1779, he went on to free his slaves and to speak out about the evils of slavery. His father, John Ross Key, fought in the American Revolution under the Marquis de Lafayette. Frank Key graduated from the small liberal arts college, St. John’s, in Annapolis, Maryland, and then moved to Washington, D.C., to practice law.

Key went on to become one of the most famous, admired and accomplished men in the early American Republic—from the early 1820s until his death in 1843. He was a prosperous, able and well-known attorney who played important roles in many high-profile court cases. He also was a morally upright, conservative, and deeply religious man who gave serious thought to joining the Episcopal priesthood. Instead, Key—the father of ten—became a powerful and effective lay supporter of the Episcopal Church. He wrote scores of poems for his own amusement, many of which dealt with religious themes—and none of which were intended for publication.

One other thing. The family described Frank Key as “unmusical.” In other words, the man who wrote the words to the song that most likely is more familiar than any other to hundreds of millions of Americans was tone deaf.

More key Key facts in subsequent newsletters.

Appearances: On Thursday, July 12, I will be doing a talk on Desperate Engagement, the history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy, for the Southern Frederick County, Maryland, Rotary Club at 7:30 a.m. We are still trying to determine the venue. It could be at the Monocacy National Battlefield Park four miles south of Frederick.

On Thursday, July 18, I will be doing a talk on Saving Monticello at 11:30 a.m. for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Nearly eighty people have signed up for the talk.

My last event of the month takes place on Friday, July 20—a talk on Saving Monticello at 3:00 in the afternoon at The Glebe Retirement Community in Daleville, Virginia.

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower.
Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 6 June 1, 2012


JEFFERSON LEVY IN CONGRESS: Jefferson Levy, who owned Monticello from 1879 until he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. As I noted in Saving Monticello, Levy represented New York City’s 13th Congressional District from 1899-1901 and from 1911-15.

An extremely successful real estate and stock speculator, Jefferson Levy had been an active member of the conservative wing of Democratic Party since soon after he bought out the other heirs of his uncle Uriah Levy and took control of Monticello in 1879. That political work paid off in 1898 as Levy was rewarded with his party’s nomination for a House seat representing a good chunk of the East Side of Manhattan where he lived. In the general election Levy took nearly 60 percent of the votes and handily defeated Republican James W. Perry and two minor candidates.



What kind of Congressman was Jefferson M. Levy? He never achieved any position of power in the House, but seemed to have some influence in the chamber as he pushed a pro-business agenda. How pro-business? Among other measures, Levy introduced a bill to permit the Interstate Commerce Commission to authorize combinations or contracts between railroads, even if they violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. He also was a strong opponent of reinstituting the federal income tax, which was approved when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913. And Levy made headlines in July of that year by strongly advocating that the House stop investigating business-lobbying practices.

In the fall of 1900, the New York Democratic Party, which was dominated by the Tammany Hall machine, did not re-nominate Jefferson Levy for his congressional seat. Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, the son of the prominent New York Democratic Party leader August Belmont, got the nomination and won the November election.

Levy returned to politics in 1910. Back in favor with Tammany Hall, he was named in the fall as the Democratic candidate for the same New York City congressional district he had represented in 1899-1901. In November, Levy defeated two-term Republican Herbert Parsons in an election in which the Democrats wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. During that session of Congress Levy spoke out strongly against legislation that would strengthen anti-trust laws. He was elected to a third term in 1912.

What I didn’t report in Saving Monticello—and what I recently learned—is that Jefferson Levy had a dismal record when it came to making roll-call votes during his second and third terms in the House. According to congressional data analyzed on the website GovTrack.us, from April of 1911 to March of 1915, Jefferson Levy missed 295 of 527 recorded or roll call votes. That would be 56 percent of the recorded votes during those four years.

GovTrack.us contains a huge amount of information on its website. The page for Jefferson Levy’s record is: http://bit.ly/NkJyD9

Appearances: On Saturday, June 9, I will be going back to the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to sign copies of Flag and Lafayette from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. Look for me sitting behind a table in the hall outside the Museum Store in the building that houses The Star-Spangled Banner. The address is 14th Street and Constitution Avenue. For info, go to: http://bit.ly/KRc6nb

On the following Saturday, June 16, I will be doing a talk on Flag for the Thomas Nelson DAR Chapter’s annual Flag Day luncheon in Arlington, Virginia. On Thursday, June 21, I will be speaking about Lafayette to the Piedmont Philosophical Society, which is run by the McGhee Foundation near where I live in Middleburg, Virginia. The next day, Friday, June 22, I will be doing a talk on Saving Monticello for the Friends of the Buchanan Library in the restored Wilson Warehouse in Buchanan, Virginia. For info, go to www.bcplnet.org/friends-of-the-bcpl



My last event of the month will take place on Thursday, June 28, a talk at 2:00 p.m. on Lafayette for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the Loudoun Campus at 21641 Ridgetop Circle in Sterling, Virginia.

For more details about these talks and signings, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I also have a new Twitter account: @marcleepsonbook. I’d love to have you as a follower.

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 5 May 1, 2012


THE FOUNDATION’S MORTGAGE: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which has owned and operated Monticello since 1923, was born in March of that year in New York City. It formed with the express purpose of buying Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture from Jefferson Monroe Levy, who had owned it since 1879. The Foundation—christened The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation—announced early in April 1923 that an agreement had been reached with Jefferson Levy to purchase Monticello for his $500,000 asking price. The Foundation would put down $100,000 and take out a $400,000 mortgage. It then launched a nationwide movement to raise $1 million to purchase and administer Monticello.

The Foundation’s Board of Directors was well stocked with rich, influential members. The list included University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman; Virginia-born Nancy Langhorne Astor, better known as Lady Nancy Astor, and her sister Irene Langhorne Gibson, better known as the original “Gibson Girl” of the 1890s; former President Theodore Roosevelt; Gov. Elbert Lee Trinkle of Virginia; and the noted financier Felix M. Warburg.

But the Foundation did not come close to raising that one million dollars. As I noted in Saving Monticello, there were two big problems: First, in the early 1920s the idea of historic preservation had yet to take hold widely in the public imagination. Second, the American public had yet to recognize Thomas Jefferson and his many and varied accomplishments, including designing and building Monticello.

So, despite its well-heeled list of supporters, no large donors stepped forward. The Foundation staff, led by National Director Theodore Fred Kuper, tried several fund-raising schemes, including one they dubbed a “spiritual pilgrimage” from New York to Monticello. The event began with a fancy dinner in private Pullman railroad dining cars at Grand Central Station on June 15, 1923. The idea was that people would buy tickets for a penny a mile. New York City movie theater owners agreed to redeem the tickets for free performances to selected films.

The Foundation raised enough money to give Levy $100,000 as the first payment when he signed the title of Monticello over to the Foundation in New York City on December 1, 1923. Sadly, Jefferson Levy died three months later, on March 6, 1924, heart disease.

The Foundation barely managed to come up with the second $100,000 installment to Jefferson Levy on June 30, 1924. And it had great difficulty raising funds after making that payment—so much so that the Foundation found itself in default on June 30, 1925, when it was unable to come up with the next $100,000 payment. Jefferson Levy’s estate lawyers could have foreclosed on the mortgage, but agreed instead to give the Foundation until December 1, 1930, to make the payment. With the help of a $35,000 donation from Felix Warburg, that payment was made. The entire mortgage was paid off ten years later.

I detailed many of the varied fund-raising schemes the Foundation tried in the twenties and thirties in the book. But I recently discovered another one while browsing the on-line Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia (http://bit.ly/TJEncy) run by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. While searching “Jefferson Levy,” I read an interesting post by Anna Berkes, the very able Research Librarian at the Foundation, about a mortgage bond plan the Foundation devised. The Foundation issued 300 short-term mortgage bonds in $1,000 increments that they sold to supporters.

“Here’s how the bonds worked,” Berkes wrote. The Foundation “purchased the bonds. Every time somebody donated $1,000 to them, the Foundation would cancel one bond and present it to the donor with their name on it.” The bond scheme—along with the generosity of many donors—worked. It took until 1940, but the Foundation finally paid off the entire $400,000 mortgage.

The actual bonds, Berkes pointed out, are not worth anything today, other than as historic artifacts. “So if you’ve got one in your attic, sorry, you don’t own a piece of Monticello,” she said. “But it does mean that someone you know was very nice to Monticello long ago, and that’s something to be proud of!”

Appearances: On Wednesday, May 2, I will be doing a talk on the Lafayette book at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in the Michelle Smith Lecture Series. I am happy to report that that event is sold out. On Saturday, May 5, I will be taking part in the Local Author Fair at the Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas, Virginia, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The address is 8051 Ashton Avenue. For info, call 703-792-4546.

I’m speaking on the Lafayette book again on Thursday, May 17, at the monthly meeting of The Gathering at Falcon’s Landing retirement community in Potomac Falls, Virginia. On Wednesday, May 23, I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello for the monthly meeting of the Herndon, Va., Historical Society. For info, call 703-464-9091. The talk will be at the restored Herndon Train Depot. The next day, Thursday, May 24, I’ll be speaking on Flag at the weekly meeting of the Leesburg Rotary Club.

That weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27, I’ll be signing copies of all of my books at the 53rd annual Hunt Country Stable Tour on the lawn in front of Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, Virginia. For info, call 540-592-3711. I’ll be sharing a tent—as I did last year—with my friends and fellow authors, Len Shapiro and Vicky Moon. That evening, on Sunday, May 27, I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello for the Fauquier Jewish Congregation’s book club in Gainesville, Virginia.

On Wednesday, May 30, have a talk on Lafayette at the monthly meeting of the George Mason Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution at the Arlington-Fairfax Elk’s Lodge in Fairfax, Va. My last event of the month will take place on Thursday, May 31, a talk on Lafayette for the Frederick Arts Council in Frederick, Maryland. That event is free and open to the public. For info, go to www.frederickartscouncil.org or call 301-662-4190.

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 4 April 1, 2012


BEN FICKLIN, TEXAS: In October of 1861, some six months after the Civil War broke out, the Confederacy took action under its Sequestration Act to confiscate Monticello since it was owned by a northerner, Uriah P. Levy—“a captain in the Lincoln Navy,” as one newspaper put it. Levy, not a man to back down to anybody, fought the order in the Confederate courts. Two years after he died, the order went into effect, when, on November 17, 1864, Lieutenant Col. Benjamin Franklin Ficklin of the 50th Virginia Regiment purchased Monticello for $80,500 in Confederate money at an auction held at Monticello.



Ben Ficklin, as I noted in Saving Monticello, led an amazingly varied and adventurous life. He was born in 1827, in Albermarle County, grew up in Charlottesville, and went to the Virginia Military Institute where he is remembered to this day for his outlandish pranks. Among other things, Cadet Ficklin fired rockets on school grounds, buried the superintendent's boots in the snow, and painted his horse zebra colors.

Ficklin interrupted his studies to fight in the Mexican War, then returned to VMI where he graduated in the class of 1849, fourth from the bottom. After that, he went into the overland hauling business in Alabama, then moved out west where he worked as a route agent for a freight company. In 1857, he signed on with federal troops under Albert Sidney Johnston and took part in skirmishes with rebellious Mormons in the Utah territory.

Ficklin got back into the hauling business after that, when, in 1860, he came up with the idea for a fast new overland operation to deliver mail and news between St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Francisco. The company called it the Pony Express and gave Ficklin the job of organizing the operation. He set up 190 relay stations along the nearly 2,000-mile route, bought 500 horses, and signed on eighty riders. The Pony Express got off the ground in April 1860. Ficklin quit the job three months later after a fight with his bosses.

On May 5, 1861, three weeks after the Civil War began, he was commissioned a major in the Confederate Army. In 1862, he joined the 50th Virginia, and took part in several battles. Ficklin subsequently left the regiment and took over the operation of three blockade-running ships. It’s likely that the $80,000 in southern currency Ficklin laid out for Monticello came from profits he gained while shipping goods from Europe through the Union blockade to the South.

Shortly after the war ended, Ficklin was in Washington, D.C., where he was arrested—wrongly, it turned out—on April 16, 1865, for being involved in the assassination of President Lincoln. Ficklin later was in charge of U.S. mail operations in San Antonio, Texas. He died at age 44 while dining at the Willard Hotel in Washington when a fishbone lodged in his throat and the doctor who tried to remove it severed an artery.

I recently learned that Ben Ficklin’s legacy lived on in Texas where a town was named in his honor in 1875 in the West Texas Panhandle. In 1868, three years before his death, Ficklin bought some 640 acres about five miles south of Fort Concho. Soon people flocked to the little town that grew up there. The town was named in his honor after Ben Ficklin’s death when his friend F.C. Taylor filed an application for a post office for Ben Ficklin, Texas.



The town suffered a catastrophe in 1882 when a massive flood hit. Those who didn’t drown in the flood fled Ben Flicklin, which was in ruins. All that’s left of Ben Ficklin, Texas, today is a historic marker four miles south of San Angelo, Texas, on Highway 277, although local historians say it doesn’t mark the actual site of the short-lived town. There’s a fact-filled article on the town on the website texaslandscapes.com

Appearances: On Saturday, April 7, I will speak to a joint meeting of the Chevy Chase and Janet Montgomery DAR Chapters on the Lafayette book in Chevy Chase, Maryland. On Wednesday, April 11, I’ll be speaking about the Marquis de Lafayette again for the Cameron Parish DAR Chapter in Chantilly, Virginia. The following day, Thursday, April 12, I’ll head down to Richmond to do a talk on Lafayette for the Richmond Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

I’ll be on a panelist on Saturday, April 21, at the two-day Hunt Country Writers’ Retreat in Middleburg, Virginia, with my friends and follow authors Ellen Crosby, Susan McCorkindale, and Jan Neuharth, who is co-hosting the event. I believe there still is room for more participants. Feel free to email me if you are interested.

On Saturday, April 28, I’ll be back at the Museum Shop at Monticello, signing copies of Lafayette and Saving Monticello from noon to five. Come on by if you’re in the area!

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter





Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 3 March 1, 2012


JML as VP? Jefferson M. Levy served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (from 1899-1901 and again from 1911-15) as a Tammany Hall Democratic Congressman from New York City. He was not exactly a mover and shaker on Capitol Hill. Levy was, in essence, a back bencher with little political clout. But the man who owned Monticello from 1879-1923—and who made a fortune in real estate and stock speculation—had an exalted opinion of his political possibilities.

As I pointed out in Saving Monticello, in September of 1898, a matter of weeks before the election that would send him to Congress for the first, time, Jefferson Levy made a rather startling announcement. He said he would run for Speaker of the House, the top leadership position in that body (and the second in the line of succession to the presidency after the Vice President), when Congress convened in January.

“I have received,” Levy told a newspaper reporter, “a large number of letters and telegrams urging me to become a candidate for the Speakership on the Democratic side, and I have decided to stand for it.” In Washington in January 1899, the Congressman-elect threw a big banquet for some of his friends in Congress, including several members of the Virginia congressional delegation. But that effort and Levy’s other lobbying for the Speakership failed. When Congress convened, Jefferson M. Levy took his place as a first-term member with no seniority. He was given no leadership position in the Democratic Party, much less the Speakership.

Later in his political career, in November of 1913, as I also noted in Saving Monticello, Jefferson Levy announced that he expected to be the Democratic candidate in 1914 for the New York Senate seat held by the famed Elihu Root (1845-1937), the former McKinley administration Secretary of War and Secretary of State under Teddy Roosevelt. Root had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. The Levy nomination never came to pass.

The New York Democrats held a primary that year. In it, James W. Gerard defeated 34-year-old State Senator Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Senate nomination; Gerard went on to lose the general election to the Republican, former Congressman James W. Wadsworth, Jr.

What I hadn’t discovered when I wrote the book—and just recently found out—was that there was some talk that Levy was in contention for the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1900 when he was a freshman member of Congress. A May 30, 1900, article in The New York Times, looked at six men who were in the running for the position. One of the six was Jefferson M. Levy. The article also contained rough sketches of Levy and the five other supposedly presumptive Democratic V.P. candidates. Levy was pictured standing ramrod straight with a portrait of his uncle, Uriah Levy, in the background.

Levy’s hopes for the nomination, the article said, “seem to be based upon the contingency of the nomination of Admiral Dewey for President.” Admiral George Dewey was riding a gigantic wave of popularity in the wake of his defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay two years earlier. The article went on to say mention that Jefferson Levy owned Monticello and Dewey “served under” Uriah Levy “as a midshipman”—a slice of information I had not heard before.

There would be no Dewey-Levy Democratic ticket in 1900. Dewey did enter the presidential race, but proved to be a weak candidate and soon dropped out. The Democrats instead chose William Jennings Bryan, the populist, to run against incumbent William McKinley—the same two candidates who had run in 1896. This time McKinley went with New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate. TR was riding a crest of popularity after of his bombastic exploits in the Spanish-American War. The Democrats’ vice presidential nominee was Adlai Stevenson, Sr., who had served as vice president in Grover Cleveland’s second term.

The New York Times article speculating about Jefferson Levy’s VP chances was written by Amos Cummings, a former newspaper reporter, who was then—like Levy—a Tammany New York Democratic Congressman. In the article, Cummings characterized Jefferson Levy as “a plain, unassuming member of Congress,” who lived in “one of the finest houses in Washington,” and who gave “banquets surpassing those of either Lucullus [the ancient Roman politician] or [New York Senator] Chauncey M. Depew.”

Cummings, by the way, was the author of an 1897 New York Sun article, “A National Humiliation,” which was a thinly veiled anti-Semitic attack on Uriah and Jefferson Levy’s ownership of Monticello. In it, Cummings wrote: “Monticello is now owned by a Levy, who charges patriotic Americans, Democrat and Republican, twenty-five cents admission to the grounds alone, and refuses admission to the house at any price during his absence.”. He went on to say that Jeffersonn Levy purchased Monticello for $10,000, but “is said to value Monticello at $100,000. Possibly he imagines that he can eventually sell it to either the State or the Federal Government for this sum.”

Appearances: I have another busy month coming up with speaking engagements. Here’s the list:

On Saturday, March 3, I have two talks scheduled at two DAR chapters in northern Virginia—for the Henry Clay Chapter in Alexandria and in the Lanes Mill Chapter Centreville—on Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership From the Idealist General.

On Sunday, March 11, I will be doing a talk on the history of the Star-Spangled Banner, the song and the flag, for the Mosby Heritage Area Association, based on my book Flag: An American Biography. The talk will take place at 2:00 at historic Oatlands Plantation near Leesburg, Virginia. Following the talk and a book signing, everyone will make the short drive to Rokeby, the historic house where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were stored for safekeeping in 1814 when the British burned Washington, D.C. For more info, go to www.mosbyheritagearea.org

I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette on Sunday, March 18, at the Manassas Museum in old town Manassas, Virginia, at 2:00, followed by a book signing. The address is 9101 Prince William Street, Manassas 20110. It’s free and open to the public. For info, call 703-257-8463.

On Tuesday, March 20, I’ll be speaking to the Daughters of Colonial Wars in Virginia Chapter on the Lafayette book. I’ll be driving to Pittsburgh to do a talk at 4:00 p.m. on Flag at the Heinz History Museum downtown at 1212 Smallman Street. It’s in conjunction with the museum’s terrific special exhibit on the flag. For more info go to www.heinzhhistorycenter.org

On Saturday, March 24, I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello at the annual meeting of the Botetourt County Historical Society in Fincastle, Virginia. It’ll be in the evening at the Fincastle Methodist Church, 127 South Church St. For info, call 540-473-8394. I’ll also be speaking about the Levys and Monticello on Tuesday, March 27, at 10:30 a.m. for the Active Retiree group at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, 1441 Wiehle Ave., in Reston, Virginia.

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 2 February 1, 2012


Jefferson and Slavery: Monticello has done exemplary work since the early 1990s telling the story of Thomas Jefferson and slavery. The official guidebooks, the tour guide themselves, and the exhibits in the visitors center do not shy away from the fact that Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime. What’s more, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which has owned and operated Monticello since 1923, began an extensive oral history project involving slave descendants, called Getting Word, in 1993.

The idea, the Foundation says, is “to preserve the histories of the African American families at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.” More than a hundred interviews with the descendants have been conducted, along with other archival research. This “has brought remarkable individuals out of the shadows of slavery,” the Foundation notes. “We can now tell the stories of people whose lives and achievements were all but erased over the last 200 years.” The project’s latest component is a new, excellent web site: http://bit.ly/GettingWord


Descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves at a 1999 reunion at Monticello

“We don't shy away from slavery; we talk about slavery because we know that it’s fundamentally important to understanding Jefferson and understanding America,” Susan Stein, Monticello’s senior curator, recently told an Associated Press reporter. “In this time period, 20 percent of America’s population was enslaved, and 38 percent of Virginia’s population in 1790 were slaves.”

And now, for the first time, two new and ambitious exhibits—one in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that opened January 27, and one at Monticello that will open in mid-February—go into detail about the Sage of Monticello and the “Peculiar Institution” of slavery.

A full-length statue of Jefferson standing in front of a red wall that lists the names of 600 of his slaves (below) greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, which is called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” That exhibit, a joint production of the under-construction National Museum of African American History and Culture and Monticello, runs through October 14.


The exhibit at Monticello, “Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello,” will be a permanent part of the visitor experience on the mountain after it opens in the middle of this month. Mulberry Row (below) is the area of Monticello where the slave cabins formerly stood. It also is the site of the grave of Rachel Levy, Uriah Levy’s mother who died at Monticello in 1839 and is buried there. This outdoor exhibit will feature displays explaining what it was like to live as a slave at Monticello at the exact sites where everything took place.




The 3,000-square-foot Smithsonian exhibit, which was put together by Rex Ellis, the associate director of the African-American museum, and Elizabeth Chew, a curator at Monticello, contains many objects and artifacts from the Smithsonian’s collections and from Monticello. That includes the lap desk on which Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Curators believe that that desk was built by John Hemmings, a cabinetmaker who was a member of the famed Hemings family of slaves at Monticello (John Hemmings spelled his last name with two ‘m’s.)

There are displays showcasing six multi-generational Monticello slave families, including the Hemingses, the Fossetts, the Grangers, and the Hubbards. Jefferson encouraged marriages among his slaves to try to keep families together even though slave marriages were illegal in Virginia at the time. The exhibit also features the stories of some of the descendants of Monticello slaves.

Among the events that will be held in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit: a discussion entitled “Monticello, Slavery, and the Hemingses,” featuring Annette Gordon-Reed and Michel Martin on Monday, February 6, 2012, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at American History’s Baird Auditorium. Michel Martin is the host of the NPR show, “Tell Me More.” Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law professor, is the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. That event is free and open to the public on a first come, first seated basis. For info, call 202-633-0070.

For its part, Monticello will be offering a new, two-hour tour, “Waiting on Liberty: Slavery in Jefferson’s ‘Great House,” which will run on Saturdays and Sundays in February beginning at 1:00 p.m. starting at the Woodlawn Pavilion at the Visitors Center.

The Pier Mirrors: Only a few pieces of furniture and furnishings—including the famous Great Clock and the ladder that Jefferson had made to wind it—that you see today at Monticello have been in place in the house continually since Thomas Jefferson’s time. I recently was reminded by a Facebook friend, Martin Calloway, that the pier mirrors that Jefferson ordered from France also should be added to that small list.



The mirrors, which probably were made in 1785 in Paris, are located in Monticello’s Parlor. Jefferson pruchased four of the mirrors, probably two different pairs. They arrived at Monticello in 1790. Two of the mirrors, which were hung in Jefferson’s Bedroom and the Dining Room, left Monticello, mostly likely in 1827 when the family sold nearly all of Jefferson’s possessions a year after his death to try to pay off the $107,000 debt they inherited.

The two mirrors that remain are rectangular and flank the
double-acting doors that lead to the Entrance Hall. For whatever reason, they were not sold in 1827 and remained in the house through the ownership of James Turner Barclay (1831-1834) and Uriah Levy (1834-1862), the time when caretaker Joel Wheeler was in charge of the house during the dispute over Uriah Levy’s will (1862-1872), and the ownership of Jefferson Monroe Levy (1879-1923).

For more detail on the pier mirrors, go to the following entry on Monticello’s on-line Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia: http://bit.ly/PierMirrors

Appearances
: I have a busy month coming up with speaking engagements. Here’s the list:

On Saturday, February 4, I will do a talk on my latest book. Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership From the Idealist General, for the Fairfax County DAR Chapter in Vienna, Virginia.

On Sunday, February 5, I’ve been invited to be the guest speaker at the Sunday morning brunch meeting of the Uriah P. Levy Lodge of B’nai B’rith. The event will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax. One guess which book I will be discussing!

On Wednesday, February 8, I will be speaking to the Fairfax Resolves Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) at 7:00 p.m. on the Lafayette book at the Vinson Hall Retirement Community in McLean, Virginia.

I will be doing a talk on my book, Desperate Engagement, a history of the July 9, 1864, Civil War Battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s subsequent attack on Washington, D.C., on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14, for a book group that meets at the Army-Navy Club in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, February 18, I will be the guest speaker at the annual American History Luncheon sponsored by the Shadwell DAR Chapter at the Greencroft Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. The topic will be the life of the Marquis de Lafayette.

My final event of the month also will take place in Charlottesville: on Wednesday, February 29, as part of the Virginia in the Revolution lecture series at the Charlottesville Senior Center beginning at 6:00 p.m. The talk will focus on Lafayette’s role in Virginia in 1781 during the American Revolution. That event is free and open to the public.

For more details about these events, as well as my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Facebook, Twitter
: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume IX, Number 1 January 1, 2012


The Dedication: The ceremonies were due to begin at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, December 16, inside historic Congregation Mikveh Israel in Center City Philadelphia, a stone’s throw from the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church, the Betsy Ross house and other icons of early American history. Mikveh Israel itself was founded in 1740, and is known as the “Synagogue of the Revolution” since it attracted Jews from across the nation who came to Philadelphia seeking refuge from the British when the fighting began.

Uriah Levy’s grandfather, Jonas Phillips Levy, a merchant in Philadelphia, helped raise the funds for the Congregation’s first building in 1792. He later served as president of Mikveh Israel, a Spanish and Portuguese congregation. Uriah Levy, who was born in Philadelphia in 1792, worshiped there with his family. The current building, the Congregation’s fifth, was built in 1976 close to the site of the original 1782 structure.



The ceremonies on December 16, 2011, were held to dedicate a statue of Uriah Levy by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky (in the photo above). The statue was commissioned by Retired Navy Captain Gary “Yuri” Tabach, who came to this country as a young boy from the Soviet Union, and Josh Landes, who works as a wealth manager in New York, and was born and raised in Philadelphia. He is the son of retired Navy Admiral, Rabbi Aaron Landes. Gary Tabach and Josh Landes are boyhood friends who graduated from Philadelphia’s Akiba Hebrew Academy.

I was invited to give brief remarks about Uriah Levy at the ceremonies, which were held in the Mikveh Israel sanctuary. The statue stands on a beautiful brick pedestal (designed to honor Uriah Levy’s ownership of Monticello). It sits outside the building facing 5th Street, a half block from the new National Museum of Jewish American History.

I arrived at Mikveh Israel at around 9:30 that morning. Josh Landes, whom I had not met in person, greeted me effusively. He was in charge of the event, and turned me over to Lea Alvo-Sadiky, the congregation’s executive director, who set up a table for me to sign copies of Saving Monticello and make me feel at home.

People soon started arriving. By the time the ceremonies began, there were around three hundred, including several busloads of students from the Perelman Jewish Day School. As I was talking to people, Harley Lewis (Jefferson Levy’s great-great grand niece who provided invaluable help with me when I was researching and writing Saving Monticello) arrived with her granddaughter Toby from New York. They later were joined by her grandson Adam from Washington. I greatly enjoyed talking to them.

Before the ceremonies I also met Bruce Tucker, a historic interpreter in period Navy uniform who would be part of ceremonies. I also was very glad to see Larry Holman, a fellow Vietnam veteran who is the President of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Pennsylvania State Council

Betsy Rosenbloom, the SM newsletter subscriber who first told me about the statue, drove in from Boston with her husband and daughters. It was delightful to meet her and her family. Not only did Betsy alert me to the pending dedication of the statue, but she also put me in touch with Josh Landes, which led to the invitation to take part in the December 16 events.

I also met the sculptor, Gregory Pototsky, who is short, round, bearded, very friendly and speaks not a word of English. His wife Olga served as his interpreter. After the sculptor signed a copy of a brochure of his work to me, Olga Pototsky asked if I’d like to be taped for Russian TV talking about Uriah Levy and Monticello. I said yes, and we walked outside in front of the statute. It was cold out there as I talking about the book into the RTV camera.



I told the Russians that it was Russian-like weather, since it was a nippy 42 degrees and windy. They laughed that one off, saying it was more like Russian-spring-like weather. Nevertheless, I was happy to walk rapidly back into the warm synagogue where I met Admiral Landes, among other folks.

The ceremonies began just after eleven. There were 16 speakers. Josh Landes emceed. He was good, and tried to keep things moving, but the ceremonies wound up going on for nearly two hours. There was an invocation by Mikveh Israel’s rabbi, Albert Gabbai, followed by remarks from—among others—the president of the Congregation, Mark Wolfson; the chair of the dedication committee, Leon Levy; Army Col. (and Rabbi) Barry R. Baron; Yuri Tabach; and Gregory and Olga Pototsky.

Then I have my remarks. Josh told me I had four minutes, so I spoke rapidly. I first told everyone that the Levys pronounced the name “LEH-vee” because the previous speakers called him Uriah “LEE-vee.” I then went into UPL commissioning the statue of Thomas Jefferson in Paris, which led to Levy meeting Lafayette, which led to Levy buying, repairing, restoring and preserving Monticello. I ended by saying I thought that in addition to everything else Levy did in his eventful life, he was the first American house preservationist.



After me, John Lehman, a native Philadelphian who is a former Navy secretary, spoke briefly, off the cuff, and well. Rear Admiral Herman Shelanski followed Lehman. Then came Bruce Tucker, who spoke in Uriah Levy’s voice about the incident in Brazil after which he was offered an admiralship in the Brazilian Navy but said he’d rather be a cabin boy in the U.S. Navy.



The ceremonies ended with Rabbi Landes doing the Benediction. The event’s sponsors laid out a huge lunch buffet. I signed books as folks ate, and met many kind people. Before I left, I happily posed for a picture with Betsy Rosenbloom in front of the statute (above).

It was a great morning and I was proud to be a small part of it.

Appearances: I have two speaking engagements scheduled for January, both on my new book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General.

On Tuesday, January 10, I’ll be going back to the Washington Club in the nation’s capital to speak at the monthly luncheon. More info at http://thewashingtonclub.com

And on Tuesday, January 31, I will be speaking at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the university’s Great Lives Lecture Series. The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. The event is open to the public free of charge. For more info, call 540-654-1065 or go to www.umw.edu/greatlives

I have six events scheduled for February, with many more in the coming months. Stay tuned for details on those events or go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That is the “Author Events” page on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Facebook, Twitter
: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 12 December 1, 2011




UPL Statue Dedication
: I feel honored to have been invited to take part in the ceremonies on Friday, December 16, at the dedication of a new statue of Uriah Levy outside the historic Congregation Mikveh Israel on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The ceremonies begin at 11:00 a.m.

The statue, by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, was commissioned several years ago by the since-retired U.S. Navy Capt. Yuri “Gary” Tabach when he was stationed in Moscow and Capt. Tabach’s friend Joshua Landes, who lives in New York City and is on the American Jewish Historical Society’s Board of Trustees. The statue was unveiled in 2009 at the AJHS and The Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History in New York, then went into storage. It now will have a permanent home in Philadelphia, where Uriah Levy was born in 1792. He and his family worshiped at Mikveh Israel.

“Great American people need to be permanently remembered by their people,” Tabach, who was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in Philadelphia, told the Jewish Exponent weekly newspaper. “Levy was a dedicated Jew” who accomplished great things. To read the entire article, go to http://bit.ly/UPLStatue

I will be making brief remarks on Uriah Levy’s veneration of Thomas Jefferson and his stewardship of Monticello at the dedication ceremonies. There will be a reception following the ceremonies at which I will be signing copies of Saving Monticello.


JML & the Other Jews in Congress
: Several years ago I heard from Kurt Stone, who was working on a book that would contain short bios of every Jewish member of the U.S. Congress. The book, The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members (Scarecrow Press, 714 pp., $85), came our earlier this year. It does, indeed, include detailed profiles of the 200 Jewish men and women who have served in the United States Congress since 1841—since David Levy Yulee, the first Jew to be was elected to Congress (as a Delegate from the 27th Congress of the Territory of Florida), took his seat in the House of Representatives.

Stone, who is a rabbi at North Broward Havurah in Coral Springs, Florida, includes in the book a three-and-a-half page entry on Jefferson Monroe Levy. In it, Stone also gives a concise history of the Levy family, highlighting both J.M. Levy and his uncle Uriah P. Levy and their ownership and stewardship of Monticello. He ends the entry with a kind acknowledgement of the work I have done on the Levys and Monticello.


www.smithsonian.com:
Smithsonian.com, the website of the Smithsonian Institution, has a regular feature called “The Essentials” in which an expert in a field recommends five books about a topic. Last month the editor asked me to recommend five books about Thomas Jefferson—or as she puts it on the website, “a list of five must-reads for a better understanding of the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States.”

What follows is the list of books I chose, along with my short descriptions of each. The site, http://bit.ly/SmithTJeff, also contains longer descriptions of the books:

1. Jefferson and His Time (2005), by Dumas Malone - Malone is a Jefferson partisan, but his scholarship in this six-volume book originally published between 1948 and 1982, is impeccable.

2. American Sphinx (1996), by Joseph J. Ellis - An insightful, readable look at Jefferson’s character.

3. Twilight at Monticello (2008), by Alan Pell Crawford - The best treatment by far of Jefferson’s life post-presidency (1809-26).

4. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960), by Merrill D. Peterson - A revealing history of Jefferson’s historical reputation from the 1820s to the 1930s.

5. The Hemingses of Monticello (2008), by Annette Gordon-Reed - No list would be complete without a book on Jefferson, slavery and the Hemings family. This is the best one.


Monticello’s Newsletter on line
: The Winter 2011 issue of Monticello’s excellent semiannual newsletter is now on line at http://bit.ly/MontNewsltr Among other things, there is an article about the January 27 opening at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in Washington of the exhibit called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” and Monticello’s recent acquisition of a mahogany neoclassical sofa. That piece of original Monticello furniture was donated to the Monticello Foundation by a member of the Trist family, a direct descendant of Jefferson’s granddaughter, Virginia Randolph Trist, and her husband Nicholas Trist. The Trists received the sofa as a gift from the Sage of Monticello himself.

Appearances: In addition to participating in the ceremonies at the Uriah Levy statue dedication at Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia on Friday, December, 16, I have two other speaking engagements scheduled for this month, both on my new book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. Three are open to the public.

I will do a talk on Thursday, December 1, for the Albemarle DAR Chapter in Charlottesville at its monthly meeting at the Greencroft Club. On Tuesday, December 6, I’m the guest speaker at the Kate Waller Barrett Chapter’s December meeting at Mount Vernon Country Club in Alexandria. Va.
For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 11 November 1, 2011


UPL and Lafayette:
At a talk I did recently on my new book, the concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, a woman in the audience who knew about Saving Monticello asked if Lafayette and Uriah Levy had met. They did, and they did so twice, in 1824 and in 1832 in Paris. Both meetings centered on Thomas Jefferson and both men’s admiration for the Sage of Monticello. The second meeting, if the skimpy historical evidence can be believed, also led to Uriah Levy purchasing Monticello in 1834.

I recounted both meetings in Saving Monticello, but recently discovered a few more details about what happened—details I’m happy to go over here. The men met the first time early in 1824, during one of the frequent times that Uriah Levy, who was then a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, had between ship-board assignments. While on leave in Paris during the winter of 1824-25 studying French and the doings of the French Navy, Levy joined with a group of other Americans who decided to throw a party in the City of Light to celebrate George Washington’s February 22 birthday.

The idea for the banquet was the brainchild of I. Cox Barnet, the U.S. consul, and he set up a committee to made the arrangements. Said committee consisted of two physicians, Dr. Peter Forester of New York City and Dr. E. J. Coxe of Philadelphia, along with William A. G. Barnet (no doubt a relative of the consul) of New Jersey and U.S. Navy Lt. Uriah P. Levy, who was born in Philadelphia and then lived in New York City.

Before the banquet, it appears that Uriah Levy paid a visit to Lafayette, who was one of his heroes, at La Grange, the Marquis’s home on the outskirts of Paris. “They spoke at some length of Thomas Jefferson, currently busy designing the buildings for the soon-to-be-completed University of Virginia,” Donovan Fitzpatrick and Saul Saphire write in Navy Maverick, their notoriously under-documented 1963 Levy biography.

Fitzpatrick and Saphire go on to say that the meeting was arranged through William H. Crawford, the U.S. Minister (ambassador) to France. They quote from a letter Crawford wrote to Lafayette on Levy’s behalf and from “Uriah’s letters to his mother” telling of the meeting. But the authors did not footnote those letters, and it is not known where those letters are—or even if they exist at all.

In the supposed letters to his mother, Levy said the visit went “most agreeably,” and that the two men spoke of their imprisonments (Levy’s in England during the War of 1812 and Lafayette’s at the hands of the Austrians from 1792-97). Lafayette also allegedly showed Levy a ring he had that contained “locks of hair of George Washington and his wife,” the biographers say, as well as two pistols Washington gave the Marquis and a monogrammed pin Benjamin Franklin gave him.

Lafayette supposedly told Levy he hoped to see him during his upcoming trip to America. Fitzpatrick and Safire go on to claim that when Lafayette was in New York in August of 1824 he “inquired as to the whereabouts of the ‘charming young officer Lt. Levy.’” As Gertrude Stein once (allegedly) said, “Very interesting—if true.”

A more portentous Levy-Lafayette meeting came eight years later, in the fall of 1832. Levy was again on leave in Paris. This time he was in the city on a mission to honor Thomas Jefferson. Levy sought out and hired the great French sculptor David (pronounced “da-VEED”) to create a full-length statue of his hero, which he was going to donate to the people of the United States. This much is well documented.

What is not so well documented (although it has the ring of truth) is the often-repeated story that David needed a likeness of Jefferson’s face, so Levy paid a second visit to the 75-year-old Lafayette at La Grange. The purpose: to borrow a portrait of Jefferson by the American painter Thomas Sully (or, more likely, a copy of the Sully painting), for David to use.


We know that Levy stayed in Paris until David completed the statue early in 1834. He then sailed home and presented the plaster model of that statue (above), painted black, to the city of New York. The statue, inscribed, “Thomas Jefferson by David D’Angers, Presented to the City of New York by Commodore Uriah P. Levy, USN, February 6, 1834,” sits today in the ornate City Council Chamber.

It is the only piece of sculpture in a room filled with oil portraits and crowned by an enormous ceiling painting. Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), one of the oil paintings near the statue is a large portrait of Lafayette (below) by Samuel F. B. Morse. That painting was done during Lafayette’s triumphant 1824-5 visit to the United States.


Levy donated the original of the David sculpture of Jefferson to the U.S. Congress. Today it sits in National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Rotunda—the only one in the building donated by an individual citizen. The David Jefferson is considered to be one of the most valuable pieces of artwork in the Capitol.

The Rotunda houses two other David pieces: a bronze bust of George Washington and a marble bust of—who else?—the Marquis de Lafayette.

Back in Paris during Levy’s visit to Lafayette, another almost too good to be true story (and one with no documentation) goes that during their meeting at La Grange, the marquis asked the young Navy lieutenant what had happened to his old compatriot Jefferson’s beloved home. Lafayette had paid a famous, emotional visit to Jefferson at Monticello in November of 1824. Levy told Lafayette that he didn’t know what had become of Monticello, but would find out.

While the historical evidence that this conversation took place is iffy, what happened subsequently is not. We know that not long after coming back to the United States, Uriah Levy took a coach from New York to Virginia, arrived at Monticello in March of 1834, found out the place was for sale, and bought it from James Turner Barclay on April 1. The rest is American preservation history.

Appearances: I have four speaking engagements scheduled for November on my new book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General and on Desperate Engagement. Three are open to the public. They will take place on:

Saturday, November 12
, at the 3rd annual New Jersey Conference on the American Revolution at the Holiday Inn Cherry Hill, 2175 Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, N.J. The all-day conference begins at 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday, November 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the monthly meeting of the Southern Fauquier Historical Society at Zoar Baptist Church in Bristersburg, Virginia. Info: www.fauquierhistory.org

Thursday, November 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the monthly meeting of the Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable at the GAR Hall on 53 E. Middle Street in Gettysburg. Info: www.cwrtgettysburg.org

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 9 October 1, 2011


The Great Clock
: You cannot write about Monticello’s furnishings without mentioning the enormous Great Clock that Thomas Jefferson designed and had built—the one that frames the door of the Entrance Hall. The one that features two sets of eighteen-pound weights that hang on ropes that descend through holes in the floor to keep it running. The one that also is known as the Seven-Day Clock, because the six cannon-ball-like weights on each side also mark the days of the week on the wall as they move up and down.

Jefferson thought of the idea for the clock when he was in Philadelphia in 1792—coincidently, the year that Uriah Levy was in that same city. Jefferson had the clock built by Philadelphia clockmaker Peter Spurck, and it most likely came to Monticello in 1794. Soon thereafter, Jefferson hired local artisans to repair and install the Great Clock (he wasn’t a big fan of Spurck’s work). It was not installed until 1804 when Jefferson was President.

The Great Clock required weekly winding, which was done on Sundays. Jefferson had a wooden folding ladder made in the Monticello joinery to do that job. As I noted in Saving Monticello, the Great Clock and the wooden ladder are two of just a handful of items that never have been removed from Monticello from Thomas Jefferson’s time to today. The others are a bust of Voltaire and a rudimentary carriage.

In 1827, Jefferson’s executors—his daughter Martha and his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph—reluctantly sold all of Jefferson’s possessions to try to pay off the enormous ($107,000) debt they inherited. The clock, the ladder, the bust, and the carriage remained behind—and stayed through the ownership of James Turner Barclay (1831-1834) and Uriah Levy (1834-1862), the caretaker-ship of Joel Wheeler (1862-1879), and the ownership of Jefferson M. Levy (1879-1923) and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

The clock was in disrepair when Barclay purchased Monticello from the Randolphs. We believe that the Charlottesville pharmacist may have bought special tools to repair the Great Clock, which a Barclay daughter later wrote, had been broken for “many years.”

The Great Clock was a bone of contention in the sale of Monticello from Barclay to Levy. The two men signed a contract in April 1834, but then fought it out in court for two years over the number of acres and what items what would convey with the property. One of the disputed items was the Great Clock. Barclay at first wanted to take the clock; Levy wanted it kept at Monticello. Levy prevailed.

After Levy died in 1862, caretaker Joel Wheeler lived in Monticello for 17 years while Levy’s heirs fought over his will. During that time the house and grounds went into serious decline. That included the Great Clock. One visitor during Wheeler’s time said of the clock: “Dust and rust corrode the silent wheels.”

Flash forward to the late summer of 2011. The Great Clock has long since been repaired and restored to its 1804 condition. And the folks at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation take care to keep it running. “The clock is old and, since it does run, it needs periodic conservation work,” Carrie Taylor, Monticello’s collections manager, told C-ville magazine in early September.

The magazine ran a fascinating article about the man who does the conservation work on the clock: David Todd of Kilmarnock, Virginia, a 69-year-old clockmaker who recently retired as Conservator of Timekeeping at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology in Washington. “Spurck didn’t do a particularly good job,” Todd told Brendan Fitzgerald of C-ville. “Partly because of his own ineptitude, and partly because of Jefferson’s specifications—which showed he knew a lot about mechanics, but not quite enough about clocks.”

After the Great Clock grinded to a halt recently, Todd made a service call and succeeded in getting it running again. To read all about that in C-ville, go to http://bit.ly/GreatClock For an excellent history of the Great Clock by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, go to http://bit.ly/MontGreatClock

Appearances: I have ten events in October, most of them for my new book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. That includes a trip to Monticello on the afternoon of October 26 (see below). At all of my events—whether they are talks about Lafayette, the Battle of Monocacy (my book, Desperate Engagement), or the history of the American flag—I always make sure to have copies available of Saving Monticello on hand.

Eight of the October events are open to the public. They are:

On Sunday, October 2, I will do a talk on Desperate Engagement at 1:00 as part of the Sunday afternoon Tea in the Carriage House at historic Oatlands Plantation near Leesburg, Virginia. Reservations for this classic tea with all the accoutrements are required. For info, go to www.oatlands.org or call 703-777-3174.

On Tuesday, October 4, I will be speaking to the Wilmington, Delaware, Masonic Lafayette Lodge at 7:30 p.m. at the Grand Masonic Lodge of Delaware in downtown Wilmington at 818 No. Market St. Appropriately enough, I will be speaking about the life of the Marquis de Lafayette, the Lodge’s namesake. The event is open to the public. No reservations are required.


I will be signing copies of all of my books, including Saving Monticello, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, October 8, at the annual Waterford Home Tour and Crafts Exhibit, better known as the Waterford Fair, in the historic village of Waterford, Virginia, in northern Loudoun County west of Leesburg. For more info, call 540-882-3018 or go to www.waterfordfoundation.org/fair

On Wednesday, October 12, I will be speaking about Desperate Engagement at the Cleveland (Ohio) Civil War Roundtable at Judson Manor, 1890 E. 107th St. Social hour begins at 6:00; dinner is at 7:00 Guests are welcome. To make a dinner reservation, email ccwrt1956@yahoo.com or call 440-449-9311.

On Friday, October 14, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette at the College of Southern Maryland as part of CSM’s Connections literary series. The talk will begin at 7:00 at the La Plata Campus, 8730 Mitchell Rd., La Plata, Maryland. For info, call 301-934-2251. For info, go to www.csmd.edu/Connections/readings.html#Leepson

On Wednesday, October 19, I will be the guest speaker (on Lafayette) at 1:00 pm during the annual Yorktown Day commemoration in Yorktown, Virginia. The talk, sponsored by the York County Historical Committee, will be held at York Hall, 301 Main St. For more info, call 757-890-3508. Tickets are not required, but seating is limited. Refreshments will be served following my talk.

On Monday, October 24, I’ll be speaking about Desperate Engagement at the monthly meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Roundtable at the Hampton Community Center, 3010 McCully Road in Allison Park, Pa. For info, go to http://grpghcwrt.org

My talk at Monticello promises to be a great event. It will begin at 3:30 pm on Wednesday, October 26, in the Nichols Room of the Jefferson Library with an informal tea. My friend Susan Stein, Monticello’s longtime curator, will introduce me at 4:00. A book signing (of Lafayette and Saving Monticello) will follow in the library lobby. The event is free and open to the public but reservations are strongly encouraged. To do so, call 434-984-7540.

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 9 September1, 2011


Jefferson Levy’s Servants
: Harley Lewis—Jefferson Levy’s great-great grand niece who was so helpful to me when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello—recently send me an email with information about one of Jefferson Levy’s long-time employees at Monticello, Willis Henderson (1885-1966).

Mr. Henderson was a member of the Coleman-Henderson extended family, many of whom lived and worked at Monticello for close to two centuries. Members of the family did a wide variety of jobs. Some women were local midwives; other family members worked as ox team drivers, cooks, and household employees of the Levy family.



Willis Henderson, who was born at Monticello, worked, among other jobs, as the official greeter for visitors at the old front gate in the early decades of the 20th century.

Harley Lewis sent me the family photo on the left, which most likely was taken around the turn of the 20th century. It shows Jefferson Levy’s young nephew, Monroe Mayhoff (the son of his sister Amelia and her husband Carl Mayhoff) sitting on a pony. On the far left is Monroe’s nurse, Mrs. Cameron, Harley Lewis said.

The woman peering out of the window, she believes, most likely is Amelia Mayhoff, the boy’s mother; the woman sitting on the steps at the far right probably is a family servant. The groom standing next to the horse, Mrs. Lewis believes, is a young Willis Henderson.

2012 Exhibit on Slavery: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., announced August 30 that they will be collaborating on a new exhibition, “Jefferson and Slavery at Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” which will open at the African American History Gallery in the Smithsonian’s American History Museum on the National Mall on January 27, 2012.

“By exploring Jefferson’s ideas and slavery at his plantation,” the two institutions “are examining one of the most difficult topics in American history,” the press release announcing the exhibit said. “The exhibition will explore how the paradox of slavery in Jefferson’s world, and at Monticello, is relevant for generations beyond Jefferson’s lifetime. It will provide a glimpse into the lives of six slave families living at Monticello.”

“Understanding the details of the lives of enslaved people adds to our understanding of history, and our understanding of race relations today. We cannot have a clear view of Jefferson, or the founding of our nation, if we leave slavery out of the story,” said Lonnie Bunch, Director of the NMAAHC.

Monticello in recent years has stepped up its interpretation of slavery and has been working to restore Mulberry Row, which at one time contained 21 dwellings for enslaved and free workers, as well as workshops and storage sheds. An exhibition called “Mulberry Row and the Landscape of Slavery at Monticello” is scheduled to open on the mountain in February of next year. It will feature computer animation, a website and a smart phone app focusing on the lives of enslaved people of Monticello.

There also are plans to re-create a dwelling for enslaved people, reinstate Jefferson’s original roads, mark the sites and outlines of lost structures and restore the two remaining original buildings on Mulberry Row—which also is the site of the grave of Uriah Levy’s mother, Rachel Levy, who died and was buried at Monticello in 1839.

“As a result of Jefferson’s assiduous record-keeping, augmented by fifty years of modern scholarly research, Monticello is the best documented, best preserved, and best studied plantation in North America,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “Through our partnership, Monticello and NMAAHC have a unique opportunity to discuss slavery as the unresolved issue of the American Revolution and to offer Jefferson and Monticello as a window into the unfulfilled promise of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”

A New Review: A long, nicely illustrated review of Saving Monticello has recently been posted on the website, whatwouldthefoundersthink.com at http://bit.ly/FoundersThink

Here are excerpts:

“Marc Leepson’s extraordinary talent as a storyteller is matched by his prowess as a researcher…His U.S. flag book, also enjoyed by this reviewer, corrected the historical record and added to it. In this book, Leepson does that and more.”

“Thanks to Marc Leepson’s extensive research and raconteur’s skill, the past has been restored in a history that reads like a novel.”

Among other things, the review contains a photograph of Jefferson Monroe Levy that I had never seen before.


Appearances:
I have a ton of events coming up in September, most of them for my new book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General. But at all of my events—whether they are talks about Lafayette, the Battle of Monocacy, or the history of the American flag—I always make sure to have copies available of Saving Monticello.

On Thursday, September 8, I’ll be doing a talk at 12:30 p.m. on Saving Monticello for the Active Retiree group at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax, Va. For info, call 703-323-0880. That evening I’m going to speak to the Rotary Club of Leesburg, Virginia, about Lafayette.

On Saturday, September 10, I’ll be speaking in the morning about Lafayette at a Nelly Custis DAR Chapter meeting in Alexandria, Virginia. That evening, I’ll be a featured speaker at Words and Wine, a benefit event for the Services to Abused Families group in Central Virginia, at the Prince Michel Winery in Leon, Virginia, right off U.S. Route 29.

On Sunday, September 11, I’ll be doing a talk on Flag at 1:00 p.m. at the Carriage House at historic Oatlands Plantation outside Leesburg, Va., in their Sunday afternoon tea series. Reservations are required. For info, call 703-777-3174 http://www.oatlands.org/ant/index.asp My four most-recent books will be for sale (and signing) in the gift shop.

I will be doing a talk on Lafayette on Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Francis Auditorium in Phillips Hall on the campus of High Point University in High Point, North Carolina. The talk is being sponsored by High Point University, the Alexander Martin Chapter of the DAR, the North Carolina Sons of the American Revolution, and the High Point Museum. On Monday, September 19, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette for the private Capitol Hill Executive Service Club at their weekly breakfast meeting in the Mansfield Rood on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, September 21, at 4:30 p.m. I’m speaking on Lafayette at the big annual Fall for the Book festival in Room 116 at George Mason University’s Johnson Center, located at 4400 University Drive in Fairfax, Virginia. For info, call 703-993-3986 or go to www.fallforthebook.org

On Friday, September 23, I’ll be in New York City, doing a talk on Lafayette at the Arader Gallery, 1016 Madison Avenue. The gallery will have on exhibit a special collection of letters and perhaps maps from the colonial era. For info: www.aradergalleries.com

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 8 August 1, 2011


UPL’S SLAVES: Sam Towler of Charlottesville, who has spent years making an in-depth study of the people who lived at Monticello following Thomas Jefferson’s death, recently unearthed more information about Aggy Dickerson, who was Uriah Levy’s cook, and whom I mentioned in Saving Monticello. In the book I quoted from a letter that Levy wrote in 1858 to his lawyer in Charlottesville, in which he lamented Aggy Dickerson’s death.

“Mr. Garrison,” Levy’s overseer, “has written to me [and] afflicts me very much by the announcement of the death of my faithful servant Aggy,” Levy wrote. “I shall miss her very much for she is identified with Monticello and was much attached to me as I was to her.” Levy—as Thomas Jefferson did—referred to his slaves at Monticello as “servants.”

Mr. Towler’s research shows that Aggy Dickerson was the main slave, as well as the cook, for Uriah Levy at Monticello. Levy had purchased Aggy Dickerson from the Minor family in 1835, a year after the then U.S. Navy Lieutenant bought Monticello from James Turner Barclay. Aggy married John West, whom Mr. Towler believes also was one of Uriah Levy’s slaves. “John West may have been the ‘John’… that [Uriah’s brother] Jonas Levy bought” in November of 1864 when the Confederate government auctioned off Monticello, Levy’s slaves and the contents of the house, Mr. Towler said.

Aggy Dickerson’s daughter, Martha, married Willis Shelton (sometimes called Sheldon or Shelden), who went on to become the long-time gate keeper at Monticello. I learned about Willis Shelton when I went through years and years of old issues of the Charlottesville Daily Progress while I was doing the research for Saving Monticello. The first article I found about him was headlined, “Willis Sheldon: Interesting Description of the Blind Man of Monticello,” and was in the December 18, 1901, issue. The article was a verbatim interview with H.R. Tompkins of Chattanooga, who had visited Monticello.

I didn’t have room to put the information in the book, but it contains some fascinating details about what it was like for visitors to arrive at Monticello a hundred or so years ago.

“When you reach the old Jefferson home,” Mr. Tompkins said, “the Blind Man of Monticello is the first object which attracts your eye. He is a negro who does not know how old he is, but who is apparently about eight-five or eighty-six years old.


The Monticello gate house, 1912

“He is one of the most perfect specimens of manhood I have ever seen, standing over six feet in height and being as straight as an Indian and well-proportioned. Gray, bush side-whiskers protrude one on each side of his face, which bears one of the kindest and most benevolent expressions I ever held. He stands at the left of the gate, and as you ride up, says, ‘Hitch your horse to that tree, boss, and have a drink of water.’

“Every one complies and finds the water, which is in the barrel which has been drawn up the hill on a wheelbarrow, very clear and refreshing. The old fellow holds up a tin cup in his right hand, which is elevated to his breast, and as you pay him, he smiles and shakes the cup…. The blind man has been connected to the place over forty years, and has not been down off the mountain for four years. He was formerly the property, in slave days, of the father of Jefferson Monticello Levy, the New York Representative who now owns the old Jefferson home. He is permitted to stand at the gate, and is given quarters in the old servants’ lodge and on the grounds. His name is William Shelden.”

Jefferson Levy—whose middle name was “Monroe,” not “Monticello,” and who was the nephew (not the son) of Uriah Levy—fired off a letter to the editor six days later in response to Mr. Tomkin’s article. “Willis Sheldon,” Jefferson Levy wrote, “has been a servant in my family all his life. The statement [that] he carries a tin cup to collect alms, etc., is untrue, as everyone who visits Monticello knows. He is provided with wages, clothes, meals and a house. In fact, he receives more now than he received before he was stricken with blindness.

“No servant in my employ,” Levy said, “is allowed to receive fees.”

Willis Shelton died at Monticello on April 21, 1902, having manned the gate for nearly a half century. He “was buried this afternoon at 3 o’clock in the colored burying grounds near the Jefferson mansion,” the Daily Progress reported the day after he died. “The deceased had been blind for years, and was always found at the post until a few days ago [when] he became too feeble for duty.

“‘Uncle Willis’ doubtless was one of the most extensively known colored men in Virginia. The position he occupied brought him in touch with thousands of people who visited Monticello within the last forty years.”

In addition to Aggy Dickerson, Willis Shelton’s mother-in-law, Mr. Towler has identified several other slaves of Uriah Levy’s through his study of law suit records, wills and other records. They include James Thomas and Robert Smith.



As for descendants, one of Aggy Dickerson’s nephews, Eugene Dickerson, became a prominent physician in the 1920s. At left are photographs of Dr. Dickerson and his wife and children from the book, History of the American Negro: Virginia Edition, edited by A.B. Caldwell. The digital image is from the New York Public Library

JEFFERSON ON LAFAYETTE: Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette (the subject of my book, Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General) became close friends during the American Revolution when Jefferson was the Governor of Virginia and Lafayette came to Richmond to defend the city against the British in late April of 1781. They remained close until Jefferson’s death in on July 4, 1826.

I recently received an email from Eleanor Stevens concerning a Sept. 24, 1808, letter that Jefferson wrote to her ancestor, the Louisiana planter Armand Duplantier, concerning Lafayette. The Marquis had lost nearly all of his once immense family fortune during the French Revolution. Jefferson knew Lafayette was in deep financial difficulty, and was trying to help him sell his land in New Orleans to raise money. But there was a big problem: that land was underwater. In the letter, which has the distinction of being the first acquisition of the Research Collection at Tulane University, Jefferson suggests to Duplantier that the land be drained so Lafayette could sell it to help pay off his debts.

“It’s wonderful letter,” Leon C. Miller, who heads the Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane, told me. “It shows Jefferson approaching a problem as a farmer and a scientist, and it also shows Jefferson’s real concern for his friend.”

Special thanks to Eleanor Stevens, and to Mr. Miller and Sean Benjamin, the Louisiana Research Collections’ Public Services Librarian. The citation is: Thomas Jefferson to M. duPlantier, September 24, 1808, Manuscripts Collection M 998, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University

If you'd like to see the letter, send an email to Marcleepson@aol.com and I'll email you the the print edition of newsletter.

APPEARANCES: My next event will be on Monday, August 1, when I do a book signing from 4-6:00 p.m. during The Washington Flag Congress, the joint meeting of the 24th International Congress of Vexillology and the 45th annual meeting of the North American Vexillological Association. The event is being held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. For info, go to http://bit.ly/FlagCong

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: If you’re on Facebook—and who isn’t?—please send me a friend request. Go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Volume VIII, Number 7 July 1, 2011


JULY FOURTH: This year marks the 49th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello. The event begins at 8:00 a.m. (to avoid the usual oppressive mid-day early July heat), and the public is invited free of charge, with the gates opening at 7:00 a.m.


Seventy-seven people from forty-four countries will take the oat of citizenship. Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, will give a short speech. Also on hand: the Charlottesville Municipal Band and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums. Also this year The Today Show will cover the event on TV live from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern time.

To see a three-minute video produced by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of highlights of past Independence Day events on the Mountain, go to http://bit.ly/MontJuly4th

APPEARANCES:
My next event will be on Saturday, July 16, a talk at 6:00 p.m. noon on Desperate Engagement, my 2007 book about the July 9, 1864, Civil War Battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s attack on Washington, D.C., at Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Virginia.

The talk, sponsored by the Fauquier County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, is free and open to the public. For info, call 540-364-6402 or go to www.barreloak.com
For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have lots of Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. Please send me a friend request. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 6 June 1, 2011


SIR MOSES, JEFFERSON, & CAPTAIN LEVY: President Warren G. Harding called him “a great Virginian, a great artist, a great American, and a great citizen of world fame.” That great man, Moses Ezekiel, is almost unknown today. But at the turn of the 20th century, he was, as President Harding indicated on the occasion of Ezekiel’s death in 1917, one of the world’s most renowned sculptors.

Ezekiel, who was the first great American Jewish sculptor, lived an amazingly varied and eventful life. As a teen-ager he fought with his fellow Virginia Military Institute cadets, the famed “Baby Corps,” in the Civil War Battle of Newmarket. After the war, he lived and worked in Italy for four decades, producing hundreds of pieces of sculpture and gaining fame and accolades in Europe and the United States. After receiving a knighthood from King Victor Emmanuel of Italy, Ezekiel became know as “Sir Moses.”

Moses Ezekiel’s most acclaimed works are the Religious Freedom statue in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park and the towering Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery. Ezekiel also did more than a few sculptures of three fellow Virginians who very much admired: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson.

I first learned about Moses Ezekiel when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello. That’s because Ezekiel paid a visit to Monticello on August 7, 1900, during Jefferson Levy’s ownership, and an article reporting that fact appeared in the Charlottesville Daily Progress. I didn’t mention the visit in the book, but squirreled away a copy of the article, which had a three-tired headline, as was the norm in those days: “Ezekiel at Monticello: Famous Sculptor Visits The Famous Mount: Has Just Completed a Colossal Statue of Jefferson for the City of Louisville—His Distinguished Career.”

The “colossal statue” ()(above) is a full-length rendition of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence standing atop a replica of the Liberty Bell. In the style of the day, Ezekiel placed four allegorical winged female figures around the bell, and he named them: Liberty, Equality, Justice, and Brotherhood of Man and Religious Freedom. The statue was dedicated in downtown Louisville on November 9, 1901.


After Saving Monticello came out, I learned more about Ezekiel. I wrote an article about his Civil War experiences that appeared in the November-December 2007 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated. Last month, I came across a bronze statue Ezekiel did of Thomas Jefferson on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. (If you haven’t been to the museum since its extensive remodeling and expansion, put that on your to-do list; the place is fantastic).

Ezekiel cast that statue (above) just after the turn of the 20th century, and it appears to be either based on the colossal Jefferson in Louisville or a recasting of the top portion. Another casting of the colossal is a slightly smaller one that stands in front (facing the street) of the Rotunda on the grounds of the University of Virginia (above) in Charlottesville.



He did at least one bust (above) of Thomas Jefferson. He received a commission from the U.S. Senate in May of 1886 to do the work to be part of the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection. Two years later, on September 12, 1888, the sculptor wrote to the Senate from Rome, saying he had finished the work, which, he said, “will I hope give you perfect satisfaction.” The bust was shipped from Italy to New York in January 1889, and then by train to the Capitol.

There is speculation about what work Ezekiel used as a model for his first Jefferson sculpture. The facial features bear a strong resemblance to the 1833 sculpture of Jefferson that Uriah Levy commissioned from the top French sculptor of the day, Pierre Jean David d’Angers, and which Levy presented to the nation the following year and today sits in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (below).


I tell the intriguing story of how that art work came to be in Saving Monticello. In brief: Uriah Levy, in Paris in the fall of 1832, went to David d’Angers (1788-1856) and presented him with a commission to create a full-scale bronze of Jefferson. The story goes that Levy then paid a visit to the 75-year-old Marquis de Lafayette, who leant Levy a portrait of Jefferson by the American painter Thomas Sully, which David used as his model for Jefferson's face. Levy stayed in Paris until David completed the statue early in 1834.

The David Jefferson stands seven-and-a-half feet tall and depicts Jefferson holding a quill pen in his right hand. In his left is an etched, word-for-word copy of the Declaration of Independence, complete with signatures, including the large “John Hancock.” Behind him are two large books, topped with a laurel wreath. The statue was cast in bronze, and Levy shipped both the finished statue and the plaster mold used to cast it to the United States.

On February 6, 1834, two months before he purchased Monticello, Uriah Levy gave a painted plaster model of the statue to the City of New York, which gratefully accepted it. It was placed on the second floor of the Rotunda at City Hall. Today it sits in the ornate City Council Chamber, inscribed with the words: “Thomas Jefferson by David D’Angers, Presented to the City of New York by Commodore Uriah P. Levy, USN, February 6, 1834.”

A month after Levy gave the model to New York City, the 52-year-old Navy man was in Washington where he presented the bronze Jefferson to the United States government. He had the words “Presented by Uriah Phillips Levy of the United States Navy to his fellow citizens, 1833,” etched on one side of the statue’s bronze base.

A Joint House-Senate committee recommended that the statue be placed in the center of the square in the eastern front of the Capitol, the front facing the Library of Congress and Supreme Court. Even though both the House and Senate subsequently passed resolutions calling for the statue to be displayed outside the Capitol’s East front, for reasons that are unclear it was placed inside the Capitol, in the Rotunda.

But sometime during the James K. Polk administration (1845-1949)—the exact date is not certain—the statue was removed from the Rotunda. It was shipped to the White House where, with the permission of President Polk, it was placed on the grounds on the north side facing Lafayette Park.

Jonas Phillips Levy, Uriah Levy’s youngest brother (and Jefferson Levy’s father), spearheaded a campaign three decades later to get the David sculpture off the White House lawn, where it was not holding up well under the elements. The statue was subsequently cleaned up and moved in 1874 into National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Rotunda, where it stands today. It is the only sculpture in the building donated by an individual citizen to Congress. The David Jefferson is considered to be one of the most valuable pieces of artwork in the Capitol.

APPEARANCES: My next event will be on Wednesday, June 1, a talk at 12:00 noon on Lafayette at the National Archives of the United States at 700 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C. It is free and open to the public. For info, call 202-357-5000 or go to http://ping.fm/AWJSB

On Sunday, June 5, I’ll be the Keynote Speaker (on Lafayette) at 2:00 at the annual meeting of the Fauquier Historical Society at The John Barton Payne Building, 2 Courthouse Square, in Old Town Warrenton, Virginia. The event also is free and open to the public. For more info, call 540-347-5525 or email oldjailmuseum@rcn.com or go to http://bit.ly/lEPq3n

On Friday, June 10, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette and a book signing at Second Chapter Books, the new, independent bookstore in Middleburg, Virginia, beginning at 2:00 p.m. The store is on Middleburg’s back street, at 8 E. Federal St. For info, call, 540-687-7016.

On Saturday, June 11, I will be doing a four-hour book signing, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., of Lafayette and Flag at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, at 14th and Constitution Avenues in Washington, D.C.

I’ll be taking part in two private events for the Close Up Foundation, first talking about Lafayette to visiting social studies teachers on Monday, June 13, at the National Press Club in Washington. The following day, Tuesday, June 14 (Flag Day), I’ll be taking a group of Close-Up teachers on a tour of the Monocacy National Battlefield in Maryland.

On Thursday, June 16, I will be doing a brief talk on Lafayette for the annual meeting of the American Friends of Lafayette in Charlottesville. The following day, Friday, June 17, I’ll be speaking to the group about Saving Monticello in conjunction with a visit to Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture that day.

On Saturday, June 18, I will be doing a talk on Lafayette for the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. at their headquarters in downtown Washington, 801 K Street, N.W. That event is free and open to the public. Info: 202-383-1800 or go to http://bit.ly/jkru7C

I’ll be speaking to the Purcellville (Va.) Women’s Club about Lafayette on Tuesday, June 21, a private event.

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have more than 1,100 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. Please send me a friend request. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 5 May 1, 2011


APRIL 13: The email came out of the blue on Wednesday, April 6 from Melanie Bowyer, who is Thomas Jefferson Foundation President Leslie Bowman’s assistant at Monticello. Would I like to represent Monticello and the Foundation at the wreath-laying ceremonies marking the 268th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson on April 13 at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington? I replied in a New York minute, saying it would be an honor to do so.

At 10:30 on the rainy, cool morning of April 13 I arrived at the Memorial (after surviving one hellish Washington, D.C., area morning rush hour) the 11:00 a.m. ceremonies. I was warmly greeted by Paul Hays, the past president of the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, the event’s emcee, and several other folks who would be participating. The D.C. SAR was hosting the program for the 68th time—as they have done annually since the Memorial was dedicated in 1943.

Monticello was one of 19 organizations represented at the ceremonies, which were co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Military District of Washington. The formal program began with patriotic music by the U.S. Army Brass Quintet. Mr. Hays then gave the official welcome, followed by welcoming remarks from the NPS Regional Director, Woodie Smeck. A Joint Armed Services Color Guard presented the colors, the quintet played the National Anthem, the Chaplain of the D.C. SAR gave an invocation, the colors were retired, and the President General of the National Society of the SAR, James Sympson, made brief remarks.

The first wreath, from the President of the United States, had been placed at 8:30. After “Taps,” came the rest of the wreath-laying. Monticello’s followed the wreaths from the Secretary of the Interior, The National SAR, the D.C. SAR and the University of Virginia.

The deal is you follow a Park Service Ranger carrying the wreath on an easel. He (or she, in my case), places the easel around the base of the imposing Rudolph Evans statue, and the presenter puts her (or in my case, his) hands on the wreath as it is put in place. Then the presenter faces the statue for a silent moment before the next wreath is presented.

The wreaths that followed Monticello’s included ones from the Maryland SAR, the Virginia SAR, the D.C. DAR, the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Order of the First Families of Virginia, the Jamestown Society, and the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Constitution.

It was a solemn and moving ceremony and I was proud and humbled to be chosen to be part of it.

FIFTH PRINTING: Good news from the University of Virginia Press: the paperback version of Saving Monticello (the hardcover from Free Press at Simon & Schuster is out of print), has just gone into a fifth printing. More good news along those lines: an email from Simon & Schuster informing me that U-Va. Press has renewed its paperback license for a second seven-year term. All this means that the book continues to be of interest to many people, which is extremely gratifying.

LAWERLY ARTICLE: “Thomas Jefferson, Religious Freedom, Monticello, and the Levy Family” is the title of a long, detailed article by Richmond attorney Frank Overton Brown Jr. in the April issue of Virginia Lawyer magazine. In it, Mr. Brown takes a decidedly lawyerly look at the legal wrangling that ensued when Uriah Levy purchased Monticello from James Turner Barclay in 1834. Before the deal closed Levy and Barclay sued each other over what would convey with the purchase. That legal wrangling delayed the closing for two years (which is why it often is erroneously reported that Levy purchased Monticello in 1836). Mr. Brown also offers a detailed examination of the convoluted legal wrangling over Uriah Levy’s will, which took seventeen years to wend its way through the courts in Virginia and New York.

Although Mr. Brown does not mention Saving Monticello in the article (it is cited as a reference), he obviously mined the book heavily for his sections on the post-Jefferson history of the house.



What I found most interesting about the article was a sidebar that gives estimates in 2009 dollars of some important transactions in Monticello’s history. Citing Samuel H. Williamson’s “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to Present” from www.MeasuringWorth.com, Mr. Brown notes that the $23,950 that Congress paid Jefferson for his library in 1815 (after the British burned the congressional library in Washington) would be about $368,000 in 2009.


The $7,000 that Barclay paid the Randolphs for Monticello in 1831 would be $177,000; the $2,700 that Uriah Levy paid Barclay for Monticello in 1834 would be $58,800; the $10,050 that Jefferson Levy paid to buy out the other heirs in 1879 would be about $208,000; and the $500,000 that the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation paid to Jefferson Levy for Monticello in 1923 would equal about $5,150,000.

JERUSALEM POST: That great travel article about Monticello that appeared in the L.A. Times earlier this year was reprinted in the April 28 Jerusalem Post Magazine, including the on-line version. That’s the one that talks about the Levys and in the “If You Go” sidebar, says: “Stop at the Monticello gift shop and buy Saving Monticello: The Levy Family’s Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built, by Marc Leepson. It’s a fast-paced but detailed and fascinating read.” I couldn’t agree more! To read the article, go to http://bit.ly/JerPost

APPEARANCES: My next event will be on Thursday, May 5, a talk on Lafayette for the Eliza Monroe Chapter of the Daughters of 1812 in Arlington, Virginia. On Friday evening, May 6, from 6:00 to 8:00 I’ll be taking part in the First Friday event in Old Town Warrenton, Virginia, in which the main street of historic Warrenton is closed and a variety of vendors set up shop. I’ll have a table and will be signing copies of my four most recent books: Lafayette, Desperate Engagement, Flag, and Saving Monticello.

On Saturday morning, May 14, I’ll be doing a talk on Lafayette for the George Washington Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution at 11:30 a.m. in Alexandria, Virginia. That afternoon, I’ll be signing copies of my books from 3:00 to 6:00 at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville, Virginia, as part of the annual Purcellville Heritage Day. '


On Saturday, May 21, I’ll be taking part in a panel at the all-day Compleat Biographer Conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For info about this exciting event, which includes a Keynote by Robert Caro and a reception featuring Stacy (Cleopatra) Schiff, go to http://bit.ly/BioConf

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com


ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have more than 1,170 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. Please send me a friend request. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 4 April 1, 2011


LAFAYETTE @ MONTICELLO
: Thomas Jefferson and Monticello have a small but important role in my new book, Lafayette: Leadership Lessons from the Idealist General, a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, which came out March 1. The book (a History Book Club selection) looks primarily at Lafayette’s military career in this country and in France, but I also include details of the Marquis’ triumphal visit to America 1824 and 1825, when he was treated like a rock star everywhere he went.

And Lafayette went everywhere—to all twenty states. Everywhere he went, the “Hero of Two Worlds” was the guest of the hour at an endless series of banquets, dinners, parades and other gatherings. People came out by the thousands to see the man who was the most popular foreign in the early American republic.



During a visit to James Monroe at Oak Hill in Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, in August of 1825, Lafayette was the guest of honor at a dinner in the county seat of Leesburg. Some ten thousand people showed up for the occasion—about half the population of the county.

Among the many other highlights of the trip: a poignant visit in November 1824 to an ailing Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, which I described briefly in Saving Monticello, and which I elaborate on in Lafayette. The two men had been close friends since they met in Richmond in late April of 1791 during the American Revolution when Jefferson was Governor of Virginia and Lafayette was a Major General in the Continental Army.

Lafayette and Jefferson remained close when Jefferson was U.S. Minister (Ambassador) to France from 1784-89. Jefferson, in fact, worked with Lafayette on his Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a seminal document in the French Revolution, and one that Lafayette modeled on both the American Declaration of Independence and what would become the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Flash forward to November 4, 1824. Lafayette and his entourage, which included the Richmond volunteer cavalry, arrived in Charlottesville, after having visited Petersburg and Richmond, two places where Lafayette had fought with distinction against the British in 1791. The town fathers declared the day a holiday—as many others cities and towns did throughout Lafayette’s trip.

Jefferson sent a carriage drawn by four gray horses into the nearby town to bring Lafayette up to Monticello. The carriage made the short trip up the small mountain in a long procession, which included the cavalry detachment. When the party arrived atop the mountain, a bugle sounded and hundreds of spectators, including James and Dolley Madison, formed a semicircle in front of the house.



“The carriages drew up in front of the building,” the Charlottesville Central Gazette reported. “As soon as the General drove up, Mr. Jefferson advanced to meet him, with feeble steps; but as he approached, his feelings seemed to triumph over the infirmities of age, and as the General descended they hastened into each other’s arms. They embraced, again and again; tears were shed by both, and the broken expression of ‘God bless you General,’ ‘Bless you my dear Jefferson’ was all that interrupted the impressive silence of the scene, except the audible sobs of many whose emotion could not be suppressed.”

Auguste Levasseur, Lafayette’s personal secretary, who was there, described what happened after that emotional scene: “We arrived at Monticello, a short time after general Lafayette,” Levasseur wrote in Lafayette in America, his account of the trip. “We found Mr. Jefferson still deeply affected by the pleasure of having embraced his ancient friend. He received us amidst his numerous family, with an amenity which instantly dissipated the timidity, which I could not help feeling on my first approach to a man who had performed so much for the human race.”

Lafayette, Levasseur and company spent several days with Jefferson. Levasseur was impressed with the Sage of Monticello. “It is difficult to find a man of more agreeable and instructive conversation,” he wrote of Jefferson, “endowed with a memory which readily re-conveyed him amidst all the events of his life; familiar with most of the arts and sciences, his conversation could easily satisfy all the demands of a mind desirous of instruction.”

Levasseur described Monticello as sitting “at the summit of a mountain, which towers far above the fertile and smiling valley, under a simple roof, but in good taste, raised under [Jefferson’s] direction, and we may almost say, by his own hands, amidst his children and grand-children, by whom he is idolized. He still devotes all his time and faculties to the amelioration and happiness of his race.

“The hospitality of Mr. Jefferson is proverbial, his house is constantly open, not only to numerous visitors from the neighborhood, but also to all the foreign travelers who were attracted by curiosity or the very natural desire of seeing and conversing with the sage of Monticello…. Throughout this delightful dwelling are to be found proofs of the good taste of the proprietor, and of his enlightened love for the arts… The library, without being extensive is well selected; but what especially excites the curiosity of visitors is the rich museum situated at the entrance of the house. This extensive and excellent collection consists of offensive and defensive arms, dresses, ornaments and utensils of different savage tribes of North America.”

SWEET BRIAR: Last fall when I was doing a book signing at the Museum Shop at Monticello, I ran into Professor Christian Carr, who teaches a seminar on Historic Preservation in America at Sweet Briar College, about an hour’s drive southwest of Charlottesville. Dr. Carr had brought several students to Monticello and I had delightful conversations with her and the young women students.



Late last year I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from Dr. Carr, who also runs the Sweet Briar Museum on campus. She told me that she would be using Saving Monticello as one of her textbooks in the Spring semester in the seminar, which is an introduction to historic preservation in the U.S. The students get an overview of the regional characteristics of American architecture, including several buildings on Sweet Briar’s beautiful campus (above). The main text for the course is Historic Preservation: An Introduction to its History, Principles & Practice, supplemented this semester by Saving Monticello.


On Tuesday, April 6
, I will be giving a talk to Dr. Carr’s students about the research and writing of Saving Monticello. That evening at six, I will present a public talk at the student dining hall. It’s free and open to the public. For info, go to http://bit.ly/SweetBriar

The Jeffersons at Shadwell: I took part in a panel discussion at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville March 18 on Lafayette and George Washington. Afterward, I ran into Dr. Susan Kern, an anthropology professor at William and Mary who has studied Jefferson’s birthplace and boyhood home, Shadwell, for many years. Her excellent book on that subject, The Jeffersons at Shadwell, was published last year by Yale University Press.



Kern, who worked on Monticello’s Department of Archaeology tem that conducted a five-year excavation of Shadwell in the 1990s, tells the story of Shadwell melding archaeology, material culture, and social history. The plantation (which no longer exists) was located not far from Monticello, although during the early 18th century it was considered “the frontier.”

“Kern has intimate knowledge not only of the archaeology of Shadwell but also of the family history of the Jeffersons,” on reviewer, Timothy J. Shannon of Gettysburg College wrote. “This book provides us with an in-depth look at the material culture, social milieu, and domestic lives of the free whites and enslaved blacks who lived at Thomas Jefferson’s childhood home.”

APPEARANCES: My next event after visiting Sweet Briar College, will be a talk on Lafayette and a book signing at a new bookstore in Arlington, Virginia, One More Page Books. It will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 8. For more info, go to www.onemorepagebooks.com

On Saturday, April 9, I’ll be speaking about Lafayette and doing a book signing at the new Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, Virginia, starting at 2:00 p.m. For info, go to www.samuelslibrary.net

On Saturday, April 30, I’ll be back at the Museum Shop at Monticello, signing copies of Saving Monticello from 11:00 to 4:00. It’ll be a joint book signing with my friend Rick Britton, author of, among other books, Jefferson: A Monticello Sampler.
For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com




ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER
: I have more than 1,070 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. Please send me a friend request. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 3 March 1, 2011


JEFFERSON’S BOOKS: The saga of what has become of Thomas Jefferson books continues. As I noted in Saving Monticello, Jefferson amassed the largest private library in the United States at Monticello—some 6,500 books. But because of his desperate financial condition in his post-presidential days, Jefferson was forced to sell every last book, which he did in 1815. The buyer: the United States.

Congress—after a spirited debate and by a small majority—agreed to purchase Jefferson’s entire library of 6,487 books for $23,950. The sale followed the British burning of Washington during the War of 1812, and the Jefferson purchase became the basis for the collection of the Library of Congress.

About a third of those books were destroyed in a subsequent fire. In recent years the LOC has mounted a large-scale, privately funded effort to replace the Jefferson books that burned with volumes of similar provenance.


Then there is the tale of Thomas Jefferson’s second library, sometimes known as his “retirement library.” After Jefferson sold his books to the nation in 1815, the Sage of Monticello immediately went about buying more books. When he died on July 4, 1826, Jefferson left behind some 1,600 volumes. In a codicil to his will, he donated those books to the University of Virginia, but that never happened. Instead, the family decided to sell the books—along with the rest of his possessions—to raise cash pay to pay off the $107,000 in debts Jefferson also left behind.

The books and his artwork, however, were not part of the big auction of Jefferson’s possessions (including his slaves) that the family held on Monticello mountain in January 1827. Jefferson’s grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the co-executor of the estate (with his mother, Martha Randolph), decided to keep the books out of the auction. Instead, Jeff Randolph sold the bulk of the collection to a Washington, D.C., bookseller in 1829. The rest went to Jefferson’s granddaughter Ellen and her husband Joseph Coolidge, who lived in Boston.

In 1880, following the deaths of the Coolidges, their heirs donated some 3,000 volumes to Washington University in St. Louis. No one knew—until late last year—that 28 of those titles (74 volumes) were from Thomas Jefferson’s retirement library.
The discovery came about as the result of work being done by Endrina Tay, the project manager for the Thomas Jefferson Libraries project at Monticello, and Ann Lucas Birle, who independently was editing Ellen Coolidge’s travel diaries. As she was doing research to put together a digital database of Jefferson’s books, Tay discovered a list of the books that Ellen Coolidge had received in 1829, and tried to find to find out where those books are today.

“We knew what books had gone to [the Coolidges] and that they’d been received, but we didn’t know what happened to the books,” Tay told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. At the same time Ann Lucas Birle was finishing the research for the book she is co-editing, Thomas Jefferson’s Granddaughter in Queen Victoria’s England: The Travel Diary of Ellen Wayles Coolidge, 1838-1839. That volume will be co-published by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Massachusetts Historical Society later this year. Birle happened upon an article in an 1880 Massachusetts newspaper that mentioned that the Coolidge library was being donated to Washington University.

The article mentioned that an item in the Harvard Register noted that 3,000 books of “rare and of great value,” had been given to Washington University in 1880 by the Coolidges’ daughter and son-in-law, Ellen and Edmund Dwight, a Harvard alum. Birle told Tay what she found and the two researchers soon put two and two together.
“Not only had we found Joseph Coolidge’s library, we had very likely also located the whereabouts of Jefferson books that the Coolidges had bought from the 1829 auction sale,” Tay wrote in a post on the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s web site. “Then it was a matter of contacting the folks at the library at Washington U.”

A librarian there found the records indicating that the collection had, indeed, been received, and when the books were examined the smoking gun was found: Thomas Jefferson’s ownership mark, the initials “T.I.,” which he inscribed in all of his books.(The “I” stood in for “J” in the Latin alphabet). Several of the books also had notes Jefferson had written in the margins.


“Our discovery provides an amazing and intimate look into Jefferson’s world. To find his handwritten notations is like peering over Jefferson’s shoulder to see his mind at work,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, the president of Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “To uncover such a significant collection of Thomas Jefferson’s personal books is a breakthrough for scholars and ongoing research on Jefferson’s life.”

The discovery also means that Washington University is the third-largest repository of Jefferson’s books, behind only the LOC and U-Va., Mr. Jefferson’s University in Charlottesville. What’s more, there could be more of Jefferson’s books in the Washington University Library.

“I believe there are likely more books in that collection that were Jefferson’s, books that may have been given to Ellen Wayles Coolidge by Jefferson or other family members that were not in the auction,” Tay said. “We’re looking forward to working with the university library to see how many of Jefferson’s other books may be in the collection.”

L.A. TIMES: The Los Angeles Times Sunday travel section on February 20 featured an excellent article on the Levys and Monticello that made reference to Saving Monticello several times. Veteran travel writer Judith Fein also included an “If you go” sidebar containing practical Monticello visiting info, including this: “Saving Monticello: The Levy Family’s Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built by Marc Leepson is for sale in the gift shop. It’s a fast-paced but detailed read.”


I was also pleased that the article appears, in its entirety (with the sidebar), on the WGN-Chicago radio website. The Tribune Company, which owns WGN (and the Chicago Tribune), also owns the L.A. Times. I was further pleased that the Amazon number for the SM paperback shot up a few hundred thousand the day after the article came out!

APPEARANCES: Today, March 1, 2011, is the official publication date of my new book, Lafayette, a concise biography of the famed Marquis. I will be doing a good number of events this month for the book, which, I am happy to say, has received excellent pre-publication reviews and has been chosen as a History Book Club Selection of the Month.

My first event will be on Wednesday, March 2, a talk for the American Revolution Round Table of Washington, D.C., at their dinner meeting at the Fort Myer (Va.) Officers Club beginning at 6:00 p.m. For info, go to http://bit.ly/goZFtB

My next talk on Lafayette will take place on Saturday, March 5, at 2:00 p.m. at the Middleburg Library in Middleburg, Virginia. For info, call 540-687-5730 or go to http://bit.ly/MBLafayette

I have two events in Richmond on Wednesday, March 16: a talk at 12:00 noon at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond at 800 E. Broad Street, followed by a book signing, and a 5:30 p.m. talk for the Richmond American Revolution Round Table at the University of Richmond’s Heilman Center. For info, go to http://bit.ly/ee5tL3

On Friday, March 18, I’ll be part of a three-person panel, “George Washington, Lafayette, and the American Revolution,” beginning at 10:00 a.m. along with authors James Nelson Rick Britton at the Central Jefferson-Monroe Regional Library at 201 E. Market St. near the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of the 17th Annual Virginia Festival of the Book put on by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. More info at http://bit.ly/ht19vn
On Sunday, March 20, I’ll be speaking about Lafayette at historic Oak Hill, the home of President James Monroe, in Aldie, Virginia, beginning at 3:00 p.m. This fundraising event for the Mosby Heritage Area Association includes a reception and an appearance by James Monroe (historic interpreter Dennis Bigelow) For info, go to http://bit.ly/igg9Lw

On Wednesday, March 30, I will be on the “Vietnam and the Vietnam War: Then and Now” panel at 7:15 p.m. as part of Montgomery County, Maryland’s Second Annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Reunion at the Silver Spring Civic Building in Downtown Silver Spring, Md. More info: http://bit.ly/ezvB0d

For details about my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have more than 1,050 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VIII, Number 2 February 1, 2011


THE ST. LOUIS MONUMENT: On October 12, 1901, as I wrote in Saving Monticello, Jefferson Levy played host at Monticello to some 250 members of the Jefferson Democratic Club of St. Louis. Those Midwestern Jefferson devotees, a good number of whom had studied at the University of Virginia, journeyed by special train to Charlottesville to deliver a granite monument to Levy, a monument that paid fulsome tribute to their hero, the Sage of Monticello.

Jefferson Levy, ever the gracious host, threw open the house to the St. Louis visitors that morning, giving the group a guided tour of the mansion. They were joined for the occasion on the mountain by “a great throng of citizens,” as an article in the next day’s New York Times put it.

“I hope all citizens of our country will continue to visit Monticello, for I am sure it cannot but help to insure our people with a love for our republican form of government,” Jefferson Levy said in his remarks his fellow Democrats. “I am sure pilgrimages of this character cannot fail to inspire and unite our party.” After visiting Monticello, the St. Louis group toured the University of Virginia then sat down to a huge banquet that evening at the old gymnasium, where the speakers included former Virginia Governor and Confederate General Fitzhugh Lee (U-Va. Faculty Chair Paul Barringer, St. Louis Mayor Rolla Wells, and the city’s Circuit Attorney Joseph Folk.


Jefferson's gravestone--not the St. Louis monument
I didn’t take the club’s monument story any further in Saving Monticello. But I have recently learned (by searching the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America web site) many more intriguing details about that visit and about the fate of the granite monument.

According to an article that appeared in the October 5, Richmond Times, the chairman of the Jefferson Clubs Monument Committee, Henning V. Prentis, had written to Jefferson

Levy on September 23, 1901, letting him know about the upcoming pilgrimage to Monticello. “I write to inform you that the monument, or ‘memorial,’ stone is about ready,” Prentis said, “and will be shipped to the Bowman Marble Company, of Charlottesville, Monday next.”

Prentis went on to say that he had spoken to Jefferson Levy’s sister Amelia Mayhoff (who often served as his hostess at Monticello) and her husband about the pending visit, and asked Levy’s permission to “place said stone upon the lawn at Monticello in some commanding position, where it would not only be protected, but where it might be seen by every interested visitor.”

The stone, Prentis wrote, “is not a tombstone, but a memorial of our visit as a political club and a token of reverence of Mr. Jefferson’s principles.” The monument consisted of a base and a six-foot-tall pedestal, both made of “rough red Missouri granite, with ‘quarry face’ one side only being polished,” as Prentis said in his letter. The inscription read:


THOMAS JEFFERSON,
Citizen, Statesman, Patriot.
The Greatest Advocate of Human Liberty.
Opposing Special Privileges.
He Loved and Trusted the People.
To Commemorate His Purchase of Louisiana.

Erected by THE JEFFERSON CLUB of St. Louis, Mo.
On Their Pilgrimage, Oct. 12, 1901
To Express Their Devotion to His Principles.

Prentis characterized the monument as “ornamental, massive and permanent, and we trust a fitting and most acceptable testimonial to the great statesman and patriot whose old home you have kept and improved with loving and pardonable pride, largely as his hand designed and built.”

Prentis then asked Jefferson Levy to show the Bowman Marble people “the exact location overlooking the beautiful valleys surrounding Monticello” where the 8,000-pound monument should be placed. It was decided to put the monument on the West Lawn, but more than likely because it did not exactly fit in with Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture’s landscaping, the monument subsequently was moved down the mountain near the old ticket office and shuttle bus station.

Then, in 2006, when work began to clear that site with the beginning of the construction for the new Visitor Center, the monument was moved again. It now sits in a new picnic area back on the mountain near the end of the Saunders-Monticello Trail (left), which runs for two miles along Route 53 (aka the Thomas Jefferson Parkway), then crosses the pedestrian bridge over the road where it leads directly to the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith History Center, then winds up the mountain.


This is not just a path through the woods. Parts of the trial are made up of finely crushed, packed stone and parts consist of raised boardwalk walk. The trail is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and to those in wheelchairs. Although it winds its way uphill to Monticello, the trail’s maximum grade is just five percent, so it is comparatively easy hike from the parking lot up the mountain to where it ends just across the road from the entrance to Monticello, and where you can see the St. Louis monument—no longer in a “commanding position,” but still displayed at Monticello.

THE TRAMP: While I was searching though the old newspaper database, I came across an article in a South Carolina newspaper, The Anderson Intelligencer, on June 17, 1880, reprinted from the Petersburg (Virginia) Index-Appeal describing a visit to Monticello in May, either of that year or, more likely, the year before, 1879. The article talked a good deal about the deteriorating condition of the Jefferson family graveyard, including Jefferson’s headstone, which had been so defaced by vandals that Jefferson Levy later removed it and hung it inside the house.

Then the writer went on to describe who was in charge on the mountain—“a tramp… an old man in rags [who] sat half asleep in the sun on the portico.” Although the “tramp” is not named, in all likelihood it was Joel Wheeler, who had been left in charge of Monticello after the death of Uriah Levy in 1862, while the Commodore’s heirs fought over who would inherit the place.

Wheeler was a caretaker who did not exactly take good care of Monticello from 1862 until Jefferson Levy had him leave the property soon after he bought out the other heirs in May of 1789, and gained control of Monticello. Wheeler infamously stabled cattle in the basement, stored and milled grain on the beautiful parquet floors in the parlor, grew vegetables on the front lawn, and allowed University of Virginia students (and others) to have parties there (for a price.).

He also charged the students and other visitors to get inside. As the 1880 article puts it, Wheeler “aroused himself at the barking of a half-fed dog and greeted us gruffly with, ‘Do you want to see old man Jefferson’s house, gentlemen!’ We answered. ‘Then it will cost you twenty-five cents a piece.’”

The visitors paid, “a chain across the main door was unlocked, it swung open and we entered a spacious ante-hall.” The appearance, the reporter said, “of decay” was “not so great as we had been led to believe, but was not the desecration in keeping with that” in the graveyard? “The home of Thomas Jefferson in possession of a tramp!”

The “tramp” was soon evicted, and Jefferson Levy brought in his own superintendent, Thomas Rhodes, who wound up living there for some fifty years, overseeing the second Levy family member’s repairing, restoring and preserving of Monticello.

Jefferson Levy spent what he estimated was $500,000 from 1879 to 1914 on the repairs and restorations. But Levy could afford it. In June of 1913—while Jefferson Levy was engaged in fighting off Maud Littleton’s campaign to take Monticello from him and turn it into a government-run shrine to Jefferson—the June 15, 1913, Washington Herald reported that “in all likelihood” Jefferson Levy was the richest man in Congress.

APPEARANCES: Attention Charlottesville-area folks: I have what promises to be a big, well-attended talk on Saving Monticello on Thursday, February 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the historic courthouse in Palmyra, Virginia, south of Monticello, for the Fluvanna County Historical Society. For info, go to http://bit.ly/Fluvanna

My other February events include at talk to student at Middleburg Academy (formerly Notre Dame Academy) on Wednesday, February 2, and a talk and book signing on my book Flag, at the Washington Club in D.C. at noontime on Tuesday, February 22.
For details my other upcoming events in 2011, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

THE FORUM NETWORK: I just found out that I am listed on the speaker’s page of the Forum Network, a PBS and NPR on-line public media service that features thousands of lectures by scholars, authors, artists, scientists, policy makers, and community leaders, as well as contact info for folks like me who have been interviewed on PBS and NPR. In my case, I’ve blabbed on NPR’s All Things Considered (twice), Morning Edition, To the Point, The Diane Rehm Show, On the Media, Studio 360, and on my local PBS (and NPR) station, WETA in Arlington, Virginia.

My link (http://bit.ly/ForumNet) contains a brief bio, links to the Amazon pages for Flag and Desperate Engagement and a link to the podcast of the broadcast interview I did in 2009 on WETA’s Book Studio on Desperate Engagement.

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have more than 1,000 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VIII, Number 1 January 1, 2011

CHRONICLING AMERICA: That’s the name of an ever-expanding Library of Congress web page that, among other things, lets you search thousands upon thousands of 19th and early 20th century newspapers from all over the country. A partnership between the LOC and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Chronicling America eventually will contain newspaper articles from all U.S. states and territories.

The material that is now archived on line has been created by libraries and other institutions through NEH’s United States Newspaper Program. To date, Chronicling America has newspapers available and searchable on line from 1860 to 1922 from the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The project eventually will locate, catalog, and selectively preserve historic newspapers published from 1690 to the present in every state.

To use the site, go to http://bit.ly/LOCmemory and begin searching. You will soon be
looking at PDF’s of the old papers on your home computer screen. That’s what I did recently and found lots of material on Jefferson Levy that I’d never seen before. When I was doing the research for Saving Monticello in 1999 and 2000, I found
most of the information on Jefferson Levy and his ownership of Monticello by poring through old Charlottesville newspapers on microfilm at Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, and by searching the old, bound-volume indexes (one for each year) of The New York Times at the Fairfax Library in Virginia, and then pulling out the appropriate microfilm reel.

I also made good use of the enormous clipping file that Levy had done for him, which resides at the Jewish Historical Society archives in New York City.

Now all of those newspaper articles—and tons more—are available on your desktop. All you need is an Internet connection.

I recently did a search using the words searched “Jefferson Levy Monticello,” and came up with dozens of mentions in articles I hadn’t seen before. There’s on, for example, headlined “At Jefferson’s Home” from the Washington, D.C., Critic newspaper of Feb. 11, 1888, which talks about the condition of Monticello nine years after Jefferson Levy bought out the other heirs and took control of the property.

Another article, from the “Social and Personal” column of the March 1, 1907, edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, contains an item about the very social Jefferson Levy. The articled reports that Jefferson Levy and his sister Amelia Mayhoff, who often served as his traveling companion and hostess at Monticello, had arrived the day before in Richmond from Washington. Levy and his sister had attended a wedding in D.C., and in Richmond were put up by the state’s governor, Claude Augustus Swanson, a fellow Democrat, at the Executive Mansion.

The column went on to say: “Mr. Levy is known throughout Virginia, as well as the North, as a gentleman of wealth and finance. He is the owner of historic ‘Monticello,’ Thomas Jefferson’s home near Charlottesville, Va. Mrs. von Mayhoff [the “von” was an affectation] spends a part of each year at her brother’s home in Albemarle County, and has won many friends during her frequent visits to Virginia.”

At first glace this may seem to be a trivial newspaper item dealing with barely consequential social events. But it actually tells the historian and student of history a good deal—especially when you add it the information contained in dozens of other contemporary newspaper articles and other primary-source material such as letters.

For one thing, the fact that Jefferson Levy was the guest of the governor at his official residence and that he was “well known” shows that the former (and future) congressman from New York City was a man of power and influence. The info on Amelia Levy Mayhoff confirms the fact that she was her brother’s frequent companion and social hostess.

The article also contains more evidence that Amelia spent considerable time at Monticello, another part of the puzzle that shows us how important Jefferson Levy’s ownership of Thomas Jefferson’s house was to him and his family.

PRESIDENTIAL ESTATES? Early in December the James C. Justice Companies, the family business that owns the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, bought some 4,500 acres not far from Monticello and the nearby Ash Lawn-Highland, the former home of James Monroe. Justice reportedly paid just under $24 million for the scenic acreage in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The company has not said publicly what it plans to do with the property it bought from MeadWestvaco Corp., which had used it for timbering. MeadWestvaco had advertised the property on line as the “Presidential Estates” since it sits close by to Ash Lawn and Monticello. The property, currently zoned for rural use, conceivably could be rezoned and as many as 450 houses built on it.

No one’s saying that’s what’s going to happen, but preservationists are on high alert for that distressing possibility. “I don’t know what they intend to do,” Rex Linville, the Piedmont Environmental Council’s land conservation officer for Albemarle County, told Charlottesville Tomorrow early in December. “We would like an opportunity to work with an owner like this on preservation of the property, and we hope that’s the new owner’s intent.”

Monticello has long considered the nearby land as part of its view shed, and has fought against—and defeated—proposals that would have developed pristine land surrounding Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture. That was the tenor of the statement released by Leslie Greene Bowman, the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, following the announcement of the sale.

“The land to the south of Monticello is historically significant, since it remains largely as Jefferson saw it,” she said. “We are committed to working with our community partners to ensure protection of the view shed from Monticello. “We welcome our new neighbors and look forward to working together to protect Jefferson’s views for future generations.”

The tract includes 700 acres of James Monroe’s original 3,500-acre Ash Lawn. The hope among conservationists and the folks at Monticello is that something can be worked out with Justice to return some of the original acreage to Ash Lawn, to put the land in permanent conservation easement, or to build a park of some kind. No one, it is safe to say, wants to see 450 new homes built in the shadow of Monticello and Ash Lawn.

MONTICELLO WIKI
: There have been big recent changes on the official Monticello website, www.monticello.org That includes a new blog that allows comments from users. Anyone can sign in to take part. Monticello also has a vibrant Facebook, which has some 7,000 friends.

APPEARANCES
: I’m taking the month of January off as far as talks, book signings and other public events are concerned. For details about my upcoming events in 2011, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER: I have more than 1,000 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 12 December 1, 2010


POPLAR FOREST: Although he is rightly celebrated as one of America’s most creative, bold and accomplished architects, Thomas Jefferson was not exactly prolific at that endeavor. The works that he designed and saw through to completion are legendary, but there just aren’t that many of them. Still, it is an impressive body of work: Monticello, Jefferson’s iconic “essay in architecture; the stately Virginia State Capital building in Richmond; the Rotunda, pavilions and “academical village” buildings of the University of Virginia; and Poplar Forest, the only other residence Jefferson designed and built, his second home in Bedford County near Lynchburg, Virginia.

Poplar Forest is a comparatively little-know gem, a brick octagon that Jefferson considered his personal country retreat. Jefferson called Poplar Forest “the best dwelling house in the state, except that of Monticello; perhaps preferable to that, as more proportioned to the faculties of a private citizen.”

After completing the house in 1809, Jefferson typically visited three times a year. It was a three-day, 93-mile journey by horseback from Monticello. During his last few years, when Jefferson was suffering physically and financially, he more than once let it be known that he might just leave the hubbub of his beloved Monticello and live out his days at serene Poplar Forest. He never took that drastic step.

As I noted in Saving Monticello, Jefferson left Poplar Forest in his will to his grandson, Francis Eppes, the son of Jefferson’s deceased daughter Maria and her husband (and cousin) John Wayles Eppes. The place went out of the Eppes family in 1828. It then went through a series of owners—and a mid-20th century fire—and by the early 1980s the one-time 4,800-acre plantation had dwindled to some 50 acres, surrounded by plans for suburban development. Then, in December 1983, a small group of local residents formed the nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, purchased the property, and have done a sterling job repairing, restoring and preserving Poplar Forest.

The Corporation opened Poplar Forest to the public for the first time in 1985, and today owns 577 acres of Jefferson’s old Poplar Forest plantation. The group is in the process of securing an additional 39 acres. Poplar Forest is now a National Historic Landmark

In November, the 3,300-member Garden Club of Virginia made announced that it would be undertaking the landscape restoration at Poplar Forest as its next garden restoration project. The first phase of the project will be restoring Jefferson’s ornamental gardens and landscape features. The Garden Club’s previous historic garden restorations are impressive; they include those at Monticello, Mount Vernon, the University of Virginia, and Stratford Hall, the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

One feature of the restoration, which is being done in concert with the folks who run Poplar Forest, is finding and recreating the location of two parallel rows of paper mulberry trees that Jefferson planted in 1812 that flanked the house’s main structure.

On Saturday, November 18, Poplar Forest hosted some 1,500 people for its second annual Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival, in which visitors sampled the wares of eleven Virginia wineries. Also on hand was my favorite Jefferson re-enactor, Bill Barker, who portrays Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg and in the fifteen-minute introductory film at the Monticello Visitors Center.


NOT MONTICELLO: Over the years I’ve read about more than one Monticello replica around the nation. Most recently, I came across one in the Central New Jersey town of Colts Neck, owned by Patti and Ed Eastman. Decorated for Christmas, the house will be included in the 11th annual house tour put on by the Colts Neck Historical Preservation Committee on December 4.

The Eastmans built the house ten years ago and made use of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural designs for Monticello. It features a dome room and library, along with reproductions of period paintings and furniture.

“Our house is about 90 percent a replica of Monticello,” Patti Eastman told the local News Transcript newspaper. “Both Ed and I love the designs and architecture Jefferson used at Monticello, so when we came to build our house, we built a 21st-century Monticello house. I think Jefferson would approve the new technology.”

READER REVIEWS: Two kind readers recently have posted rave reviews of Saving Monticello on line. On October 7, on the readers’ social network goodreads.com, Michelle wrote:

“Very well-researched and presented story of what happened to Monticello after Thomas Jefferson’s death. A colorful family including an iconoclastic Navy commander and his nephew, a New York financial speculator, purchased and kept up Jefferson’s home during many years in which no one else wanted it, and during which it would certainly have gone to ruin.

“Then, a vehement campaign on the part of a disgruntled woman, which may have been partially anti-Semitic in intent, browbeat the owner, Jefferson Levy, into putting the home up for sale, and it was eventually purchased by a historic foundation dedicated to Jefferson. But for years, the ownership and contributions of the Levy family were swept under the rug, until recent scholarship restored the ‘rest of the picture’ of the saving of Monticello. Fascinating read.”

Joseph Reitz from Ohio posted this on November 10 on the SM page on Amazon.com:

Saving Monticello is the only book I’ve ever finished at 3:00 AM. An avid reader for sixty years, I’ve read thousands of books, but never one written in such an attention-getting style about a topic that could have been pure tedium. Leepson gives Monticello a life and persona of its own.

Saving Monticello vividly depicts the struggle to preserve Thomas Jefferson’s beautiful estate. The writing includes heroes and villains, saints and sinners, honorable and dishonorable politicians, and generous persons right alongside those with self-serving agendas.

“Leepson’s meticulous research and fast-paced writing style keeps the intense struggle interesting, informative, and compelled me to turn just one more page before turning off the lights. I found it interesting to read Saving Monticello during the 2010 elections, realizing how political intrigue, complete with its cast of noble and ignoble characters, including the Levys and the Littletons, has been going on for a long time and yet we move forward. Marc Leepson’s narrative now has a prominent place in my library next to other books he’s written.”

KINDLING: Simon and Schuster, the publisher of the Saving Monticello hardcover (which has been out of print for several years), recently released the book in Amazon.com’s Kindle format. I was pleased to see that in mid-November SM was the No. 3 best-selling book in the category of historic preservation in Amazon’s Kindle Store. It also was No. 8 in the following category: “Arts & Photography/ Architecture/Architects, A-Z/Jefferson, Thomas,” which I believe is a good thing.

APPEARANCES
: I had another great experience on Saturday, October 30, signing books at the Museum Shop at Monticello. That’s me below standing behind the table the terrific staff set up for me, talking to a visitor. I met a lot of interesting people, as I always do at Monticello, and signed a good number of books.

My next talk on Friday, December 3, will be on my book Flag: An American Biography for the History Club at the Ashby Ponds retirement community in Ashburn, Virginia.

On Saturday, December 4, I will be signing copies of my three most-recent books, including Saving Monticello, at the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show at the Middleburg (Va.) Community Center from 1:00 to 3:00. The Middleburg Xmas Parade will step off at 11:00 that morning. Look for the always-popular Middleburg Library Book Worm (Not for the first time, I will be one pair of the worm’s legs!)

For all the details, including more contact info, on these and my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com


ON FACEBOOK, ON TWITTER
: For what it’s worth, I just hit the 1,000 Facebook friend mark. And yet, I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it right away. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 11 November 1, 2010


STUDIO 360: In last month’s newsletter I did not mention that the Studio 360 NPR radio program, hosted by Kurt Anderson (left) would be broadcasting an entire hour show on Monticello—including the story of the Levys’ stewardship. That’s because I didn’t find out from the show’s producers that it was going to air on most stations on Saturday, October 22, until after the newsletter went out on October 1st.

The good news is that you can listen to the entire show—and even download it from the Studio 360 website. There’s also an entire transcript at http://bit.ly/studio360trans And this: some NPR stations, including WYNC in New York, have not yet broadcast the episode. So, check your local NPR station listings.

The show, which is part of its “American Icons” series, was very well done. In addition to yours truly and Levy descendant Harley Lewis adding our input on the post-Jefferson history of Monticello, there were excellent interviews with Jefferson descendants, historians including Joseph Ellis, and—of all people, Steven Colbert. He was funny. So was the part in which the Studio 360 crew did a small dramatization of the often-told, anti-Semitic, made-up story of how Uriah Levy alleged stole Monticello out from under the Randolph family in 1834.

I trace the history of that execrable story in the book. The most common version is that a group of patriotic, charitable (presumably white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) Americans raised money to buy Monticello from its then owner, James T. Barclay, and present it to the aging Martha Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson’s daughter. These benevolent people— who most often are unidentified—acted, it is said, because Martha was suffering financially, and they wanted to help return Jefferson’s oldest daughter to her father’s home, where she had lived for many years after her mother’s death.

One of the earliest published versions appeared in the Hartford Courant in 1897 and was retold by Amos J. Cummings in the August 24, 1897, New York Sun. Five years later, Cummings republished his article, titled “ National Humiliation: A Story of Monticello,” in a pamphlet. “American hearts have recently been harrowed,” Cummings writes in the pamphlet, “by a story of [Monticello’s] purchase by Judah Levy, late Commodore in the United States navy.” The story, he says, “asserts that efforts were made to hold the estate after Jefferson's death for his favorite daughter, Martha Randolph. About $3,000 was required.

“The money was raised by patriotic Philadelphians, and entrusted to a young Virginian, a relative of Martha Randolph. He got drunk on the way to Monticello, and arrived a day too late. It is more than intimated that Captain Levy, who was a passenger in the same stage, took advantage of his drunkenness and bought the place. The appalled Virginian besought him to be merciful after his purchase, and asked him what he would take for the homestead.

“His replay was: ‘Mein frien’ you are a glever feller, but you talk too much. I will take a huntret tousand tollars.’ It was a story that, if true ought to bring a blush of shame to every American face.”

The story, of course, is not true. But the impression Cummings (and others who re-told it over the years) leaves with the reader is that it is. The made-up dialogue in which a Shylock-like Uriah Levy (misidentified as “Judah” Levy), a fifth generation American, speaks in some sort of Yiddish-German accent cannot be interpreted as anything but anti-Semitic. The same can be said about the article’s title.

As I noted on the show, it “couldn’t be more anti-Semitic if they’d called him a dirty Jew.”

THE DOME ROOM (Con’t.) In last month’s issue I wrote about my third visit this summer to the Dome Room at Monticello. In it, I mentioned that at times Thomas Jefferson’s grandchildren—his daughter Martha Randolph’s kids who lived in the house—used it as a play room. I had an email from Harley Lewis, Jefferson Levy’s great-grand niece and the Levy descendant who has taken the most interest in the family’s stewardship of Monticello, in which she told me more Dome Room lore.

That room, she said, “was a special place. My mother would tell of playing there with her sisters on rainy days. That reminds me of a grandson years ago that I picked up at school and when I asked him what they were studying in history, he said Thomas Jefferson. Then I asked if he mentioned that his great grandmother lived at Monticello. He replied, of course [he hadn’t] because “they wouldn’t believe it.”

GENIUS GRANT TO REED: The historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed received one this year’s twenty three MacArthur fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Winners collect $500,000 in grants that are paid out over five years. These are the so-called “Genius Awards,” which come out of the blue—you can’t apply for them, and there are no strings attached on how winners spend their money.

Gordon-Reed won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2008 book, an in-depth re-examination of the Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson connection and the fate of the Hemings family. The Foundation web site praised Gordon-Reed, saying that by “disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families’ interracial bloodlines,” she has been “shaping and enriching American history with an authentic portrayal of our colonial past.”


Appearances: My next talk on Saving Monticello will be on Saturday, November 6, in McLean, Virginia, at the monthly meeting of the Freedom Hill DAR Chapter at Trinity United Methodist Church at noon.

On Thursday, November 11 (Veterans Day), I will be conducting a live teleconference interview at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time with the novelist, poet, and Vietnam War bibliographer David Willson (REMF Diary) under the auspices of the Viet Nam Literary Project’s Dan Duffy, who runs the www.vietnamlit.org web site. For more info, including on how you can join in, email Dan at editor@vietnamlit.org

On Monday, November 15, I will be doing a talk on Saving Monticello for visiting high school social study teachers in Washington, D.C., for the nonprofit Close Up Foundation.

For all the details, including more contact info, on these and my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: I have 980 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 10 October 1, 2010


THE DOME ROOM: I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being inside the Dome Room at Monticello just twice. The first time was a quick visit late in October of 2001 when Saving Monticello came out, just prior to the very first talk and book signing I did for the book, the one sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the good folks who run Monticello.

I met Susan Stein, Monticello’s head curator who had been extremely supportive of the book, before the talk at her office, which was then on the second floor of the house. She asked if I’d like to walk up to the third floor to see the Dome Room before the talk. Would I? You bet.

Although I’d been to the house several times and spent a good deal of time doing research for the book at the Foundation’s Research Department, I’d ever been on the third floor of Monticello, much less been inside the iconic Dome room. It was a thrill. The views out the circular windows were spectacular, as are all the views at Monticello. But you can see even more through the large circular windows since you’re three stories high.

The second time I visited the Dome Room came on Friday, September 3. I accompanied a special tour sponsored by the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historic preservation group in Loudoun County, Virginia, where I live (I’m on the Board). The second time was a thrill, as well.

As for the room itself, historians are not quite clear exactly what use Jefferson intended for it. At times his grandchildren—his daughter Martha Randolph’s kids who lived in the house—used it as a play room. The only time anyone stayed in the Dome Room was when Jefferson’s favorite grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, and his wife Jane Hollins Nicholas lived there for a few months in 1815. From then until Jefferson died in 1826, the room was used primarily as storage space.

For more on the Dome Room, go to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s on-line Jefferson Encyclopedia entry: http://bit.ly/DomeRoom To listen to a 14-minute podcast on the room’s restoration by the Foundation, go to: http://bit.ly/RestoreDRoom

A second part of the Mosby Heritage Area Association event was a two-part talk held the night before the Monticello trip in Middleburg, Virginia, by Susan Stein and Leslie Bowman, the President and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Their fascinating and excellent presentations dealt with Monticello’s past, present and future. That’s me with Susan and Leslie (below). For more, go to http://mosbyheritagearea.org/news.html



A Review: A book review of Saving Monticello appeared August 31, 2010, on the www.histpress.com web site. The site is primarily a list of historic preservation-related jobs for young professionals.

Here are excerpts from the review, which was written by Sarah Kollar:

While Thomas Jefferson is, of course, the reason Monticello is significant, the Levy family, specifically Uriah Levy and his nephew Jefferson Levy, actually owned Monticello longer than Jefferson and his descendants. Despite this, there was a belief that they shouldn’t even be allowed to own the property and that the government should be allowed to take it away.

As a result of Jefferson Levy’s refusal to part with the property that he legally owned, he and his family were accused of stealing the property from Jefferson’s daughter, not maintaining the site and preventing site visitors from gaining access to the grounds. The fact that all of these accusations were based on lies or half-truths was, of course, ignored.

Even after Jefferson Levy agreed to sell Monticello, he still faced backhanded insults about his ownership of the property. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, who purchased the site, continued this trend through indifference to the Levys as well as vague and anti-Semitic references to the family on a plaque that greeted visitors upon their arrival.

This has long since been rectified with the removal of the plaque and the recognition of the Levy family for their preservation efforts that saved Monticello, but it does pose an important question: should historic houses acknowledge the other owners of a historic site and their preservation and remodeling efforts and, if so, how?

Great Generals: I took in a great event September 9 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.: A roundtable discussion with four authors of books in the Great Generals Series: Donald A. Davis, John Mosier, Noah Andre Trudeau, and Steven E. Woodworth, moderated by the series editor, Retired Army General Wesley Clark. That’s the same series that my next book, Lafayette: Idealist General, will be part of when it’s published next March 1.
After the excellent discussion (on Generals Lee, Grant, Stonewall Jackson and William T. Sherman), I met the authors and General Clark at the book signing. In the picture at left he is standing and looking at the copy of my book Flag: An American Biography, which I had just given him.

I did so because in that book I mentioned General Clark’s his use of the flag in his speeches during the 2004 presidential primary campaign.


Appearances
: I’ll be taking part in the annual Waterford Fair (officially the Waterford Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit), signing copies of Saving Monticello and Desperate Engagement from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m on Saturday, October 2 in the historic village of Waterford in Loudoun County, Virginia. For more info, no the Fair, the oldest juried crafts fair in Virginia, go to http://amzn.to/Waterfd

I will do a talk on Desperate Engagement on Thursday, October 28, for the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table’s monthly meeting in Pennsylvania. And I am going back to the Monticello Museum Shop in the Visitors Center (for the sixth time) to sign copies of Saving Monticello from around 11:30 a.m. to around four on Saturday, October 30.
For all the details, including more contact info, on my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: I have 960 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook

I’m also on Twitter to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 9 September 1, 2010


JEFFERSON, LAFAYETTE, AND PHIILIPS: One of the many intriguing stories I came across doing the research for my next book, Lafayette: The Idealist General (which will be published next March 1), involves quite a cast of characters: Lafayette, British Army Major General William Phillips, Benedict Arnold, and Thomas Jefferson and Monticello.

The story begins with the August 1, 1759, Battle of Minden in Germany during the Seven Years’ War. Lafayette’s father Gilbert, a French Army officer, was killed that day in that battle. Our Lafayette was just two years old at the time, and would never meet his father.

What’s more, as he grew up, Lafayette’s family filled him with tales of the hated British who killed his father. As family lore had it, the English artillery officer who fired the shot that killed Lafayette’s father was one William Phillips. At the very least, the family knew that it was Phillips’ artillery battery that fired the fatal shot.

Fast forward March of 1781 in Virginia. Major General William Phillips had just joined turncoat British General Benedict Arnold along the James River, where they led a force of some 4,000 British and Hessian troops on a mission to destroy the Continental Army’s Virginia supply lines. Arnold and Phillips’ burned tobacco warehouses, hit military storage facilities and made off with wagons, clothing, livestock, horses and other provisions in Central Virginia and on the Peninsula.

Lafayette, who had volunteered to serve in the American army in part because of his life-long hatred of the British, was sent to Virginia to try to put a stop to Arnold and Phillips’ marauding. Along with Generals Friedrich Wilhelm von Von Steuben and John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, the 23-year-old Lafayette spent the next two months harassing Arnold and Phillips. That included forcing Arnold and Phillips to retreat from Richmond on April 30, a few days after Lafayette and Jefferson (then Virginia’s governor) had met face to face for the first time—they had been correspondents before that.

On May 13, 1781, before Lafayette had a chance to go into battle against the man he believed killed his father, the 50-year-old Phillips (left) died near Petersburg, Virginia, succumbing not to American bullets, but to a sudden, violent fever.

The Jefferson-Phillips connection had taken place four years earlier. The catalyst was American General Horatio Gates’s crushing defeat of British General John Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga, New York on October 17, 1777. Phillips, who had joined British forces in North America early in 1776 soon after the Revolutionary War started, was Burgoyne’s deputy commander. He was captured along with the rest of the Redcoats following the humiliating defeat at Saratoga.

After Burgoyne was allowed to return to England, Phillips became the commanding officer of the imprisoned British and Hessian troops. Soon thereafter, the Americans transferred Phillips and his men from Boston to the Albemarle Barracks outside Charlottesville.

Phillips had a reputation of being a cultured, decent man. When Thomas Jefferson, who then was representing Albemarle County in the Virginia House of Delegates, learned of that fact, the Sage of Monticello invited Phillips and his staff officers to join him at his mountaintop Charlottesville home. “Jefferson himself was lavish of attention to officers and men of both [British and Hessian] nationalities,” the noted 19th century historian James Parton wrote in an 1872 Atlantic Monthly article. He “threw open his house, his library, his grounds, his garden, to such of them as could enjoy refined pleasures.”

Many British and German officers, Parton noted, “who could play and sing. Many a delightful concert was improvised at Monticello, when some amateur would play violin duets with Jefferson, and the whole company surround Mrs. Jefferson’s harpsichord, and join her in singing…. A German officer of scientific tastes was much in the library of Monticello, a congenial companion to its proprietor.”

In a 1779 prisoner exchange, Phillips and company were released. Two years later, he was back in Virginia matching wits with the Marquis de Lafayette.

Michelle and Sasha: What the members of the Obama family did on their summer vacations made headlines—except for one that didn’t: a day trip First Lady Michelle and youngest daughter Sasha made to Central Virginia on Thursday, August 12, a visit that included a tour of Monticello.

That unannounced and unpublicized trip marked the second time that Michelle and Sasha had visited Monticello. They came for a day in 2009, along with the other First Daughter Malia, and Marian Robinson, Michelle’s mother. This summer’s visit marked the first time since the Obama administration came into being that members of the First Family had visited an attraction twice.

Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture was closed to tourists for part of the day pm August 12 to accommodate the private VIP tour. Visitors on the mountain waited outside the Visitor Center and were rewarded when the Michelle and Sasha (left) showed up and saved to the crowd.

They arrived in a motorcade made up of a police escort and two large, black SUV’s at between 5:00 and 5:30 that Thursday afternoon. Mother and daughter earlier that day had visited the Luray Caverns, where they stopped for burgers at a local restaurant.

President Obama did not make the trip. Only a handful of U.S. sitting presidents have visited Monticello. The list includes President G.W. Bush in 2008, Gerald Ford in 1976, and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Other Presidents—including Bill Clinton, James Madison, and James Monroe—made visits to Monticello either before or after their terms in office.


Appearances: There are just a few seats left on the bus leaving Middleburg, Virginia, at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, September 3 for a special tour of Monticello sponsored by The Mosby Heritage Area Association. Yours truly will provide the post-Jefferson history of the house on the way down. Once there, the tour (which includes lunch and a signed copy of Saving Monticello) will take us to, among other places, the iconic dome room, which is not normally open to the public. For more info or to reserve your place on the bus, go to http://bit.ly/MosbyH

On Saturday, September 11, at 1:00 p.m. I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello at the monthly meeting of the Lane’s Mill DAR Chapter in Centreville, Virginia.

On Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19, I’ll be signing copies of SM, Flag, and Desperate Engagement once again at the annual Bluemont Fair in scenic Bluemont, Virginia, at the foot of Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Loudoun County. I’ll be there from around 11:00 a.m. till around 4:00 p.m. both days. For more info, go to www.bluemontfair.com

I will speak about Saving Monticello on Tuesday, September 21 at the monthly meeting of the Southern Fauquier Historical Society at historic Zoar Baptist Church in Catlett, Virginia, starting at 7:30 p.m. Info: www.fauquierhistorylive.org

The following day, Wednesday, September 22, I’ll be doing a talk on the ins and outs of free-lance writing and having a book signing for the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club in Charlottesville at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Conference Center near the Boar’s Head Inn just off Route 250. For info: http://blueridgewriters.org

On Saturday, September 25, I will be one of the featured speakers at the “Words and Wine” fund-raising event put on by Services to Abused Families at the Prince Michel Winery on Route 29 about half way between Culpeper and Charlottesville. The event starts at 6:00 p.m.

My last event of the month: A talk on Flag on Tuesday, September 28, at 11:00 a.m. for the Fauquier Retired Teachers Association in Warrenton, Virginia.

For all the details, including more contact info, on my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter:. Monticello has a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/TJMonticello It has thousands of friends. I have more than 900 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook

I’m also on Twitter, not to Tweet about what I had for breakfast, but to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 8 August 1, 2010


Saving Monticello: The Talk and Tour: Many readers of this newsletter know that I have served on the Board of Directors of the Mosby Heritage Area Association for more than a few years. MHAA is a historic and preservation non-profit in the historic and scenic Northern Virginia Piedmont where I live.

Our all-volunteer board works every day of the year to preserve this unique area of the country by offering multi-faceted looks at the area’s history. MHAA goes into the public school to present local-history programs and it has a wide array of programming for adults, including printed and audio driving tours, and live interpretive programs. The next big event is a special one and it has to do with Monticello and the Levy family.

The two-day event, “Saving Monticello: Past, Present and Future,” will take place on Thursday and Friday, September 2 and 3. On Thursday, September 2, Leslie Bowman, the President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and Susan Stein, Monticello’s long-time curator, will deliver what promises to be an entertaining and informing two-part talk on Monticello’s past, present and future at the Sheila C. Johnson Performing Arts Center at the Hill School in Middleburg, Virginia. The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with a wine-and-cheese reception.

The second event, on Friday, September 3, features an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of Monticello itself, including visits to areas of the house not normally open to the public, such as the iconic Dome Room on the third floor. The event includes the tour, luxury bus transportation, a box lunch, and a signed copy of Saving Monticello. I will give a talk on the post-Jefferson history of the house on the bus on the way down from Middleburg to Charlottesville. The bus leaves MHAA headquarters, the historic Rector House west of Middleburg, at 8:30 a.m. and returns at 3:30 p.m. Proceeds from both events will benefit MHAA’s education programs.

This is MHAA’s main fundraiser of 2010, its 15th year of “Preservation Through Education” programs. Tickets for the Friday talks are $150 per person or $250 per couple. For the Saturday tour, bus trip, lunch and book, tickets are $175 per person or $300 per couple. Sponsorships are available starting at $500. Bus seating is limited. Reservations may be made at 540-687-6681, or on line with PayPal or a credit card at http://bit.ly/MosbyH

The Mosby Heritage Area—you may have seen our highway signs—is bounded by the Bull Run Mountains to the east, the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, the Potomac River to the north and the Rappahannock River to the south. It comprises the counties of Loudoun, Fauquier, Clarke, Warren and part of Prince William, some 1,800 square miles—an area roughly equivalent to what was known as “Mosby’s Confederacy” during the Civil War. This is the area in which John S. Mosby, the famed “Gray Ghost,” led his men on hit-and-run raids against Union troops. Although Mosby is our namesake, MHAA is interested in the entire history of the area, from the time of the Native Americans, through the Revolutionary War and into the 20th century.

Good Numbers: As I noted in Saving Monticello, people loved come to the mountain, bidden and unbidden, since 1769 when Thomas Jefferson began building what would become his 10,660-square-foot, twenty-room neoclassical “Essay in Architecture” on the mountaintop outside Charlottesville.

That’s true today, as figures released by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation show. In 2009, the Foundation recently reported, 451,816 visitors came to Monticello, the second straight year of increasing visitors and the highest attendance in five years. The folks at Monticello say that it looks like this year’s attendance will keep pace with 2009’s.

“The last few years we’ve seen slight increases in attendance and, given the state of the economy in the last two years, that’s great performance,” Leslie Bowman told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “When the [stock market] went bad in 2008, we lost money like everyone else, but we didn’t lose as much and we’ve been recovering from the losses quickly.

“Our current attendance rates are on par with 2009 and may be slightly ahead and that makes us feel great, considering we were closed for nine days during the winter. We had 66 inches of snow up here this winter and that tends to keep the doors closed.”

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

Appearances
: I’m taking the month of August off—at least in terms of appearances for my books. My next event will be taking part in the bus tour to Monticello sponsored by the Mosby Heritage Area Association on Friday, September 3. I’d love to see SM newsletters on the bus! For more info, see above or go to http://bit.ly/MosbyH

For all the details, including more contact info, on my other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter:. I now have more than 900 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook

I’m also on Twitter, not to Tweet about what I had for breakfast, but to let folks know instantaneously about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 7 July 1, 2010


New Perspectives: People who visited Monticello last month saw five significant changes in the way the house looks and its history is interpreted. The five changes in the house’s “restoration and interpretive initiatives,” as they in house museum biz, are the restored and refurnished Dining Room, Wine Cellar, and South Pavilion, along with a new exhibition in the house’s central cellar and new tours of the upper floors.

The most noticeable change—and the one getting the most attention—is the transformation of Monticello’s Dining Room. What strikes the eye immediately is the color of the room’s walls, which have been changed from dark Wedgwood blue to bright chrome yellow.

The Wedgwood blue matched the colors of the Wedgwood insets in the dining room mantel. Those insets, as I mention in Saving Monticello, were destroyed by vandals during the time Monticello was under the care of the not-reliable Joel Wheeler—from Uriah Levy’s death in 1862 until Jefferson Levy bought out the other heirs in 1879, took control of the house, and banished Wheeler. Jefferson Levy replaced the broken tiles, ordering replicas made from the original designs at the Wedgwood factory in England where the originals were made for Jefferson.

Years later, in 1936, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation decided to paint the Dining Room walls blue. Why Wedgwood blue? Because the Foundation’s staff had found indications that the walls once had been painted that color.


In recent years, however, with more sophisticated analysis, the Foundation learned that the oldest layer of blue paint dated from the post-Jefferson period and that the color Jefferson had chosen for the room around the year 1815 was a brilliant chrome yellow.

“This was one of the most fashionable colors of the time and also one of the most expensive,” Elizabeth Chew, Monticello’s curator, wrote in a recent Monticello newsletter. “Chrome yellow pigment cost $5 per pound, twice as much as Prussian blue and 33 times more than white lead.”

Aside from painting the walls chrome yellow, the Foundation also has added several pieces of new furnishings to the Dining Room: a reproduction of a sideboard similar to one Jefferson bought in 1790; a French marble console table; and an interpretation of the Abbeville carpet that Jefferson purchased in France in the 1780s.

The Dining Room’s entire new (or not-so-new) look speaks “to Jefferson’s taste and ingenuity, and to the significance of dining with him at Monticello,” said Susan Stein, Monticello’s Richard Gilder Senior Curator and Vice President for Museum Programs. “Jefferson was famous for his hospitality and played host to his large extended family and frequent, numerous guests. Jefferson’s granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge described Monticello as a ‘feast of reason,’ where ideas were discussed and valued.”
Polo Ralph Lauren sponsored the Dining Room restoration at Monticello.

July 4th: The headline attraction for the 48th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello this year will be the great comic actress Tracey Ullman, the featured speaker. The event begins at 9 a.m. and is open to the public free of charge. Ullman became an American citizen in 2006 after living here for 25 years.
July 4, 2010, marks the 234th anniversary of American independence—and the 184th anniversary of Jefferson’s death. Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the birth of the republic they were so instrumental in founding.

In the Revolution: In my forthcoming concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette (which will be published March 1), I talk about Thomas Jefferson’s interaction with the young Frenchman during the Revolutionary War when Jefferson was governor of Virginia (from June 1, 1779, to June 3, 1781) and one of Lafayette’s missions was to try to convince him (and the other state governors) to provide men and supplies to Washington’s Continental Army.

I also cover the hasty escape that took place in May of 1792 when Lafayette left Richmond, as did Jefferson and the Virginia General Assembly, which took off to Charlottesville 70 miles to the west, when the British moved in to the city. A year earlier, the British under traitorous Benedict Arnold had ransacked Richmond and forced Jefferson to flee, and soon after that Jefferson barely escaped a British raiding party that came to Monticello.

Flight From Monticello (Oxford University Press, 400 pp., $27.95), a recently published, well-reviewed book by Michael Kranish, deals with Jefferson’s role as Virginia governor during the Revolutionary War. In the book, which came out in February, Kranish, the deputy chief of the Boston Globe Washington, D.C., bureau, focuses in the tumultuous last year of Jefferson’s governorship. Many have harshly criticized Jefferson for his actions during that period; Kranish offers a spirited defense of him.

July Appearances
: On Saturday, July 3, I’ll be doing a live appearance at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on “Weekends with Karen Curtis,” a radio show on 85 WFTL in South Florida on Flag: An American Biography (that’s me below, signing copies of Flag at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in June). For more info, or to listen live, go to http://bit.ly/July3radio

I’ll be leading a special tour of the Monocacy National Battlefield on Saturday, July 10 for the Mosby Heritage Area Association. This fund-raising event begins at 8:30 a.m. with a luxury bus ride to Monocacy, outside Frederick, Md., from MHAA’s headquarters in Atoka, Virginia, just west of Middleburg, and includes the bus ride, lunch, a tour of the battlefield and a signed copy of my book, Desperate Engagement. For more info and to order tickets, go to http://bit.ly/MHAAMonocacy

On Saturday, July 17, I’ll be signing copies of Saving Monticello from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the beautiful, new Gift Shop at the Monticello Visitors Center in Charlottesville.

And on Wednesday, July 21, I’ll be doing a talk on Desperate Engagement and on Flag and a book signing at the annual National Meet of The Packard Club, which is being held this year at the Eisenhower Inn and Conference Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

For all the details, including more contact info, on these and other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter:
. I now have more than 850 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook

I’m also on Twitter, not to Tweet about what I had for breakfast, but to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume VII, Number 6 June 1, 2010



Stewardship: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the folks who own and operate Monticello, received this year’s Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America’s Arthur Ross Award for stewardship on May 3. That news immediately brings to mind the last, salient sentence on the plaque (below) at the gravesite of Rachel Phillips Levy (Uriah Levy’s mother) along Mulberry Row at Monticello.

“At two crucial periods in the history of Monticello,” the plaque notes, “the preservation efforts and stewardship of Uriah P. and Jefferson M. Levy successfully maintained the property for future generations.”

The Institute’s honor could easily include the Levy family’s 89-year stewardship of Monticello, which the Foundation has recognized officially since the plaque was dedicated when Rachel Levy’s grave was refurbished in 1984.


Among other things, the award buttresses what I wrote in Saving Monticello (and what many other observers have said): that Uriah Levy and Jefferson Levy consciously preserved and restored Monticello—and that a good case can be made that Uriah Levy was the first American house preservationist. Which is a good thing, because there are those who say that what the Levys did at Monticello was little more than repair their summer house. I don’t believe that.

The evidence clearly shows that Uriah Levy and Jefferson greatly admired Thomas Jefferson. And it shows that they both took a house that was—in the words of one visitor circa 1834—“in dilapidation and ruin,” and repaired, preserved and restored it. And that they proudly showed off the repaired, preserved and restored house and grounds to visitors. That, to me, is unimpeachable evidence that the Levys were doing much, much more than fixing up their country place. It shows that they took pride in the fact that they both saved the house from ruin, and that they did so in large part to preserve Thomas Jefferson’s legacy.

As for the Foundation, no one doubts that they deserve great credit for their stewardship of Monticello. The Institute cited the Foundation for its preservation, upkeep and maintenance of Monticello since it acquired the place in 1923—in other words, for what the Levy family also accomplished on the mountain from 1834 when Uriah Levy purchased it from James Turner Barclay, until Jefferson Levy sold it to the Foundation.

The award said the Foundation inspired “a new paradigm of historic preservation at the cradle of American design excellence as conceived by Thomas Jefferson informed by scholarship and made manifest with masterful authority.” It mentioned several milestones the Foundation has accomplished since 1923, including the replacement of Monticello’s roof in 1991-92; the installation of Jefferson’s Venetian porches in 1998-99; and the restoration of the North Dependencies’ original stone walls in 2003-07.

“This award is not only a great honor, it is a tribute to the many, many dedicated people who have worked so hard over the years to preserve, protect, and restore Jefferson’s truly unique creation,” said TJF President Leslie Greene Bowman. For more info, go to the Institute of Classical Architecture’s website, http://bit.ly/RossAwards

Palladian: Thomas Jefferson, as is widely known, was greatly influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio in the four masterworks Jefferson designed: Monticello, the State Capitol Building in Richmond, the original University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Poplar Forest, his summer house near Lynchburg, Virginia. The Palladio influence on Jefferson (the domes, the columns, the windows) is part of a new exhibit, “Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey,” which opened in April at the Morgan Library in New York City. The exhibit, which runs through August 10, features 31 original Palladio drawings from the Royal Institute of British Architects, which are on view to the public for the first time in more than 30 years.

The exhibit points out that in Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture there is an account of his most famous structure, the Villa Rotunda near Vicenza (left). In the book, Palladio wrote that the Villa sits on top of “monticello,” which translates as “small mountain,” with a river on one side, surrounded by hills filled with fruit trees forming a “gran Teatro.”

The exhibit clearly shows that Palladio’s work significantly influenced Jefferson, as well as other American architects from colonial times to today. Among the many architectural models in the exhibit is Jefferson’s unrealized design for the White House.

June Appearances: On Friday, June 4, I’ll be speaking about my latest book, Desperate Engagement, in Leesburg, Virginia, for the Loudoun Museum, which is under renovation. So the talk, at 7:00, will be held at historic Glenfiddich House at 205 North. King Street in downtown Leesburg. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/LoudounMuseum

On Wednesday, June 9, five days before Flag Day, I’ll be speaking on my book Flag: An American Biography at the weekly meeting of the Frederick Rotary Club in Frederick, Maryland. I’ll be signing copies of Flag on Saturday, June 12, from 3:00 to 5:00 as part of the Family Flag Day activities at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. More info: bit.ly/FlagDaySmithsonian

Then, on Flag Day itself, Monday, June 14, I will give a talk on the book for the Close Up Foundation (which brings social studies teachers to Washington for seminars and other events) at the National Press Club in D.C. at 1:00 and will do a guest appearance at 2:30 on the “Sons of the Amerian Legion Radio Report” on WVOX AM in New York, which will be simulcast on www.WVOX.com

For all the details, including more contact info, on these and other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter:. I now have more than 835 Facebook friends. I’d love to have more. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/MarcLFacebook

I’m also on Twitter, not to Tweet about what I had for breakfast, but to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/MarcTwitter




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 5 May 1, 2010


The First Census: It seems appropriate that in this census year a first edition of the first U.S. Census signed by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1791 was the star of the show April 14 (the day after TJ’s birthday) at a big auction held at Sotheby’s in New York. The 56-page document was among a 190-item treasure trove of historic letters, documents, and manuscripts from the James S. Copley Library that went on the block that day. Only about 200 of the First Census documents were printed; hence the sales price to an anonymous private collector: $122,500.

This was the first in a series of eight Copley Library collection auctions that will take place throughout the year. The auctioned items come from the private Copley Library in La Jolla, California. The library building recently was sold; the library’s holdings, owned by The Copley Press, had been collected by the newspaper magnate James Copley (owner of The San Diego Union and other papers) from 1966 to his death in 1973, and are being sold off.

Eight other Jefferson items were part of the April 14 auction. They included a June 30, 1825, letter from Jefferson to Rufus King, the American minister to Great Britain; a July 9, 1773, letter to English merchants Farrell and Jones; a March 6, 1781, letter to Maryland Gov. Thomas Sim Lee; an Aug. 26, 1786, letter from Paris written when Jefferson was U.S. Minister to France; a Dec. 31, 1803, letter to New York Gov. George Clinton; and a July 16, 1807, letter to the French literary theorist, Madame de Stael-Holstein.

As for the first census, it began by congressional resolution in August of 1790, about a year after George Washington’s first inauguration. The enumerators that year were marshals of the U.S. judicial districts. They were required to visit every household in the country and the information they gathered was to be posted in “two of the most public places within [each jurisdiction], there to remain for the inspection of all concerned.”

Under Jefferson’s direction the U.S. marshals did their work in the first thirteen states, as well as in the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory we know as Tennessee. The final tally was 3.9 million inhabitants. It is reported that both President Washington and Secretary of State Jefferson were skeptical about the final count.

For more on the historic 1790 census, go to Bureau of the Census’s history page, which also contains PDF’s of the entire document: http://bit.ly/djLn2q

Poppies
: A SM Newsletter subscriber last month sent me the link (http://bit.ly/c1Rmp6) to an interesting story about Jefferson, Monticello, poppies and the DEA. Excerpted from the book Opium for the Masses: Harvesting Nature’s Best Pain Medication by Jim Hogshire, the article, which was posted on March 3 at alternet.org, talked about the time in 1987 when DEA agents arrived at Monticello and demanded that the opium poppies growing in the garden—meticulously restored to the way it was in Jefferson’s time—had to go.

“The poppies had to be immediately uprooted and destroyed or else they were going to start making arrests, and [Thomas Jefferson Memorial] Foundation personnel would perhaps face lengthy stretches in prison,” Hogshire wrote. “It scared the hell out of the people at Monticello, who immediately started yanking the forbidden plants.”

The drug enforcers also told the Foundation folks to stop selling what were billed as seed packets of “Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Poppies” in the Monticello shop. They did, then burned souvenir tee shirts with silk-screened photos of Monticello poppies on the them. “Nobody told them to do this,” Hogshire said, “but under the circumstances, no one dared risk the threat.”

Hogshire noted that Jefferson cultivated poppies for his “personal opium use.” Was Jefferson an opium addict? No. But in his last years, he did take laudanum, which his physician, Dr. Robley Dunglison, prescribed and which contained opium. The treatment worked. As Jefferson wrote to Dunglison in November 1825:

“The day before yesterday I rode bout my garden in a walk half an hour without any inconvenience at that time or since... I suppose therefore that with care and laudanum I may consider myself in what is to be my habitual state.”


Jefferson and Lafayette
: Readers of this newsletter know that I am writing a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette for the Great Generals series published by Palgrave/Macmillan. I am close to finishing the manuscript and am pleased to report that Thomas Jefferson is a featured player in the book. Jefferson and Lafayette began what became a long, warm friendship in the spring of 1781 when George Washington sent the young (23-year-old) Continental Army major general to Virginia to harass Cornwallis in the run up to September-October Siege of Yorktown.

Jefferson was the Governor of Virginia, and Lafayette wrote to him requesting help in the form of supplies for his troops—one of his biggest problems as a division commander. As was his wont, Lafayette’s first letters to Jefferson were filled with flowery words of respect for the Sage of Monticello, along with thanks for what Jefferson had done to help the war effort. Lafayette then got practical and asked for help.

In one of his first missives to Jefferson, for example, Lafayette said that had been forced to impress 200 oxen from citizens to use in place of draft horses because no one would provide the much-needed horses for his artillery. Jefferson gave his approval.

Jefferson went on to commiserate with Lafayette over his state’s less-than-stellar support of the revolutionary cause. “Mild Laws, a People not used to prompt obedience, a want of provisions of War & means of procuring them render our orders often ineffectual,” he wrote on March 10, 1781, and “oblige us to temporize….”

The two men met face to face for the first time on April 29, 1781, when Lafayette and his men reached Richmond, and managed to scare off a British raiding party under the co command of the traitorous Benedict Arnold. Lafayette continued his lobbying of Thomas Jefferson in the Virginia capital for supplies and men. While those were not forthcoming, the two men conversed in French and in Latin, discussed worldly and philosophical matters, and became instant friends.

Next month: Lafayette and Jefferson in Paris when the former was one of the most celebrated military men and politicians in his home country and the latter was American minister (ambassador) to the court of King Louis XVI. My book, by the way, will be published on March 1 of next year.


Appearances
: On Tuesday, May 11, I’ll be speaking about my latest book, Desperate Engagement, in Leesburg, Virginia, for the Loudoun County Civil War Round Table at their monthly meeting at the Balch Library, 208 W. Market Street.
On Sunday, May 23 I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello and a booksigning at a “Meet the Author” event at the historic Evergreen Country Club, in Haymarket, Virginia. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/aaxDIu
On Saturday, May 29, I’ll be signing copies of all my books at the Philip Carter Winery in Hume, Virginia, in beautiful Fauquier County from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. For more info, go to http://bit.ly/4TuGx9
For all the details, including more contact info, on these and other upcoming talks in 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: Last summer, I started a Facebook page as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 759 friends. I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/9yFtGc

I also opened a Twitter account to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/b6gkQb



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 4 April 1, 2010


Portrait of a Lady: One of the most rewarding things about doing this newsletter is receiving feedback from subscribers and other people who have found merit in my book Saving Monticello. And one of the most rewarding things about the feedback is when my book or this newsletter has been of use to someone doing research about the Levys and Monticello, or writing a children’s book on the subject, or a play or a documentary or a TV mini series. All of this—and more—has happened since I began the newsletter in 2004.

The latest good news in this regard comes from Jim Noel, an SM fan and a reader of this newsletter. Several years ago Jim emailed me, introduced himself, and asked if I could help him. He was trying to find out if he was related to Amelia Noel, someone I mentioned briefly in Saving Monticello. The brief mention in the book was part of my summary of an article on Monticello by Benson J. Lossing that appeared in the July 1853 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. (You can read the article on line at http://bit.ly/bk3Ti0) In it, Lossing described a visit he paid to Uriah Levy’s Monticello in March of that year.

Here’s what I wrote in the book: “Uriah Levy, who had arrived at Monticello the day of Lossing’s visit, showed him the interior of Jefferson’s house. Lossing… said the exterior ‘in general appearance’ was ‘the same as when Jefferson left it.’ The only piece of artwork in the house from Jefferson’s day that remained, he said, was a bust of Voltaire [left]…. On the wall [in the Entrance Hall] was a portrait of ‘Madame Noel, an aunt of Captain Levy,’ by the famed British portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792).”

I filled Jim in on all I knew about the portrait, which was not very much more than what I wrote in the book. He took it from there, and after a lot of digging, came up with evidence that he was, indeed, related to Madame Noel. And he found out a lot more.

Here’s Jim Noel’s account of his quest, which he sent me in a recent email after I asked if he’d recount it for the SM Newsletter:

My Aunt, Louise Rhoda Noel (1923-2007), worked on the Noel Family Tree for many years but was only able to go back as far as Henry Noel and his wife Amelia around 1780 in London, England. After she passed away, I took over the research. I joined Ancestry.com, posted information and started researching. In time, I connected a fourth cousin in London and she provided additional information on Henry and Amelia.

It turned out Amelia had been a well-known artist with many of her works in the British Museum. Aside from that, my cousin Judith had little information on Henry or even Amelia’s maiden name. Using Google Books search, I ran across several references to Amelia Noel’s watercolors and prints. They were amazing finds!

I still remember my first ‘find’ was the 1807 court case HORN v. NOEL as reported in Reports of Cases Determined at Nisi Prius: In the Courts of King's Bench. It revealed Amelia Noel was an artist and married to a Henry Noah, who had changed the family name from Noah to Noel.

I now wanted to know more about the Noel-Noah connection. In doing a search on Noah and Noel, I found the article [Marc Leepson mentioned in Saving Monticello] in Harper’s from 1853. It read in part: “Upon the wall, close by, is a fine portrait of Madame Noel (aunt of Captain Levy, and also of the late Major Noah, the veteran New York Editor), wife of M. Noel, a member of the National Assembly of France, who was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. She was afterward a tutor of the Princess Charlotte of England, in a peculiar style of flower painting. The portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.”

The article provided some interesting clues that confirmed to me that Madame Noel was indeed Amelia Noel, the artist wife of Henry Noah. The most amazing fact was that this painting was hanging in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home! I now had to find the Levy connection to the Noel-Noah Family Tree. How could Amelia Noel be the aunt to both Mordecai Noah and Uriah Levy?

I did a little more searching and found the report of their marriage in The Scots Magazine for 1781. It reported the marriage of “Henry Noah to Minka Levy, daughter of Mr. Judah Levy….” I now knew Amelia Noel’s maiden name was Minka Levy. I believe that Amelia is the sister of Michael Levy, the father of Uriah Levy, and thus is his aunt. Henry

Noah, I believe, is the brother of Manuel Noah, the father of Mordecai Noah. So Amelia was also Major Noah’s aunt by marriage. I know that some sources have Benjamin Levy as Michael Levy’s father, but it looks from the information in Scots Magazine that it might be Judah Levy.

I later found a notice in The Gentleman's Magazine‎, 1818, that announced the passing of Amelia on January 1st of that year, “In Piccadilly, aged 58, Mrs. Amelia Noel, artist.”

The Noel-Noah Connection was further confirmed in the book, Selected addresses and papers of Simon Wolf‎ - Simon Wolf, (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1926). He records a chance meeting between Lt. Morton Horace Daniel Noel and Mordecai Noah, which would have taken place in August or September of 1813 in London, while Major Noah was a paroled prisoner of war.

Major Noah “accidentally met, at a theatre, a young British officer, whose remarkable likeness to the Noah family attracted his attention. Upon introducing himself to the officer he discovered his name was Noel, and that he was his cousin.”

All this was very exciting, but I still wanted to find the portrait of Lady Noel that once hung Monticello. I found The Care of Monticello by Its Owner by Mr. W. K. Semple, which had a reference to the portrait in Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 35, by the New York (State) Legislature Assembly 1914. I emailed Marc Leepson and he confirmed that this was a contemporary (1914) account, which encouraged me to continue my search.

Semple wrote: “To the right of the door into the grand salon is one of the most precious paintings of the collection, a portrait of Lady Noel, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Lady Noel was the great grand-aunt of Jefferson M. Levy. This is one of Reynolds’ best works. The colors are rich, the tracery of the point lace delicate and real, and the plume that adorns Lady Noel’s head shows gossamer-like above the fine face.

I also found a second reference to the portrait in the Alumni Bulletin‎ of the University of Virginia, Vol. VII – 1914. “There are many portraits, one by Reynolds of Lady Noel, great-great aunt of the owner, which has been at Monticello seven or eight decades….”

My thought was that the University of Virginia might have more information on the portrait. On checking their [Alderman Library] website I found that Jefferson Levy had hired Rufus W. Holsinger in 1912 to document the exterior and interior, including furnishings, of Monticello in photographs. The Holsinger photos were now part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collection Library at Alderman Library. The URL is http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/small/collections/holsinger/hsearch.html

To my great surprise, several of the Holsinger Monticello photos were of the grand salon. To the right of the door, just as W. K. Semple had stated, I could see a portrait that seemed to match his description of Lady Noel. I later found photo of the portrait (X554B) that matched the one hanging on the wall in the grand salon and also matched W. K. Semple’s description.


Washington Farm II. After I sent out last month’s newsletter with a query about what had happened to Jefferson’s Washington Farm, I received a ton of information from Sam Towler of Charlottesville, who has spent years researching the enslaved families of Monticello and knows how to navigate through century-old land and court records in Albemarle County.

Sam, with the help of Steve Thompson of Rivanna Archeology, traced the buying and selling of the farm over the years since Uriah Levy purchased the 961-acre parcel near James Monroe’s Ash Lawn not far from Monticello in 1837. That was just a year after Levy settled with James T. Barclay on the purchase of Monticello. The records also included Jefferson Levy buying part of the farm back in 1905 and then selling it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In recent years, the Washington Farm was owned by the Kluge family, which donated it to the University of Virginia. The old farm is now in two parcels, 92-64a and 92-64, on Albemarle County’s tax map. Their current assessment: about $11 million.

Appearances: Here’s a rundown on my speaking engagements for April. On Saturday April 10, I’ll be speaking about my latest book, Desperate Engagement, in Richmond for the Old Dominion Chapter DAR at Gayton Library. I’ll be back in Richmond on Tuesday, April 13, to do a talk on Desperate Engagement for the Richmond Civil War Round Table at their monthly meeting at the United Methodist Church, 321 North Boulevard.

On Tuesday, April 27, Ill be doing a talk on D.E. at the general meeting of the Blue Ridge Mountain Civic Assocation, at Bear’s Den Hostel near where I live in beautiful western Loudoun County in Bluemont, Virginia.

For all the details, including more contact info, on these and other upcoming talks in 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: Last summer, I started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 725 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/9yFtGc

I also opened a Twitter account to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://bit.ly/b6gkQb




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 3 March 1, 2010


Washington Farm: I had an email recently from a reader of Saving Monticello, asking if I had any information about Washington Farm, which is listed among the inventory of Uriah Levy’s possessions in his 1862 will. In his will, Levy left that farm to Asahel (referred to in the will as “Ashel”) S. Levy, a New York City lawyer, the son of his brother Isaac, and one of eight executors Uriah Levy named for his estate..

The will states that “Ashel S. Levy” gets “my Farm called the Washington Farm in the State of Virginia” as well as “all my Negro slaves, and all my horses, cattle, Stock and Crops on or growing on said Farm.” The will goes on to say, in regard to Uriah Levy’s bequest of Monticello to “the people of the United States” to be used as an agricultural school for the orphans of Navy warrant officers, that Levy wanted to leave 200 acres of “wood land of my Washington Farm called the Bank Farm in Virginia” for “the purpose of fuel and fencing.”

To try to find out what has become of Washington Farm, I did a fair amount of research, mainly combing through my fat file of documents relating to Uriah’s will and searching the World Wide Web. But I was only able to discover a few other facts about the place, and have not been able to pin down exactly where the farm was—or is.

All I could find out was that the farm most likely was in Albemarle County, that there doesn’t appear to be any present-day farm in Albemarle County called the Washington Farm or the Bank Farm, and that Levy’s Washington Farm consisted of about 1,100 acres and had “implements, cattle, &c.” The last piece of information is in the New York Court of Appeals ruling on one of two partition lawsuits the family filed contesting the will.

So, I would like to see if anyone has any information about Washington Farm or Bank Farm formerly owned by Uriah P. Levy of Monticello. I’d love to know where it was, whether it had improvements and if it still exists. Please send an email to marcleepson@aol.com if you come up with anything.

Estate for Sale near Monticello. In other Albemarle County real estate news: the asking price for Albemarle House, the 300-acre English country estate owned by winemaker and philanthropist Patricia Kluge not far from Monticello, has just been slashed from $100 million to $48 million.

The centerpiece of the property is a 45-room 23,500- square-foot neo-Georgian main house, built in 1985, with eight bedrooms, thirteen baths, a theater, spa and sauna. Not to mention the pool, a log cabin, a thatch-roof greenhouse, tournament-level croquet lawn and three stocked ponds. The adjacent Kluge vineyard (left) is not for sale.

The median price of homes in Albemarle is about $255,000.

A Taste of History at Monticello: The PBS-TV cooking series, “A Taste of History,” taped four episodes (one meal per episode) at Monticello last summer. In doing so, the show’s host, Walter Staib of Philadelphia’s historic City Tavern, became the first chef to cook in Monticello’s restored Kitchen—and the first chef to cook in that room in 40 years. The series debuted late in October, and the four Monticello episodes began airing in December. They are being rebroadcast on PBS stations, so check your local listings, or go to www.atasteofhistory.com

“Having the opportunity to film at Monticello and be granted special access to cook in Thomas Jefferson’s Kitchen was definitely a high point for me, personally and professionally,” Staib (left) said in the Winter 2009 issue of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation newsletter (http://bit.ly/b6zX7V).

“After studying Jefferson the gastronome for so many years, this was truly a pilgrimage. During the time I spent at Monticello I could feel Mr. Jefferson’s presence presiding over me in the Kitchen, making sure the food was prepared just as it would have been for him by his hardworking staff.”

Appearances: Here’s a rundown on my speaking engagements for March. On Tuesday, March 2, I’ll be speaking about Saving Monticello at the annual open meeting of the Warrenton Antiquarians at St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton, Virginia, at 2:00 p.m. On Saturday, March 6, I’ll be taking part in a Writers Workshop at 9:30 a.m. at the Middleburg Country Inn in Middleburg, Virginia, where I live. For info, call my favorite bookstore, Books & Crannies, which is co-sponsoring the event, 540-687-6677, or call the Inn at 540-687-6082.

That same afternoon, Saturday, March 6, I’ll be giving a talk on Saving Monticello at 3:30 at the beautiful new Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, Virginia. For info, call, 540-635-3153 or go to: http://bit.ly/9FITM3

I’m doing another talk on SM on Tuesday, March 16 for a book group in Warrenton. I’ll be speaking about my book Flag: An American Biography on Saturday, March 20, for the Narrow Passage Chapter of the DAR at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Woodstock, Virginia. The public is invited to the meeting.

Then on Wednesday, March 24, I have a talk at 7:30 p.m. on Desperate Engagement for the Herndon, Virginia, Historical Society at their monthly meeting at historic Herndon Depot in downtown Herndon. That meeting also is open to the public.
For all the details, including more contact info, on these and other upcoming talks in 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: Last summer, I started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have close to 700 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in pronto. To do so, go to http://bit.ly/9yFtGc

I also opened a Twitter account to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. Just go to: http://bit.ly/b6gkQb





Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 2 February 1, 2010


The Marquis de Lafayette
: One of the highlights of Thomas Jefferson’s post-1809 retirement at Monticello was a long, emotional visit from his old friend and Revolutionary War compatriot the Marquis de Lafayette. The liberty-loving French aristocrat stopped at Monticello in November of 1824 during his remarkable, triumphant 1824-25 tour of the United States.

As I noted in Saving Monticello, Lafayette and his entourage, which included a military escort, arrived in Charlottesville on November 4, after a two-week journey from Yorktown. The town fathers declared the day a holiday.




Jefferson sent a carriage drawn by four gray horses into the nearby town to bring Lafayette up to Monticello. The carriage made the short trip in a long procession, complete with a cavalry detachment. When the party arrived on the mountain, a bugle sounded and hundreds of spectators and the cavalrymen formed a semi-circle in front of the house.

“Silence fell as the carriages neared the house, and the host advanced to meet his guest,” the noted Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone wrote. “It is said that they both shed tears as they embraced. This was one of the most sentimental moments and most dramatic events in the entire lifetime of [Jefferson], this highly disciplined and characteristically undramatic man.”

Lafayette and his party spent ten days enjoying Jefferson’s hospitality and being feted at the University of Virginia. This was the visit after which Jefferson wrote to a friend that he had to replenish his stock of red wine after the Frenchman left.

I recently came across a more detailed contemporary account of the Lafayette visit in the Charlottesville Central Gazette. To wit: “At two o’clock the approach of the procession up the mountain was announced by the bugle, and when the echo of its note was heard, those persons who had assembled at an early hour to witness the General’s arrival, formed themselves into a line on the northern margin of the circular yard, in front of the house.

“The cavalry, by a sudden and almost instantaneous movement, ranged themselves on the opposite side of the yard; a deep silence prevailed, while every eye turned with eagerness to the point where the Generals appearance was expected. The next moment, the carriages drew up in front of the building. As soon as the General drove up, Mr. Jefferson advanced to meet him, with feeble steps; but as he approached, his feelings seemed to triumph over the infirmities of age, and as the General descended they hastened into each other’s arms.

“They embraced, again and again; tears were shed by both, and the broken expression of ‘God bless you General’ ‘Bless you my dear Jefferson’ was all that interrupted the impressive silence of the scene, except the audible sobs of many whose emotion could not be suppressed.”

I came across that intriguing newspaper article—as well as tons more information about the amazing life of Gilbert de Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette—because I am very happy to report that I have started the research for my next book, a concise biography of Lafayette. The book will be the latest volume in the Great Generals series of books published by Palgrave/Macmillan. Here’s the website: http://bit.ly/dCXFff

I’ll be providing updates on the book-writing progress in subsequent SM newsletters. Stay tuned.


Flight From Monticello. That’s the title of a new book by the journalist Michael Kranish. The well-reviewed book doesn’t actually look at Monticello; it examines how Thomas Jefferson, the then Governor of Virginia, had to flee his house in 1779 during the Revolutionary War. Hence the subtitle, “Thomas Jefferson At War.”

Kranish briefly describes Jefferson’s designing and building the house and flashes forward near the end of the book to describe Lafayette’s 1825 visit. He uses the first-person testimony of that event of Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s favorite grandson, and the man who would, with his mother Martha, be the co-executor of his grandfather’s estate.

The author mentions that Jefferson lobbied Congress to grant $200,000 to Lafayette—money, Kranish notes, that would have “resolved Jefferson’s own grave financial problems, which would later force his family to sell Monticello.”

Thomas Jefferson in the News: The Sage of Monticello is still newsworthy in the 21st century. The latest example: a spate of articles in late January about the discovery of a letter Jefferson wrote on July 25, 1808, to the poet and diplomat Joel Barlow, in which—among other things—Jefferson gives his friend directions from Washington, D.C., to Monticello. The 202-year-old letter was found in a building occupied by the local American Legion Post in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington.

The letter was found last December by a woman searching for old photographs in the Legion’s dusty office files. The letter subsequently was authenticated, but the experts do not know how it wound up in the Legion Post’s files. Since Jefferson kept copies of his letters (made with his pantograph), the letter was a known quantity, having been published in at least one book. Still, finding the original was big news in 2010.

American Legion officials and officials from the city of Alexandria have announced that they are working on plans to preserve and display the letter.


Appearances: I have five events in February, beginning on Tuesday, February 2, when I will give a tour of the Monocacy Civil War battlefield in Maryland to a group of social studies teachers visiting Washington, D.C., with the Close Up Foundation. The next day, Wednesday, February 3, I’ll be driving north to do a talk on Desperate Engagement, my book about that battle, for the Brandywine Valley Civil War Roundtable in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

On Saturday, February 13, I’ll be taking part in Museum Day at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. I’ll be doing a talk and book signing there in the early afternoon. I will do two more talks on Desperate Engagement on Tuesday, February 23, at the Washington Club on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., and on Thursday, February 25 for the Hagerstown, Maryland, Civil War Roundtable.

For all the details, including contact info, on these and other upcoming talks in 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook, On Twitter: Last summer, I started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 674 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to
http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Leepson/748839923

I also opened a Twitter account to let folks know instantaneously about the latest about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://twitter.com/marcleepson





Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VII, Number 1 January 1, 2010


URIAH LEVY STATUE: THE NEW ONE. Loyal SM Newsletter reader Betsy Rosenbloom has proven herself to be a first-class researcher. A few months ago she emailed me to say that she had heard that a new statue of Uriah Levy statue had been commissioned and that it was going to be erected in Philadelphia. She thought I might know about it, but I had to tell her that I hadn’t heard anything.

At my suggestion, Betsy then contacted Harley Lewis, the Levy descendant who has taken the most interest in the family—and who, with her late husband Dick, was invaluably helpful to me when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello. “Through info provided by Harley, I was able to track down the statue to its temporary home at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City,” Betsey told me last month.



She found out that the statue was the work of a Russian sculptor, Gregory Pototsky (above), and that it was commissioned by U.S. Navy Capt. Yuri “Gary” Tabach, who is stationed in Moscow, and Capt. Tabach’s friend Joshua Landes, who lives in New York City and is on the AJHS’s Board of Trustees. The statue was unveiled last year at the American Jewish Historical Society and The Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History in NYC, where it resides temporarily at 15 West 16th Street. It is, Betsy, told me, “magnificent!”

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Betsy told me that she and her family met Josh Landes for lunch in New York City. “He comes by his love of history and naval history in particular through his father, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Aaron Landes,” Betsy told me, “an ordained Rabbi who served in the Chaplain Corps for 36 years.”



Betsy said that Josh Landes told her that the Potosky’s UPL statue will be installed in a prominent location in Center City Philadelphia next year. Although things are still not, as Betsy said, “set in stone—pun intended,” there is talk that it might be placed near the historic Mikveh Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia, where the Levy family worshipped, and where Uriah probably had his Bar Mitzvah in 1805.


Levy Chapel Rededicated: On Sunday, December 13, the Jewish chapel at the Norfolk Naval Station, the oldest land-based Jewish chapel in the Navy, was rededicated to your friend and mine, Commodore Uriah P. Levy, on the 50th anniversary of the day it was first named after him.

The chapel opened in 1942, but, was not named after Levy until 1959, and only after a campaign waged by Navy Chaplain Rabbi Samuel Sobel (who wrote, Intrepid Sailor, a short bio of Levy) along with other members of the Hampton Roads Jewish community.

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Rabbi Sobel in September 2002 when I did a brunch talk at Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk. When I was introduced to him, Rabbi Sobel, who was then 87, looked me in the eye, hugged me and told me he much he loved Saving Monticello.

To see a short video of the dedication produced by the Navy Public Affairs people, go to http://bit.ly/64mXin To read the short article on the dedication in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, go to http://bit.ly/8mEaTg


Kindle: SM is available digitally in several formats, including the Kindle on Amazon.com

Appearances: I have only one event in the book-marketing area in January, but it promises to be a special one. On Wednesday, January 13, I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello at 7:00 p.m. at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Richmond on 5403 Monument Avenue. After the talk there will be a light dessert reception sponsored by my friend Carole Weinstein. For more info, call 804-285-6500 or go to http://bit.ly/523Kp8

On Facebook, On Twitter: I recently started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 645 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. To do so, go to
http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Leepson/748839923

I also opened a Twitter account. No, I’m not going to broadcast my daily ablutions to the world. I’m using Twitter only to let folks know instantaneously about the latest events about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower. The page is: http://twitter.com/marcleepson

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 12 December 1, 2009


Mrs. Littleton
: People regularly ask about me how photographs and other images are acquired for my books. The answer is that the onus is totally on the author. That means that I had to find and then purchase the reproduction rights to all of the photos in Saving Monticello, as well as my other books.

I found some great photos for the book from several different sources. A bunch were from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s files at Monticello and several were from Special Collections at Alderman Library at the University of Virginia. Harley Lewis, the Levy descendant who was so helpful to me, graciously lent me several. And one came out of the blue, from a descendant of some people who were visiting Monticello in the early 1900’s and who saw my article in Preservation magazine.



I did not find any photos back then (in 1999 and 2000) of one of the main players in the drama, Maud Littleton, the woman who led the campaign in the nineteen-teens to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson.

I had seen some since, most recently last month when I came across photos of Jefferson Levy that I hadn’t seen before in the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs On Line Catalog (see the November newsletter). While I was on that site, I searched for Mrs. Littleton and found a small treasure trove of photos that had been added since I had done my original research.



Several are from the Harris & Ewing Collection of photographic negatives, which I mentioned last month, and several from the Bain News service, including this one of Mrs. L. with a colleague posing with some of the thousands of petitions she collected to buttress her campaign to wrest Monticello away from Jefferson Levy.

A picture, it is said, is worth you-know-how-many words, so I guess that in this newsletter we are looking at 3,000 words worth of more information about Maud Littleton, who came very close to getting Congress to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy.

As I note in the book, that campaign was tinged with anti-Semitism. Neither Mrs. Littleton nor any of her supporters ever uttered an anti-Semitic slur or wrote any outright in their publications. Instead, they used code words. They, for example, called the Levy’s “aliens” or “outsiders,” hinting broadly that they did not have the right to own the home of a great American. They also spread made-up stories that Uriah Levy stole Monticello. The story was that Levy was in a coach from Philadelphia to Charlottesville to buy the house when he discovered that the man sitting next to him was working for people who were going to buy the house and give it back to the Randolph family, Jefferson’s daughter and her children, who inherited it and were forced to sell it.

The story has it that Levy got the man drunk and after he’d passed out, Levy moved quickly to buy the house. Not only is it not true, but in some tellings, Uriah Levy is speaking in a Shylock-like Yiddish accent. This from a man who was born in Philadelphia, a fifth generation American.
T
hat’s not a pretty picture.



“One Wish,” the sixteen-page pamphlet Mrs. Littleton wrote in 1911 under the pen name of Peggy O'Brien and mailed out to influential friends around the country to start her campaign, does not contain anything anti-Semitic. But it does give you an idea of how she approached the issue. You can read it, in PDF form, on line at http://www.archive.org/details/onewish00litt

This emotional plea for public ownership of Monticello began the bitter, contentious, two-year battle between Mrs. Littleton and her allies and Jefferson Monroe Levy and his supporters over Levy's ownership of Monticello.

“One Wish,” as you will see, was not subtle. In it, Mrs. Littleton made her case for government ownership of Monticello in hyped-up, breathless prose. She effusively praised Thomas Jefferson for his many selfless patriotic acts, including his role in making Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. She praised the capital’s builders. She bemoaned the fact that Washington did not contain a memorial to Jefferson. She wrung her hands over the condition of the Jefferson gravesite at Monticello.

Then she got to her wish. Instead of erecting a monument in Washington, Mrs. Littleton said, “the Nation whom he loved so well” should “purchase and preserve forever to his memory the house and grounds and graveyard at Monticello, now owned by Mr. Jefferson Levy, of New York.” Jefferson, Mrs. Littleton said, “is not one man’s man. He belongs to the people who love him, for that he first loved them. He belongs not only to us and our people but to the people of all the world wherever liberty is. And their one wish is to be free to lay upon his grave a Nation’s tears. It is my one wish, too.”

Merrill Peterson, 1921-2009: Merrill Peterson, one of the nation’s most respected historians, and an expert on Thomas Jefferson, died September 23 in Charlottesville. Best known for his Bancroft Prize-winning book, The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960), Dr. Peterson went on to chair the history department at the University of Virginia and was dean of U-Va’s College of Arts and Sciences. He and Dumas Malone “are the two iconic figures in Jeffersonian scholarship,” Dan Jordan, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s longtime president, noted.

I, of course, used Dr. Peterson’s work in Saving Monticello. And I greatly appreciated his scholarship. I did, however, not agree with his analysis of one of the earliest published versions of Uriah Levy stealing Monticello, written by Amos J. Cummings in the August 24, 1897, New York Sun, which was reprinted as a pamphlet titled “A National Humiliation: A Story of Monticello.”

Writing in his book, Visitors to Monticello, Dr. Peterson called the article “sprightly, amusing, and here and there fanciful.” It may be sprightly written in parts and somewhat amusing in others. But “A National Humiliation” was little more than a racist, thinly veiled anti-Semitic attack on Jefferson M. Levy, who then owned Monticello, and on Uriah Levy.

Kindle: SM is available digitally in several formats, including the Kindle on Amazon.com

Appearances: On Wednesday, December 2, I’ll be doing a talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, for the Wilmington, Delaware, Civil War Roundtable. 6:30 at the Bourbon Street Grill. I’ll be taking part in the annual Christmas Gift Book Signing on Saturday, December 5, at my hometown bookstore, Books & Crannies, in Middleburg, Virginia. It starts at 1:00 p.m. after our annual Christmas Parade.

On Tuesday, December 8, I’ll be speaking about D.E., at the annual Holiday Luncheon of the Chevy Chase, Maryland, DAR Chapter. And I’ll be speaking on D.E. on Thursday, December 10, for the Christmas Dinner meeting of the Powhatan, Virginia, Civil War Roundtable at the County Seat Restaurant in Powhatan.


On Facebook, On Twitter: I recently started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 625 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute.

I also opened a Twitter account. No, I’m not going to broadcast my daily ablutions to the world. I’m using Twitter only to let folks know instantaneously about the latest events about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 11 November 1, 2009


Jefferson Levy in 1912: In my never-ending search for new information on Uriah and Jefferson Levy, which these days is done almost exclusively on the World Wide Web, I came across of photo of Jefferson Levy the other day that I hadn’t seen before. The photo appeared on the Jefferson Levy page on Wikipedia and was credited to the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs On Line Catalog.

I had, of course, searched that amazing digital database when I was doing the research for the book back in 1999 and 2000, and certainly would have used that photo in the book had it been there. I also put in plenty of hours in the Library of Congress itself, where I found lots of printed material, including primary sources on the Levys, but no photographs of Jefferson Levy—or of Uriah Levy, for that matter. The photos of the Levys that wound up in the book came courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum (from a portrait of UPL) and the Jewish Historical Society (a photo of a youngish JML).

But this photo was new to me. It in, Jefferson Levy is standing in front of a substantial, big-columned, marble-stepped building, probably on Capitol Hill, and possibly the House of Representatives’ east entrance. The date on the photo is 1912, and that probably is correct, although the bibliographic information on the site notes that the date is from an “unverifed caption” on the photo.


The photo is from the Harris & Ewing Collection of photographic negatives, which is made up primarily of glass and film negatives taken by Harris & Ewing, Inc., a Washington, D.C., firm that photographed people, events, and architecture from 1905-45. The company gave its huge collection—some 50,000 news photographs and 20,000 studio portraits—to the LOC in 1955.

I found another Harris & Ewing photo of Jefferson Levy in the LOC on line catalog. That one appears to have been taken at the same time. The image of Levy in that one is not nearly as good as the one on the Wiki page.

There also was a photograph that I had not seen before of Maud Littleton, Jefferson Levy’s nemesis, which also appears to be from 1912 and also may be on Capitol Hill. She is pictured in conversation with Rep. Robert Lee Henry of Texas, then the chairman of the House Rules Committee (and the great-great-great grandson of Patrick Henry). Rep. Henry led the congressional fight, instigated by Mrs. Littleton, to take Monticello from Jefferson Levy and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson.

All of this leads me to believe that these photos (I’ll feature the one with Mrs. Littleton in next month’s newsletter), were taken before one of the hearings that was held in 1912 on Capitol Hill when Congress contentiously debated the resolution that Mrs. Littleton lobbied so heavily for.

Nineteen-twelve was a pivotal year in Jefferson Levy’s life. He was 60 years old, and had owned Monticello since he bought out the other heirs of his uncle, Uriah Levy, in 1879. Jefferson Levy was under the gun that year from Mrs. Littleton and her supporters, having been forced to defend his ownership of Monticello in committee and then on the floor of the House of Representatives.

A three-term member of Congress from New York City, Jefferson Levy and his allies were able to fight off Mrs. Littleton’s effort to take the house from him that year. Two years later, as I show in Saving Monticello, Levy changed his mind and offered the house to the nation. Then Mrs. Littleton morphed from being his arch enemy to his best friend. Figuratively, that is.

Founders on Line: Speaking of on line historic resources, the University of Virginia Press (the publisher of the paperback of Saving Monticello), in conjunction with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (the grant-making arm of the National Archives), and in partnership with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, has recently put some 5,000 previously unpublished documents from our founding founders online on a site called Rotunda, the digital imprint of The University of Virginia Press at http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu

The documents are letters and other papers written by important figures such as James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The documents, which are unpublished, will not remain so for long. They all are slated to be published in print or digital form. Once that happens, they will no longer be available on the web at no cost.

Doing a quick search for “Monticello,” I found 111 letters, most of them written by Jefferson. But several were written after Jefferson’s death (the time I write about in SM). I found one particularly interesting. It was written on July 8, 1826, four days after Jefferson’s death, from Jefferson’s favorite grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the co-executor of his estate, to James Madison.

Writing from Tufton, his Charlottesville plantation, Jeff. Randolph tells Madison that Dr. Robley Dunglison, Jefferson’s doctor, would be bringing Madison “a cane,” a “legacy left you by my dear grandfather, as a token of that intimate friendship which had so long existed between you.” Randolph ends the short note, saying, “May I ask in the name of my mother and her family that in your visits to the University that you will continue to make Monticello your headquarters.”

I hadn’t come up with any evidence that James Madison used Monticello as his “headquarters” after Jefferson died. So it would take more digging to find out how many times, Madison, who leaved nearby at Montpelier, did so.

The Declaration of Independence. One of the 26 remaining original copies of the Declaration of Independence went on display for aday at Monticello, the home of the man who wrote most of it, on Wednesday, October 21.


The copy is owned by the television executive Norman Lear and his wife Lyn, who purchased it in 2000 for $8.1 million. It was discovered in 1989 after a Pennsylvania man found it hidden inside the frame of a painting he had bought for four dollars at a flea market. The Lears’ a nonprofit company, Declare Yourself, is sending it around the nation, with the goal of encouraging young people to register and vote.


Another Dunlap copy lives permanently in Charlottesville. It is housed in the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection at U-Va’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, the place where I spent many hours researching Saving Monticello.

Appearances: I have a light month in the book-marketing department in November. My next event will take place on Saturday, November 21 at the new Museum Shop at the new Monticello Visitor Center. I’ll be signing copies of Saving Monticello from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. And I’ll be doing a talk on SM in Washington on Monday, November 30, for a group of social studies teachers under the auspices of the Close Up Foundation. The next day, they’ll be taking a trip to Monticello.

On Facebook, On Twitter: I recently started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have nearly 600 “friends.” And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute. I also opened a Twitter account. No, I’m not going to broadcast my daily ablutions to the world. I’m using Twitter only to let folks know instantaneously about the latest events about my public events, media appearances and the like. So, if you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.


Kindle: SM is available digitally in several formats, including Kindle on Amazon.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 10 October 1, 2009


Conversos
: In the section in Saving Monticello in which I trace the history of Uriah Levy’s mother’s family, I go back to his great-great grandfather, Samuel Nunes Ribiero, a prominent, well-to-do Portuguese physician who was born in 1668. Dr. Samuel Nunez, as he came to be known in the United States, came to this country in 1733 from Portugal by way of London with 37 other Jews to help start the city of Savannah, Georgia. He soon became one of the most accomplished and well-known founders of the colony of Georgia.

Before he and his family escaped from Lisbon, Dr. Nunez, as I said in the book, “lived as a crypto-Jew, or marrano, in order to hide from the Inquisition the fact that he was s Jewish.” I went on to use the word “marrano” several other times in the book.

Sometime after SM came out, I was speaking to a rabbi in Virginia about the Nunez family, and she told me that although the word marrano was widely used to describe Sephardic crypt-Jews, it was politically incorrect. Marrano, she said, was roughly translated as “pig” or “swine,” and the term could be seen as meaning “pig Jews.” The preferred word, she said, was conversos, meaning “the converted.”

An article in the Jewish Virtual Library bears that out and amplifies the origins of the two words. Marrano, the article notes, likely stems from “the Spanish word meaning swine or pig, derived from the Latin verres, ‘wild boar.’ The term probably did not originally refer to the Jews’ reluctance to eat pork, as some scholars hold. From its earliest use, it was intended to impart the sense of loathing conveyed by the word. Although romanticized and regarded by later Jewry as a badge of honor, the term was not as widely used, especially in official circles, as is often believed.”
To read the entire entry, go to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Marranos.html

The marrano/converso situation came to mind as I read “Brooklyn Family Keeps Latino Traditions Alive,” an intriguing on-line article that appeared on September 24 on cnn.com. Thanks to Bob Rodine, a subscriber to this newsletter, who sent me the article.

The Brooklyn family in question is Moshe Nunez and his wife ChanaLeah, who live Crown Heights. Mr. Nunez was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. His father is Mexican; his mother American. His wife grew up in Panama to a Salvadoran mother and an American-born father.

Both were raised in Christian homes. But after studying their family trees, Moshe Nunez (born, Marco) and ChanaLeah (born Jacqueline), discovered that were descendants of conversos and converted to orthodox Judiasm. “The Nunez family started as a Jewish name,” Moshe Nunez told CNN. “During the Inquisition they were forced to convert or practice their faith in secret. Most of the Nunez family... like mine assimilated and lost their Judaism.”

Moshe Nunez may be a descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez. Moshe Nunez found some evidence of that connection during the course of his research when he met Lorraine Nunez in Atlanta. She was raised as a Christian, but traces her lineage directly back to Uriah Levy’s great-great grandfather. To read the entire CNN article, go to:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/09/24/latino.hasid/index.html


Reader Review
: Here’s the latest, the 33rd, reader’s review of SM on Amazon. It was posted on September 8 by an anonymous reviewer from Richmond, who gave the book five stars. Entitled “Restoring a Part of our History,” here’s the review in its entirety:

I have always loved Monticello and have been endlessly fascinated with Thomas Jefferson and his complexity. The Monticello we all know once stood a very great chance of being lost forever. The people whom purchased the home and restored it are equally fascinating. This book is very detailed and has been meticulously researched. If you love Monticello and the evolution of the preservation of this inspiring home, you will find this a great read.

SM Goes into 4th Paperback Printing: I am extremely happy to report that his month the University of Virginia Press will be reprinting the paperback of Saving Monticello. This 1,500 press run is the fourth paperback printing since the paperback came out in 2003. There were three printings (a total of 13,000 books) in hardcover. This good news from Charlottesville tells me that the book continues to sell, and—more importantly—that people continue to be interested in this little-known but important story of historic preservation and Jewish-American history.

Appearances: Today, Thursday, October 1, I’ll be speaking about Desperate Engagement, my latest book, at the monthly meeting of the J.E.B. Stuart Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp in Midlothian, south of Richmond.

I will be signing copies of Saving Monticello, Flag, and D.E. from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the annual Waterford Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit (more commonly known as the “Waterford Fair”) in the historic village of Waterford, Virginia, in Loudoun County on Saturday, October 3.

On Wednesday, October 7, I’ll head north to speak to the Sharpsburg Sons of Confederate Veterans camp at the Antietam Battlefield in Maryland. On Monday, October 12, I will speak on Desperate Engagement to the Rappahannock Valley Civil War Roundtable in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Then it’s back to Richmond on Thursday, October 15, to speak at the monthly meeting of the Lee-Jackson SCV Camp. It’s known as SCV Camp No. 1 because it was the first Sons of Confederate Veterans group. I’m back in Richmond again on Saturday, October 24 to speak to the William Byrd DAR Chapter about Desperate Engagement.

For all the details on these and other upcoming talks in 2009 and 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook: I started a Facebook page in July, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 445 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute.

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 9 September 1, 2009


Virginia Lopez: I have recently learned some interesting facts about the descendants of Virginia Lopez, one of the most intriguing personalities in Saving Monticello. The Jamaican-born Virginia Lopez was Uriah Levy’s late-in-life wife—and his niece. When he was 61 years old, the until-then unmarried Navy Captain married eighteen-year-old Virginia, the daughter of his sister Frances (Fanny) and the late Abraham Lopez.

Aside from the May-December aspect (Virginia outlived her husband by 63 years), and the uncle-niece aspect, there’s another intriguing thing about the marriage: We not know exactly when and where it took place. The pre-SM biographies of Uriah Levy only say that it happened in the fall of 1853. They mention neither the venue nor what type of ceremony it was. Other secondary sources say that Uriah married his young niece—the youngest of the six Lopez children—at Monticello.

While researching Saving Monticello I tried to find out the facts about the wedding, as did the late Ira Dye, who was working on his military biography of Uriah Levy and kindly shared his research on UPL’s personal life with me. Among other things, I contacted the New York City Department of Records and Information Services’ Information Archives, which had no record of the marriage (Levy lived in New York City). A search I had done of the marriage indexes of the Brooklyn Eagle, New York Evening Post and New York Herald newspapers by the New York City Public Library’s Research Division found no listing of the marriage.

Ira Dye was unable to locate any records of the marriage at several likely places: the office of the Clerk of the Court at Albemarle County; the official records of New York City, Richmond, and Norfolk; or in the records of Shearith Israel, the synagogue Uriah Levy belonged to in New York City; nor the two closest synagogues to Charlottesville, Beth Ahaba in Richmond and Ohef Shalom in Norfolk.

This is not to say that the marriage did not take place. It probably did. But it is a tantalizing mystery.

What I did find out about Virginia was that her father Abraham Lopez, sometimes referred to as Judge Lopez, lived with his family in Jamaica, where he had prospered financially. The family sent Virginia to boarding school in England. She and her mother were in New York after her father’s death where she met Uriah.

In Navy Maverick, their notoriously undocumented 1963 biography of Uriah Levy, Donovan Fitzpatrick and Saul Sapphire describe Virginia Lopez as “a charmer,” who had “the beauty of a Spanish senorita.” She was “extremely vivacious, with dark eyes and hair and a lovely olive complexion,” and was “spirited, witty, a good dancer, fluent in French and Spanish. She also possessed a good measure of conceit, and was not at all bashful in describing her conquests and flirtations.”

After their wedding—whenever and wherever it was—the couple moved with Virginia’s recently widowed mother, Uriah’s sister Fanny, into Levy’s large house at 107 St. Mark’s Place in New York City. In a concession to his young wife, Uriah Levy is believed to have dyed his gray hair and mustache black. The couple spent lots of time at Monticello, including at least one summer, in 1854. Virginia Lopez Levy loved it there. “How I did enjoy galloping over those hills around Monticello,” she said in an interview just before she died in 1925 in her 90th year.

Virginia Lopez Levy died on May 3, 1925. She had married William John Ree (the son of Isaac Phillip Ree and Sarah Warburg Ree) at her Fifth Avenue residence in New York City on June 28, 1866, four years after Uriah’s death. William Ree was 33; she was 30. That information is contained in Shearith Israel’s records. According to her New York Times obituary, Virginia and William Ree had a daughter, Fannie.

I learned a lot about the Lopez descendants from David Nachman, a descendant of Virginia Lopez’s brother George Washington Lopez’s wife, Adelaide Abrahams. Mr. Nachman has put together a family tree that includes many of the descendants of the Lopez siblings, along with four generations of Levy, Phillips and Nunez forbearers of Uriah Levy. David Nachman’s grandmother, Ida Dias, was one of seven children of Clarence Linden Dias and Lucretia Abrahams. Lucretia’s five siblings included Adelaide Abrahams.

Mr. Nachman has kindly agreed to answer questions about the Lopez genealogy from readers of this newsletter. His email is dkn5@aol.com


Decorative Arts in C’ville
: The Decorative Arts Trust will hold its big Fall Symposium September 24-27 in Charlottesville. Monticello and Thomas Jefferson will play a big role in the sold-out event. The event begins with talks by Leslie Greene Bowman, the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and by Susan R. Stein, Monticello’s Senior Curator.

The following day includes a series of presentations on Monticello from William L. Beiswanger, the long-time Director of Restoration; Fraser D. Neiman, the Director of Archaeology; by Curator Elizabeth V. Chew; and by Robert L. Self, the Foundation’s Architectural Conservator.

After lunch at Michie Tavern (which is a stone’s throw from Monticello), symposium participants will get a tour of the new Monticello Visitor Center and Smith Education Center, then tour the grounds. That evening they will get a private tour of the house.

The following day the symposium moves to nearby Montpelier, the home of James Madison, and then comes a special tour of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, more widely known as the University of Virginia. For more info, go to www.decorativeartstrust.org/sym_Mont_Fall09.htm

Appearances
: On Saturday, September 5, I’ll be speaking about Desperate Engagement, my latest book, at the monthly meeting of the DAR Freedom Hill Chapter in McLean, Virginia.

On the following Saturday, September 12, I’ll be signing books (including Saving Monticello) at the Tour-N-Time event sponsored by the Southern Fauquier Historical Society at Elk Run. I will be there from around 9:30 to mid afternoon. For details, go to www.fauquierhistorylive.org

I’m going to do a talk on Desperate Engagement on Thursday, September 17, for the Frederick County (Maryland) Civil War Roundtable at the C. Burr Artz Library in downtown Frederick. I’ll be making my third appearance at the annual Bluemont Fair on Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20 in Bluemont, Virginia. I’ll be signing books at from around 11:00 to 3:00 both days at the Authors’ Table. For info, go to wwwBluemontVA.org

On Sunday, September 27, I’ll be the guest speaker at a meeting of the Col. John S. Mosby Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans at 4:00 in front of the Mosby Monument outside the Warren Confederate Rifles Museum in downtown Front Royal, Virginia.

For all the details on these and other upcoming talks in 2009 and 2010, go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That’s also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Facebook
: I recently started a Facebook page, primarily as an adjunct to my website, to keep the word flowing about my work on the Internet. I now have 445 friends. And I welcome more. If you send me a friend request, I’ll grant it in a New York minute.




Volume VI, Number 8 August 1, 2009


The U.S.S. Levy: Uriah Phillips Levy, who owned Monticello from 1834 until his death in 1862, is better known for his exceptional U.S. naval career. I gave a concise summary of his fifty years (1812-62) in the Navy in Saving Monticello. The highlights: He was a hero of the War of 1812, during which he served as assistant sailing master on the Argus. He went on to become the first Jewish American to have a full naval career (50 years). And he was the first Jewish commodore, then the Navy’s highest rank, and the one he held at his death.

The United States Navy ranks Uriah Levy among its heroes. The Jewish Chapel at the giant Norfolk Naval Base is named for him. A World War II Cannon class destroyer escort, the USS Levy, also was named for him. And the recently built Jewish Center at the U.S. Naval Academy was named the Uriah P. Levy Center and Chapel (above). Earlier this year, a veteran of the Levy, 86-year-old Luther Woodrow (“Woody”) Story, donated a book of photographs of the ship and the surrender ceremonies to the Levy Center.

An article by David Hoffberger in the most recent Friends of the Jewish Chapel (FOJC) newsletter details the Levy’s history and Woody Story’s donation. The Levy was built at the old Newark, New Jersey, ship yards, and commissioned in May 1943. The ship served in the southern and central Pacific from August 1943 through the end of the war. Late in the war the Levy was bombarded and blockaded bypassed Japanese islands in the Marshalls. In August and September of 1945 its officers took part in surrender ceremonies of the Japanese Navy in the southeastern Marshall Islands. The ship was placed in the Reserve Fleet in Florida after the war ended, then was moved to the Norfolk, Virginia, area, where it remained in mothballs until it was sold in 1974.



For more info on the Story donation, which also included a shall casing from the Levy, a model ship and a rifle taken from a Japanese prisoner, go to www.fojcusna.org

Happy Fourth: Sixty-six people from 35 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens at July 4 at the 47th annual Monticello Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. The ceremonies included remarks by U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and music by the Charlottesville Municipal Band.

Since 1963, more than 3,000 people have taken the oath of citizenship at Monticello

July 4, of course, is the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s death. The Sage of Monticello died on the mountain on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the nation, July 4, 1826, the day that John Adams died.


Deep Scholarly Jefferson Access Website: The good folks at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Library, in conjunction with DeepWebTechnologies, has just developed a pilot website that brings together six big on-line information sources that deal with Thomas Jefferson. If you go to http://thomasjefferson.deepwebaccess.com and do a search, you will gain access to relevant content from the Thomas Jefferson Portal online catalog, the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, the Library of Congress’ American Memory site, the Library of Virginia’s catalog and finding aides, the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), and JSTOR, the scholarly journal site.

The pilot will run for three months, and the developers are open to ideas by users.


If you have questions or comments and would like to go to the source, contact Jack Robertson, the Foundation Librarian at library@monticello.org The Library’s web site is http://www.monticello.org/library/index.html

The U-Va. Lawn: The University of Virginia has announced plans to restore one of the Pavilions and two student rooms on The Lawn back to the original Thomas Jefferson designs.

According to an article by Brian McNeill in the July 5 Charlottesville Daily Progress, the University has hired the “preservationist architecture firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects of Williamsburg to investigate the physical and documentary history of Pavilion X. The firm’s findings are helping guide U.Va.’s efforts on the Lawn.”

The envisioned changes include stripping the columns of their white paint and restoring their former tan stucco color, adding a parapet to the roof, changing the color of the shutters from dark to light green, and repainting the pavilion’s trim to a “khaki-pants color.” The University eventually may make similar changes to the other nine pavilions and the Jefferson-designed Rotunda.

As one might expect, the proposed changes have caused some to cheer and others, including some U-Va. alumni, to protest. That is to be expected in Virginia, which has a strong feeling for historic preservation.

I illustrate that at my talks by asking the question, “How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?”

The answer is three—one to change the bulb and two to reminisce about how good the old one was.

You can read the Progress article at http://tiny.cc/X7aDm

Appearances: I have just scheduled my 149th event in conjunction with the marketing effort for Saving Monticello. The 150th (a talk at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in Richmond) will take place in January.

It’s been a labor of love doing these 148 talks at bookstores, libraries, high schools, colleges, museums, book clubs, synagogues, JCC’s, and at meetings of historical societies, and fraternal organizations, along with radio, newspaper, television and Internet interviews and book signings.

The vast majority have taken place in the Washington, D.C., area, and in central Virginia, near where I live. But I’ve also done a fair bit of traveling, doing talks in New York City; Cranford and Cherry Hill New Jersey; Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; New Orleans; Tucson; Baltimore; Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; and Dallas since the first one, a talk and reception on October 28, 2001, put on by my friends at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at the old Monticello Visitor Center.

No. 149 will take place on Tuesday, August 11 at Oatlands, the historic house museum outside Leesburg, Virginia. This one’s a private gathering of twenty five, the result of me being an auction item at the 2009 Oatlands Spring Gala held in the spring.

That same day, Tuesday, August 11, the interview I did in July at the WETA-TV studios in Arlington, Virginia (on the same set where they shoot PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer),will be streamed on line at www.bookstudio.com

For more info, go to http://www.thebookstudio.com/authors/comingsoon



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI
Number 7

July 1, 2009

Telling the Levy Story: I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago during my book signing at the Museum Shop at the new Monticello Visitor Center that a good number of people came up to me who knew about the Levys and Monticello. Some of them had just completed the house tour and their tour guides mentioned the Levy family’s stewardship.

Others there that day learned about the Levys from the sidebar, complete with a photo of Uriah P. Levy, that appears in the official guidebook brochure that all visitors get when they buy their tickets to tour the house, grounds and take in all the Visitor Center attractions.

On the other hand, the folks who put together the moderately sized, new exhibit space, under the direction of Susan Stein, Monticello’s curator (who is an enthusiastic supporter of my work and the Foundation’s resident Levy expert) decided not make what happened to the house after Jefferson died a large part of the exhibit. At least for now.

The stories of James Turner Barclay (who owned the house from 1831-34), Uriah Levy (1834-1862) and Jefferson Levy (1879-1923) are incorporated into the exhibit space in a more subtle way.

There’s a biographical timeline section on Monticello, for example, that includes a compact version of the Levy family’s stewardship. And at one of the computer stations in the exhibit space, visitors can call up the information on the Levys from the Foundation’s website. That, of course, includes my 1997 Preservation magazine article, which was the genesis of Saving Monticello. (check it out at http://www.monticello.org/about/levy.html)

“More on the Levys will be added to the computer station over time,” Susan told me. “The exhibit space is not in its final state. One of the things we will be adding is more information about the people who were intimately involved with Monticello,” including Uriah P. Levy and Jefferson M. Levy.

Maira Kalman: The great children’s book illustrator and author, who also has done her share of whimsical New Yorker covers, created a terrific entry in her June 25 “And the Pursuit of Happiness,” New York Times.com blog. “Pursuit” examines different aspects of American democracy in a charming, whimsical, insightful and deliciously off-beat manner. The June 25 blog, called “Time Wastes Too Fast,” is a multi media presentation of words, historic images, new photos, PDfs of historic documents and Kalman’s own drawings on the subject of Thomas Jefferson the man and Monticello, the house. It’s based on a June 1 visit she paid to the Mountain.

“If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic
and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous,” Kalman says, “you need to go to [Jefferson’s] home in Virginia. Monticello.” I couldn’t agree more—or state the fact more eloquently.

What’s also very cool about this posting is that Kalman includes a paragraph on the Levy family’s stewardship of Monticello. In it, she singles out Jefferson Levy for special attention.



Appearances: I have a fairly active month coming up on the book-speaking circuit; here’s the rundown:

On Tuesday, July 7, I’ll be speaking at 10:30 in the morning on Desperate Engagement at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s George Mason University Loudoun Campus in Sterling, Virginia. For info, go to www.olli.gmu.edu

I’ll be doing a talk on that book on that same evening, Tuesday, July 7, for the members of Vietnam Veterans of America’s Chapter 1019 in Winchester, Virginia.

On Tuesday, July 14, I’ll be in the Chicago area, doing a talk on Desperate Engagement for the Blue Island Civil War Roundtable in Blue Island, Illinois.

On July 16, I’ll be at the WETA-TV studios in Arlington, Virginia, to tape an interview on D.E. for thebookstudio.com. It will be streamed on lin on August 11. For more info, go to http://www.thebookstudio.com/authors/comingsoon



Own Horn Tooting Department. On June 24, I happened to take a peek at the SM page on Amazon.com and found that my sales rank was as high as it had been in years and that the book was the No.1 best-selling book on Amazon in the category of reference books on Virginia genealogy. It was No. 5 in state and local U.S. History books for the Southeast, and No. 13 in state and local history books for Virginia.

Granted, these are not Grisham-like numbers, but they do show that Saving Monticello continues to be of interest to people in the ninth year after it was published. This is very gratifying to me and gives me incentive to continue this newsletter and to keep marketing the book with appearances such as the ones listed above.

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 6 June 1, 2009


The New Film: I wholeheartedly agree with the positive reviews from the critics and from just plain folks about the new introductory film and the four extensive new exhibits at the new Monticello Visitor Center (below). I had a good conversation about them with Susan Stein, Monticello’s curator whose areas of responsibility include the house, the collection, acquisitions, and historical interpretation, including overseeing the production of the film and the exhibits.

Susan has been Monticello’s curator since 1986. Her 1993 book, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello is an invaluable compendium of Jefferson’s Monticello possession. She was extremely helpful to me when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello, and has continued to be a strong supporter of the book, my work and this newsletter.

The 15-minute film, Thomas Jefferson’s World, is not “the traditional, introductory film” that many people expect at a venue like Monticello, Susan told me. “It’s about Thomas Jefferson’s ideas.”

The powerful and moving film does indeed focus on the Sage of Monticello’s ideas and accomplishments, especially his fundamental beliefs in human rights, personal freedom, and democratic values. It clearly shows how Jefferson’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” concepts have had a wide influence throughout the world.
The film also adeptly tells the story of the other people—both enslaved and free—who worked and lived on the Mountain. It features evocative footage of Thomas Jefferson (in non-speaking segments by the best Jefferson interpreter, Bill Barker) in the house and on the grounds.

“It was incredibly hard work” putting the film together, Susan told me. She did so in collaboration with Monticello’s other historians and with Donna Lawrence Productions of Louisville, Kentucky. “I had no idea that 1,300 words would be so hard to write,” she said. “But we had such a big story to tell and only a limited time to tell it.” Every aspect of the film, including the script, was “highly collaborative,” she said.

Thomas Jefferson’s World, which Susan Stein recommends visitors take in before they tour the exhibits and see the house, is shown daily in high-definition on a 16-foot by 9-foot screen with six-channel surround sound in the 125-seat theater on the courtyard level of the Visitor Center.

You can watch a 90-second trailer on the Foundation’s web site: http://www.monticello.org/featured/videos.html

In next month’s issue, I’ll report on what Susan Stein had to say about putting together the four exhibitions and how they handle the post-Jefferson story of Monticello.

www.fojcusna.org: That’s the newly designed website of the Friends of the Jewish Chapel at the United States Naval Academy—the folks who raised the money to build the Levy Center (which contains the Chapel and is named after Uriah P. Levy) beginning in the late nineties. The Levy Center (above) has a domed entrance in honor of Uriah Levy’s stewardship of Monticello.

The nonprofit organization was established in 1994. Five years later the Friends began a large fundraising effort to design, built and equip a Jewish chapel on land donated by the Naval Academy. The Levy Center was dedicated in September of 2005. Since then, the Friends has created endowments to provide proper maintenance of the facilities and programming for the Midshipmen.

Reader Review: Rick Britton, the Charlottesville historian and author, also works part time at Monticello. He and fellow employees on the Mountain were asked to provide recommendations for books among the many for sale in the new Museum Shop. Rick, who reviewed Saving Monticello for The Washington Times, chose my book. Here’s his short review, the one that appears on the shelf with the book in the shop:

Saving Monticello by Marc Leepson wonderfully chronicles what happened to Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home between his death on July 4, 1826, and its purchase by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation in 1923. Because Jefferson left behind a debt totaling $107,000, his family was forced to sell everything—Monticello itself, its furnishings, the slaves at auction—within a few years after his passing.

The home passed through many hands in the intervening 97 years and Leepson focuses on the Jewish gentlemen from New York who owned it the longest—Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy and his nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy. The American people owe them a huge debt of gratitude for saving Monticello. And we owe Marc Leepson a tremendous debt for penning this well-written account.”

Appearances: I have a very busy month coming up on the book-speaking circuit, including a signing of Saving Monticello at the new Museum Shop at the Monticello Visitor Center on Sunday afternoon, June 21. Here’s the complete monthly rundown:

On Thursday, June 4, I’ll be in Seattle to do a talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, at 7:00 that evening for the Puget Sound Civil War Roundtable at their monthly dinner meeting at the China Harbor Restaurant. For more info, go to www.pscwrt.org

On Monday, June 8, I’ll be doing a talk on Flag: An American Biography for visiting high school social studies teachers as a luncheon at the Capitol City Brew Pub in downtown Washington for the nonprofit Close Up Foundation. This will be the sixth talk I’ve done for the Close Up people, a great group of folks who bring teachers to Washington for a series of unique learning opportunities. The website is www.closeup.org

On Thursday, June 11, at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be speaking on Desperate Engagement for the Bull Run Civil War Roundtable at the Centreville Library in Centreville, Virginia, at the BRCWT’s monthly meeting. Then comes my Sunday, June 21, (Father’s Day), noon to 5:00 p.m., book signing at the Monticello Museum Shop in the new Visitor Center at Monticello.

On Tuesday morning, June 23, I’ll be speaking on Saving Monticello at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s George Mason University Loudoun Campus in Sterling, Virginia. For info, go to www.olli.gmu.edu

On Saturday, June 27, I’ll be presenting a seminar on free-lance writing at 12:45 p.m. at the Rappahannock Community College Writers Symposium in Warsaw, Virginia.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The one-day symposium runs to 4:30 p.m.

Then, I’m back on Tuesday morning, June 30, at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s Loudoun Campus to do a talk on Flag.



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 5 May 1, 2009


Changing the Visitor Experience: I visited Monticello on Thursday, April 16, the day after the official Grand Opening of the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. It was a beautiful day (it rained on opening day) and I am pleased to report that the Visitor Center (seen from the parking lot entrance, below) is a tremendous success in every way. That’s not just my opinion; it’s the verdict from the nation’s top media architecture critics.

Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

Philip Kennicott, in his two-page, lavishly illustrated article in the April 5 Washington Post: “It educates, it entertains, it feeds the mind and the body (at a new café)…. But the success of the structure… lies in its careful separation of functions, and the freedom it gives the visitor to avoid any or all of them, while waiting for a coveted, timed entry to the old house up on the hill.”

Edward Rothstein in his extensive “Exhibition Review” in the April 10 New York Times: “The center’s architects, Ayers/Saint/Gross Architects and Planners, wisely give their subject pride of place and refuse to compete with Monticello itself, instead creating a low-lying quadrangle around a central garden courtyard. In the exhibitions, Monticello’s chief curator, Susan R. Stein, along with her staff, have shaped a series of thematic explorations that suggest just how Jefferson seems to have lived at a strange crossroads between the real world and his envisioned ideals….

If you come to these galleries with the history in mind, their energy can be intoxicating; you sense the scale of Jefferson’s accomplishment and influence even if you don’t always absorb all the detail.”



Columnist Anne Applebaum in the April 14 Washington Post: “The piety that once surrounded all relics of the Founding Fathers has given way to galleries where adults can press buttons to read Jefferson’s quotations and then see the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence that those quotes inspired, as well as a ‘discovery room’ where children can build mini Monticellos with wooden blocks.

“The new Monticello exhibitions are superb….The high-tech exhibits take some getting used to, but at least they are aimed well above the eighth-grade level to which most American museums aspire. There is something for everybody…. [The center is a] successful modernization of a place that was, after all, built as a monument to Progress. Jefferson’s ideas have kept up with the times; it’s great that his house has, too.”

Joy Wallace Dickinson in the April 12 Orlando Sentinel: “That Monticello embraces [Jefferson’s] complexities and makes the visitor experience entertaining, educational and moving does justice to the greatness and complexity of our country’s past and to Monticello’s compelling and enigmatic owner.”

Deborah K. Dietsch in the April 12 Washington Times: The Visitor Center “is a hospitable, well-sited building that avoids many pitfalls of the visitor centers at other historic properties….Some of the center is underground, but its interweaving of indoor and outdoor spaces avoids the hermetic atmosphere of the subterranean buildings at the Capitol and Mount Vernon….

“The terraced building, which incorporates environmentally sensitive features such as green roofs, is clean-lined and contemporary, but not so daring as to clash with Jefferson’s stunning neoclassical architecture….Billed as ‘the 21st-century gateway’ to Monticello, the visitor center offers an impressive array of touch screens and monitors presenting Jefferson’s writings as well as more conventional displays of artifacts. The exhibits amplify the president’s ideas on liberty and other themes presented in the 15-minute introductory film, ‘Thomas Jefferson's World,’ shown in a space across the courtyard.


Rob Hedelt in the April 21, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: The Visitor Center “is interesting in its diversity. On one hand, it’s a natural building, both in its look and design. Located on the lower slope of Monticello Mountain, the complex is set into the contour of a hillside that’s landscaped with bushes, trees and flowers. Some 42,000 square feet of wood, stone and brick went into the complex, at a cost of more than $40 million, with two green roofs and the soothing stained wood providing a natural feel to a complex that has a geothermal system for heating and cooling.



“But inside the complex—which includes a ticket and information center, a gift shop, displays, educational spaces, a cafe and a small theater—are high-tech, user-friendly flourishes an inventive fellow like Jefferson would be tickled with.”

My Verdict: I agree with just about every word from the critics, columnists and reporters. What’s more, as others have pointed out, the multi-faceted Visitor Center changes the visitor’s experience—in a very good way. Before, you maybe spent some time at the antiquated old VC down on Route 20, then came up to the Mountain, paid for your ticket, waited for the bus, and then toured the house and walked the grounds.

Now, you park your car, pay for your ticket, get a time for your house tour and then parcel out the rest of your visit to take in the pitch-perfect film, go through the extensive exhibits, have something good to eat at the new café, visit the spectacular new shop, and either walk up or take the bus to the house and grounds. It’s an excellent concept and one that greatly enhances the visitor experience.

I spoke to Susan Stein, Monticello’s long time head curator—and the person who oversaw the production of the introductory film and the exhibit space—last week about the Visitor Center. I’ll have a full report on that revealing conversation in the June 1 SM e Newsletter. Stay tuned.

Podcast: The day before my visit to Monticello, I did a talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, at the Senior Center in Charlottesville. The talk was organized by my friend and colleague Rick Britton, who—in addition to his literary and map-mapping work—organizes a Civil War lecture and day-trip series at the center. You can listen to a podcast of that talk at http://cvillepublicmedia.org/public/leepson_090415.mp3


Reader Review: I am a member of several book, author and reader social websites, including redroom.com, booktour.com, and goodreads.com Here’s a great reader review of Saving Monticello on the later sight posted in February by a member named Amy. You can also read it at http://tinyurl.com/czw5qe

A fascinating look into the history and owners of Thomas Jefferson’s home from Jefferson, himself through to the present owner, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

Many people may assume that when Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 the house was left to some preservation trust. This is not the case. When Thomas Jefferson passed away, he was over $100,000 (approx. 2 million dollars by today's standards) in debt and Monticello was sold. Over the years, there were a number of owners and caretakers, but none as significant (in my opinion) as the Levy family.

Did you know that the Levy family owned Monticello longer than Jefferson did? This book gives [long overdue] recognition to the stewardship of the Levy family. We owe a great deal of thanks to this family for their commitment to preserving this important monument for future generations.

Along the way, author Marc Leepson, describes the many pitfalls that almost destroyed this fine home. One of the most interesting stories surrounds the home during the Civil War when the home was seized under the South’s Sequestration Act. Check out this book to learn more and discover other interesting facts surrounding the history of Monticello.

Appearances: On Saturday, May 2, I will be taking part in the Frederick County, Maryland, library system’s BookFest. I will speak about Desperate Engagement, a history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy (which took place four miles south of the city of Frederick), at 10:15 a.m. at C. Burr Artz Public Library in downtown Frederics, and again at 3:00 that afternoon at the Urban Library, which is a stone’s throw from the battlefield.

On Saturday, May 9, I will have the pleasure of doing a book signing of Saving Monticello at the terrific new Monticello Museum Shop in the new Visitor Center. I will be signing books from 11:00 to 4:00. Come on by if you’re in the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, May 13, I’m going to the speaker at the monthly meeting of the Isaac Ridgeway Trimble Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at historic Mt. Ida in Ellicott City, Maryland, where Union Gen. Lew Wallace (who went on to write Ben Hur), retreated after the July 9, 1864 battle at Monocacy.

On Monday, May 25, during Memorial Day Weekend, I have been asked to be the featured speaker at the official ceremonies at Veterans Park in Bethesda, Maryland. It will be my second such speech; I did one last year at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s an honor to be asked to do speeches of this type to honor those who have given the last full measure of devotion to our country.

For all the details on other upcoming talks in 2009 and 2010, take a look at this World Wide Web page: http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 4 April 1, 2009


The Statue: I read a fascinating Associated Press newspaper article on March 11 dealing with the recent discovery of what is believed to be the only photograph of Abraham Lincoln in front of the White House. The photo, which appears to have been taken in March 1865, was in an album owned by President Ulysses Grant that came down to his great-great grandson, U.S. Grant VI.

The younger Grant was looking at the picture closely for the first time in January, the article said, when he noticed a group of figures standing on the right side of the entrance, a group that included one figure who towered over the others. He thought the tall person might be Lincoln.

Grant took the photo to a photography collector who examined the 2 ½-by-3 ½-inch photo, became convinced the figure was Lincoln, and purchased it for $50,000 in February. A written inscription on the back says: “Lincoln in front of the White House,” along with the date 1865, and the seal of the photographer Henry F. Warren, who photographed Lincoln in March 1865.

In the left forefront of the photo—and unmentioned in the AP article—is the statue of Thomas Jefferson that Uriah Levy commissioned while he was in Paris in 1832. How that larger-than-life bronze statue landed on the White House lawn and then made its way into Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building (where it stands today as the only privately donated sculpture in the Rotunda) is a strange story, and one I tell in full in Saving Monticello.

Here it is in brief: Levy commissioned the statue in 1832 when he was in Paris. He did so due to his admiration for Jefferson, probably for his strong stand on religious liberty. The statue is a full-scale, seven-and-a-half-feet tall, bronze depicting Jefferson holding a quill pen in his right hand and an etched, word-for-word copy of the Declaration of Independence in his left. It is the work of the noted French sculptor Pierre-Jean David d’Angers (1788-1856).

Levy had the statue cast in bronze, and then shipped both the finished statue and the plaster mold used to cast it to the United States. On February 6, 1833, a year before he purchased Monticello, Levy presented the painted plaster model to the City of New York, which gratefully accepted it. The statue was placed on the second floor of the Rotunda at City Hall. It was moved into the City Council Chamber in the 1950s where it is today.

A month after he gave the model to New York City, Uriah Levy was in Washington where he presented the bronze Jefferson to the United States government. He had the words “Presented by Uriah Phillips Levy of the United States Navy to his fellow citizens, 1833,” etched on one side of the statue's bronze base.

“I beg leave to present, through you, to my fellow citizens of the United States, a colossal bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson,” Levy said in a letter to the House of Representatives. “The statue was executed under my eye, in Paris…, and much admired for its likeness to the great original, as well as the plain republican simplicity of the whole design.”

Levy spoke of his “pride and satisfaction” in offering “this tribute of my regard to the people of the United States” through Congress. He was sure, he said, “such disposition will be made of it as best corresponds with the character of the illustrious author of the declaration of our independence and the profound veneration with which his memory is cherished by the American people.”

As it turned out, the disposition of the statue was not decided until forty years later. The Joint House-Senate Library Committee took up the matter and recommended that the statue be placed in the center of the square in the eastern front of the Capitol, the front that faces the Library of Congress and Supreme Court.

Uriah Levy was breaking new ground. In 1833 the city of Washington did not have one monumental statue on display honoring an individual. The Senate dutifully passed a resolution May 12 accepting the statue and directing that it be placed outside the Capitol’s east front. During debate on the same measure in the House on June 27, however, more than a few members opposed the action.

Rep. William Segar Archer of Virginia argued against accepting a statue from an individual American, saying that it would be more appropriate for Congress itself to procure such a statue. Archer also said that it would be inappropriate for Congress to accept a statue of Jefferson when there was as yet no statue of George Washington in the Capitol.

Rep. Charles Fenton Mercer of Virginia objected to accepting the David because, he said, it was not a good likeness of Jefferson. In the end the House voted, 69-55, in favor of the resolution to accept the statue.

Even though both the House and Senate resolutions called for the statue to be displayed outside the Capitol’s East front, for reasons that are unclear it was placed inside the Capitol, in the Rotunda. On February 16, 1835, a resolution was introduced in the House to remove the statue from the Rotunda “to some suitable place for its preservation, until the final disposition of it be determined by Congress.” After some debate, during which Rep. Mercer said that Congress should accept statuary only from “distinguished” sources, no action was taken.

Sometime during the 1845-49 James K. Polk administration (the exact date is not certain) the statue was indeed removed from the Rotunda. It was shipped up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House where, with the permission of President Polk, it was placed on the grounds on the north side facing Lafayette Park, as we can easily see in the two 1860’s photographs on page one and two.

Jonas Phillips Levy, Uriah Levy’s youngest brother, spearheaded a campaign in 1874 to get the David sculpture off the White House lawn, where it was not holding up well under the elements. In a letter Jonas Levy wrote on February 16, 1874, (twelve years after Uriah’s death) to the House Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds, he asked Congress to accept the David statue officially or return it to the family.

The statue was subsequently cleaned up and moved into National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Rotunda, where it stands today, the only one in the building donated by an individual citizen to Congress. The David Jefferson is considered to be one of the most valuable pieces of artwork in the Capitol.

Visitor Center Grand Opening: The official Grand Opening of the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center at Monticello will take place at 11:00 a.m. on April 15, two days after the 266th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.

There will be remarks by former Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher and the historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Michael Beschloss, along with live music by the Williamsburg Field Musick fife and drum corps, the Union Run Baptist Church Choir, and the Charlottesville Municipal Band. The event is open to the public.

The center is located on the lower slope of Monticello mountain. It is made up of five pavilions surrounding a central courtyard.

The center’s visitor amenities, which opened in November 2008, include a café with indoor and outdoor seating, a greatly expanded gift shop, and an indoor ticket and information counter. For more info, go to http://www.monticello.org/featured/2overview.html

Appearances: I have a very busy month coming up on the book appearance circuit. Here’s a rundown:

On Saturday, April 4, I will be doing at talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, a history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy, at the B&O Railroad Museum in Ellicott City, Maryland, not far from Baltimore. The talk is free and open to the public. For more info, go to: http://www.ecborail.org/exhibitions-public-programs.shtml

I’m going on a brief road trip the second week of April. First stop: an appearance on Monday, April 13 (Thomas Jefferson’s 266th birthday) at the Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable in the town of Boardman in Northeast Ohio. The next day, Tuesday, April 14, I’ll drive up to Mentor, Ohio, near Cleveland to speak to the North East Ohio Civil War Roundtable. Both talks, naturally enough, will be on Desperate Engagement.

Then, it’s back to Virginia, where, I’ll be doing a talk the next day, Wednesday, April 15, at the Charlottesville Senior Center in their Civil War Lecture and Day-Trip Series, run by my friend Rick Britton. That’s the same day as the Grand Opening of the new Visitors Center at Monticello (see above), which, unfortunately, I will miss. I hope to get a tour the next day.

That evening, Thursday, April 16, I will be back in my home turf, in Northern Virginia, where I will do a talk for Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 227, on D.E. I formerly was a member of that chapter, but transferred my membership this year to a forming chapter in Winchester, Virginia, much nearer where I live.

I will be signing copies of Saving Monticello, Desperate Engagement, and Flag at the two-day Warrenton (Virginia) Wine and Arts Festival: from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m on Saturday, April 25 and from 1:00 to 3:00 on Sunday, April 26. For more info, go to www.warrentonwineand arts.org

I’m flying to St. Louis on Thursday, April 30. That evening I will give a presentation on Flag for Kindergarten teachers in the Rockwood, Mo., school system. The talk is underwritten by a grant from History Matters!, part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History Grant program.

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on any of my books, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com
For all the details on other upcoming talks in 2009, take a look at this World Wide Web page: http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 3 March 1, 2009


William Roads: I found the terrifically evocative photograph that appears on the cover of both the hardcover and paperback editions of Saving Monticello while I was doing research for the book in the Manuscript Print Collection at the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library’s Special Collections Department. The notation on the photo in the Special Collections catalog said it was “attributed it to William Rhodes.” There was no date on the photo, but it was believed to have been taken around 1870, which made it, in all likelihood, the oldest known photograph of Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture.

Last month I found out that the name of the photographer was misspelled. It was William Roads (not “Rhodes”), and it turns out that Mr. Roads was Charlottesville’s first successful professional photographer. It is believed that he opened a photography studio on East Main Street (in what is today the Downtown Pedestrian Mall) sometime around 1859, and that he stayed in town until 1873.

I learned this from a fascinating article in the February 1 Charlottesville Daily Progress by reporter David Maurer (who, by the way, wrote an excellent profile of me and SM when the book came out in 2001). The article explained how William Roads’ great-granddaughter, Antoinette W. Roades (that’s the correct spelling), discovered his work in 2001 after she saw the photograph on the cover of SM.

“I had almost zero information on my great-grandfather before I started my research,” Roades, a former journalist and editor, told Maurer. “My father only knew that he had been born near Luray, that he was a photographer and he had lived here in Charlottesville.” The fruit of Antoinette Roades’ labor—inspired by the photo on the cover—was an exhibit she curated that was on view in February at the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, “Photographed by William Roads: Local Faces and Places Through a Long-Ago Lens.”

“What is so cool about the exhibit is that it has made people go home, get the shoebox of photographs out of the closet and bring them here to the historical society so we can scan them into our big database,” Roades said. “One person brought in 17 photographs — 10 by William Roads and seven by his contemporaries.”

I was in Charlottesville last weekend and stopped in to see the exhibit on Friday, February 27. It was very well done. Some fifty old photographs were artfully displayed and annotated. I particularly enjoyed seeing the photo of R.T.W. Duke, Jr. as a young man. Judge Duke, as he was known, was the Charlottesville lawyer who represented Jefferson Levy in his fight to keep Congress from enacting legislation in 1912 that would have condemned Monticello and made it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson.

I did have a problem, though, with what Roades had to say about Saving Monticello. In the first display case she had a copy of my book, along with one of Alan Pell Crawford’s Twilight at Monticello, the excellent 2008 book that covers Jefferson’s post-1809 time at Monticello. The cover of Crawford’s book has another William Roads circa 1870 Monticello photo on its cover.

Antoinette Roades’s text that sat next to the two books said that they both falsely give the impression that the cover photos were taken much earlier—in the case of Saving Monticello, in 1830’s, during the time when Uriah Levy purchased the property from James Turner Barclay. The text also says that the copy on the dust jacket of SM also implies this. And it notes that Thomas Roads’ name was misspelled.



The truth of the matter is that I took the spelling of the photographer’s name from the annotation of the photo in Special Collections at Alderman Library. I had no reason to doubt its inaccuracy. More importantly, there is not a word on the dust jacket copy of Saving Monticello indicating that the photo is from the 1830’s.

What’s more, we include the photograph in the photo insert section inside the book. It’s the first one, in fact. And the paragraph below it reads: “Taken around 1870, this is the oldest known photograph of Monticello and is attributed to William Rhodes.” That is what the annotation said on the photo in Alderman Library. The rest of the paragraph says: “From Uriah Levy’s death in 1862 until 1879, while his will was contested, Monticello suffered greatly under caretaker Joel Wheeler. It was in serious disrepair when Jefferson Monroe Levy bought out the other heirs and took control of the property in 1879.”

I don’t see where any of this even hints that the photo was taken in the 1830’s. And, while William Roads’ name was, indeed, misspelled, I had no reason to doubt its spelling and was repeating what the attribution of the photo said.

You can read Dave Maurer’s excellent article on the exhibit (in which, by the way, Antoinette Roades does not mention that my book contended that the photo was taken any other time than around 1870) at this URL: http://www.dailyprogress.com/cdp/lifestyles/columnists/article/roads_scholar/34989/

Appearances: In February, I did two talks in one day about SM: for the Bethesda, Maryland, Kiwanis Club at their weekly lunch meeting, and for the Bethesda, Maryland, DAR Chapter at their monthly chapter meeting. This month I have two speaking engagements.

On Monday, March 2, I will be doing at talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, a history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy, for the Robert E. Lee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

On Tuesday, March 31, I will be the featured speaker for the spring semester in the George Washington University Alumni Office’s “How Do I Become A….” series. I will do a talk on free-lance writing. The talk begins at 6:30 at GW’s Alumni House, 1918 F Street, N.W. in Washington. The event is free and open all GW students, alumni, and friends of the GW community. Light refreshments will be served and I’ll be signing copies of my three latest books, including SM. Reservations are encouraged. You can do so on line at https://www.alumniconnections.com/olc/pub/GEW/events/event_order.cgi?tmpl=events&event=2219192

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on any of my books, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com
For all the details on other upcoming talks in 2009, take a look at this World Wide Web page: http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 2

February 1, 2009


Save the Date: This just in: the Grand Opening of the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor and Smith Education Center will take place two days after Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on Wednesday, April 15 beginning at 11:00 a.m. Featured speakers in the ceremonies to be held on Monticello’s West Lawn will be 2008 National Book Award winner Annette Gordon-Reed (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family) and the noted presidential historian Michael Beschloss

The complete 42,000-sqare-foot, five-building Visitor Center and its interpretive features—including four innovative exhibitions, what promises to be a powerful introductory film, and a hands-on activity space for children—will open be opened to the public at 1:00.

The center’s main features (the Welcome Pavilion, Museum Shop, and Café) opened last November, along with three classroom spaces in the Carl and Hunter Smith Education Center.

For more info, including details that will be unveiled as the day gets closer, go to www.monticello.org/featured/new_vc.html


Lost in Translation:
A few days ago, in my unending quest to keep abreast of the latest information about all matters Saving Monticello on the World Wide Web, I came across what appears to be a new blog that seems to be something called “Historic Technical Preservation.” It looks like a real book-lovers blog and features reviews of books—in this case a rave (I think) for SM.

I use the qualifying words because there’s something very strange and a tad unsettling about this blog. The blogger refers to himself (or herself) as “Amicone.” Said Amicone has quite an odd way with the English language. Here’s an example: “I delightfully recommend Marc Leepson’s book ‘Saving Monticello’ because it give veneration to the Levy kinfolk lacking whose back and stewardship Monticello may enfold be erase for ever and a day. Mr. Leepson terribly patiently educate us enclosed by the county of the Levy family and their unswerving faithfulness to Monticello.”

The atrocious grammar and goofy choice of words sounds as though this blog has used some kind of translation software to put a review of Saving Monticello into English from another language. Or else the blogger has gone wild with a thesaurus to change a couple of words in every sentence of an existing review to make it look new. It’s weird.

As I did more web searching, I came across similarly oddball reviews from bloggers named “Almiron,” “Amletto,” and “Amnesty.” They all had severely syntax-challenged sentences such as: “As a Virginian, we are proud of all our historic site and heritage and the story of the Levy family is one of the best that I have read in a protracted instance.”

All of these sites live on Google Blogger, look like real blogs, and have links to Amazon and Google ads. I can’t figure out exactly what’s going on here. Can you? If so, please send me an email explaining it.

Top Ten Presidential ‘Retreats’: The testosterone-fueled website, AskMen.com, recently asked its audience to vote on the ten best presidential retreats based on their “intrigue, popularity, and notoriety.” The resulting Top Ten List has Camp David, which FDR founded and Ike made popular, in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, (below) No. 1; the Kennedy Family “compound” in Hyannisport No. 2; Truman’s Little White House in Key West, Florida, No. 3, and Monticello, No. 4.

That puts Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture ahead of Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara; the Bush I “compound” in Kennebunkport, Maine; George Washington’s Mount Vernon; the LBJ Ranch in Texas; the Obama homestead in the Kenwood section of Chicago; and—of all places—Edith (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt’s modest hideaway, Pine Knot, near Scottsville in Albemarle County, Virginia, not far from Monticello.

Visits Up: Here’s a ray of economic good news. The number of visitors (447,514) increased by 1.3 percent at Monticello in 2008. In 2007, in contrast, attendance was down by some 8,600 from the year before. The 2008 figure does not include the big crowd that showed up for the annual July 4 naturalization ceremony.

Why the good news? A confluence of factors seemed to be at work, beginning with the publicity surrounding the visit by then President George W. Bush on July 4, and—believe it or not—Monticello’s appearance as a category on the TV show “Jeopardy. There was also the popularity of the HBO miniseries on John Adams, in which Thomas Jefferson was a main player. Monticello also was featured on the TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and received more pub with the success (including the National Book Award) for Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello. Not to mention the steep drop in the cost of gasoline.

The folks on the mountain believe the numbers will go up in 2009 primarily because of the Grand Opening in April of the final portion of the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center (see above).

TJ Today: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Robert H. Smith International Centre for Jefferson Studies recently launched a new website called Jefferson Today. The idea behind it is to apply Jefferson’s ideas to contemporary issues. This is an interactive site since anyone can post comments about its essays (from scholars and public figures), suggest discussion topics and submit commentaries. There’s also a blog on Jefferson-related news.

The site’s first featured topic is the 2008 Presidential Election. The URL is: http://www.jeffersontoday.org/


Appearances: As of today, I have but one speaking event scheduled for February, a talk for the Bethesda Maryland, DAR Chapter at the Bethesda Library on Thursday evening, February 19, at 7:00.

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on any of my books, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com
For all the details on other upcoming talks in 2009, take a look at this World Wide Web page: http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume VI, Number 1 January 1, 2009


Happy New Year: It’s been more than seven years since Saving Monticello was published in hardcover in November of 2001. I had no idea then that the book would continue to be in print in 2009. Or that I would be writing this monthly newsletter, which is now in its sixth year, or that I would continue to be asked to speak about the book.

I have done a total is 143 talks, book signings, and print and broadcast media interviews for Saving Monticello since the first one, which took place at the old Monticello Visitors Center in Charlottesville on October 28, 2001. I also have done 133 events for Flag: An American Biography since I did a my first one for it, a book signing on June 11, 2005, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington as part of the Flag Day Family Festival. The count is now 93 events for Desperate Engagement since the first one, a talk and signing at Olsson’s Books in Alexandria, Virginia, on July 24, 2007.

People have been known to ask me at these talks which of my six published books is my favorite. My first response is, “Now you’re asking me to choose among my children.” Then, if the questioner persists, I usually say, “If I had to choose, I have a special feeling for Saving Monticello. It was my fourth book, but was my first hardcover from a big New York City publisher; it got great reviews; and people are still very interested in it.”

I had a reminder of that interest when I checked my Amazon sales numbers recently. On December 20, the Saving Monticello paperback was No. 1 in the category of Genealogy Reference Books for Virginia; No. 11 in State and Local History Books for the Southeast, and No. 21 in State and Local History Books for Virginia. A week earlier, we were No. 20 in the History of Religion, Judaism category.

I fully realize that these are somewhat arcane categories, but the fact is that there continues to be interest in the book (in other words, it keeps selling). This gives me one more reason to be proud of my fourth “child.”


Levy Center Designer Joe Boggs: The noted Maryland architect was chosen to design what will be his second big Annapolis project, the National Sailing Hall of Fame Museum. Boggs, who designed the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy, gave the public a first look at his preliminary designs in December. The three-story building will sit on Prince George Street in downtown Annapolis, a stone’s throw from the Levy Center, which was dedicated in September 2006 on the grounds of the Naval Academy. The 20,000-square-foot wooden Sailing Hall of Fame building will feature copper roofs that resemble boat hulls. Organizers are trying to raise $15-$20 million to build it.

Boggs’ Jewish Chapel inside the Levy Center (which has one rotunda-shaped entrance to honor Uriah Levy’s stewardship of Monticello) also is a modernistic, creatively designed structure that calls to mind a ship’s hull on the inside. Boggs wrote the epilogue to the recently published book Honor: Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel (Sandow Media, 148 pp., $49.95), which tells the story of the building with photos and text.

Charlottesville Preservation: How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb? Three—one to change the bulb and two to reminisce about how good the old one was.

That corny light-bulb joke contains a hard nugget of truth: We Virginians have a special feeling for historic preservation. That joke (which I have been known to use in my talks about Saving Monticello) came to mind when I learned early in December that a new preservation group has formed in Charlottesville to help safeguard the area’s historical treasures, including Monticello.

The Piedmont Area Preservation Alliance was born December 7 at the Jefferson Library at Monticello at the annual meeting of the Charlottesville-based group Preservation Piedmont. Eleven groups make up the alliance, including the University of Virginia, the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello and has been extremely preservation-minded from its beginnings in 1923.

“Trying to prevent demolition of resources is a big deal,” Leslie Greene Bowman, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s new President, told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “I love preservation. I’m the new kid on the block and at the back of the line, but I’m thrilled to be here.”

The new group will host Preservation Week 2009 beginning on Friday, April 3, which will include a lecture, an exhibition, a reception at the Charlottesville Community Design Center, historic house tours, and neighborhood walking tours. The keynote speaker will be Richard Moe, the Director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who gave me a terrific blurb for Saving Monticello.

Reader Review: More evidence that the book continues to bring in new readers is the fact that there continue to be new reviews posted on Amazon.com from readers, nearly all of whom have nothing but good things to say about Saving Monticello. At last count there were 32 Amazon Customer Reviews, 24 of which gave the book five stars (the highest rating). Four gave it four stars.

Here’s a four-star review posted on October 3 by Terry L. Baldridge, who titled the review, “A missing piece of Monticello is back in place!”

I purchased this book because I enjoy reading everything I can get my hands on regarding Monticello. This book brings Monticello’s “quiet” years to the fore. Uriah and Jefferson Levy rescued Thomas Jefferson’s home from certain destruction, despite adversity. From whom or what? Read the book! I gave the book a four instead of a five star rating because Theodore Roosevelt could not have been a member of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation in 1923. He died in 1919. Perhaps I was reading this portion wrong. But the book was a delightful read nonetheless. Thanks!

Note to Terry L. Baldridge: Thanks for a terrific review. You are correct about Theodore Roosevelt. It was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (the son of the president) who was named to the board of the TJMF in 1923, not President TR, as we had it in the hardcover. We made the correction (on p. 226) in the paperback.

Appearances: I have a ton of events coming up in 2009, but only two thus far, in January. Both are talks for the Close Up Foundation, the non-profit group that brings high school social studies teachers to the Washington, D.C., area for a week of educational events. I will be speaking to the teachers on Monday and Tuesday, January 26 and 27 at the National Press Club and L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington. The topic will be my book Flag: An American Biography.

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on any of my books, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com
For all the details on other upcoming talks in 2009, got to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 12 December 1, 2008



Smooth Transition: In mid-November, two weeks after Leslie Greene Bowman took over as the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, she and I had a great conversation about her plans for the future on the Mountain, as well as her thoughts about telling the story of the Levy family’s stewardship of Monticello. I am very pleased to report that Leslie Bowman had nothing but good things to say about Saving Monticello, about Dan Jordan, her wonderful predecessor, and about continuing his legacy of fully acknowledging the Levy family’s contribution to the history of Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture.

“You couldn’t have a more gracious and more helpful predecessor than Dan Jordan,” Bowman told me. “He and I have had a lovely transition period. That’s been immeasurably helpful; not only to me, but for the staff, so that by the time November 1st rolled around, I’d already been in meetings with them, we’d already been on the same page. I couldn’t be happier. It’s an incredible staff. It’s a magical place. And I have a wonderful Board. So what’s not to love?”


When people ask her about succeeding Dan Jordan, she said, “I tell them that the first thing is, I can’t fill his shoes and I’m glad he didn’t wear high heels. But I can try to continue the great work. Dan was all about possibilities and that’s exciting because it isn’t like he finished it all and now it’s somebody’s job to come in and keep it going just as he would have.

“He is a man who gets up every day filled with ideas. He leaves the Foundation not only in terrific shape, but with a full menu of new possibilities.”

When I asked Bowman about how the Levys’ stewardship would be presented in the new Visitors Center (which opened a week after she took over), she told me that the Foundation will continue to tell the story fully. The Visitors Center, she said, “was planned under Dan and I would not dream of changing any of that story anyway.”

As for the future, she said, “we want make Monticello a completely inclusive story with all of the people who had been involved on the Mountain and not just, as I call it, the ‘nickel view’ of the house itself.” As Dan Jordan did, she said, “we want the plantation opened up; we want more focus on Mulberry Row.”

As for the Levy’s, she said: “Without the Levy family, the house might not exist. We’re all grateful for their enlightened stewardship. I’m fascinated by the fact that the Levys not only saved the house, but also went after Jefferson belongings. We continue to tell that story in the brochure that all visitors get when they get their tickets, in our guidebook, and on our web site.”

The Levys’ story, she said, “is obviously critical to the history of Monticello. We have always been telling it and we will continue to tell it. We also want to keep telling it on the web site and on our on-line Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia.”[http://wiki.monticello.org].”

Bowman told me that everyone who cares about the Uriah and Jefferson Levy’s work at Monticello “should, I hope, feel completely assured that the story of Monticello in my mind only gets bigger and more inclusive of all the people worked or lived there or had something to do with it. That’s standing on Jefferson’s truth.”

I told Bowman that I was honored to be able to play a very minor part in that effort. To which she replied that Saving Monticello and this newsletter have “been a huge part in our history of bringing us more into the limelight. We so appreciate all the work you’re doing and continue to do.”

The New Visitors Center: The November 8 opening of the Welcome Pavilion, Monticello Museum Shop, Café at Monticello and three classroom spaces in the Carl and Hunter Smith Education Center was the first of a two-part opening for the complex. Two days after Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, next April 15, the Foundation will hold a Grand Opening that will unveil the center’s ambitious and innovative interpretive features: a new introductory film, four innovative exhibitions, and a hands-on discovery room.

The festivities on November 8 for the 42,000 square foot Thomas Jefferson Visitors Center and Smith Education Center began at 11:00 a.m. with a fife and drum corps and remarks by Leslie Bowman.

“This is a historic moment,” she said during a brief ceremony. “This is the most ambitious educational initiative ever undertaken in the foundation’s 85-year history.”

“After ten years of planning and two years of construction, we’re happy to open this to the public,” Wayne Mogielnicki, the Foundation’s director of communications, said. “It’s a vast improvement over our past facilities.”

The facility cost about $43 million, a figure that—as I learned recently from former Foundation President Dan Jordan—is nearly three times as much as the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which Thomas Jefferson engineered, and which added some 827,000 square of territory to the United States.

Appearances:

On Monday, December 1, I’m doing a talk on Saving Monticello at 1:00 at the Georgetown Senior Center in Washington. A week later, on Monday, December 8, I will be speaking to the students at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, who are enrolled in the Senior Symposium. The talk will be my book, Flag: An American Biography. Not coincidently, my daughter Cara is a senior at Lynchburg. She took that required course last summer, but has promised to be in the audience.

The next day, Tuesday, December 9, I’ll be doing a talk on Desperate Engagement, my latest book, at the monthly dinner meeting of the Washington, D.C., Civil War Roundtable, at the Officers Club at Fort McNair in Southwest Washington. It will be a homecoming of sorts. When I served my last seven months in the Army after coming home from Vietnam, from January-July of 1969, I was stationed in Washington and part of my job was picking up the company vehicle every morning from the motor pool at Ft. McNair. A lowly enlisted man, I never had the chance to set foot in the O Club.

On Saturday, December 6, I’ll be making an appearance (for the third year in a row) on Dale Throneberry’s Veterans Radio’s annual holiday gift program, which is broadcast live at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time on line at www.veteransradio.org and on WDEO (990 AM, Ann Arbor/Detroit), WMAX (1440 AM, Saginaw, Michigan), WDEO (99.5 FM, Naples, Florida), KAGY (1510 AM, Port Sulphur/New Orleans, Louisiana), KIXW (960 AM, Apple Valley, California) and KMRC (1430 AM Morgan City, Louisiana).

On Saturday, December 13, I’ll be taking part in a Northern Virginia authors’ Booksigning beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Barrel Oak Winery, in beautiful Delaplane, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge foothills in southern Fauquier County. The address is 3623 Grove Lane; for more info, call 540-364-6402 or go to www.barreloak.com

On Sunday, December 14, I’ll be speaking about D.E. at the monthly meeting of the Frank Stringfellow Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Fairfax, Virginia. And I’ll be doing a talk on Saving Monticello on Wednesday, December 17, at the weekly lunch meeting of the Wheaton-Silver Spring Kiwanis Club in Silver Spring, Maryland.

For all the details on these and other upcoming talks, please go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson



Volume V, Number 11 November 1, 2008



Beth El in Detroit: I had the great good fortune to be asked to do this year’s Mary Einstein Shapero Memorial Lecture on Saving Monticello at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The lecture, which was held on Wednesday evening, October 29, is sponsored by Beth El’s Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archives, in conjunction with Judge Walter Shapero, in honor of his late wife, who was the granddaughter of Rabbi Franklin. The leader of Beth El from 1899-1941, Rabbi Franklin also was one of the top names in the American Jewish Reform Movement. Beth El, the first Jewish congregation in Michigan (it began in Detroit in 1850), moved to its present location in the northern suburbs in 1973.

I was very impressed by my entire experience at Beth El, beginning with being asked to do the talk by the temple’s Archivist Jan Durecki, who heads one of the very few archives housed in an American synagogue. When I arrived the day of the talk Jan gave me a tour of the archives, which contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Jewish congregational material in the nation; it is largest such collection in Michigan.

The archive includes an impressive number of photographs, documents, programs, brochures, news clippings, film reels, and architectural drawings, as well as correspondence, photos and other materials related to the five buildings occupied by Congregation Beth El in its illustrious 150-year history.


Temple Beth was founded in 1850 in the home of Isaac and Sarah Cozens in Detroit. The congregation met in rented rooms in the city from 1852-61, then moved into the first of four of its own buildings in town. Two of them were designed by the renowned German-born architect (and Beth El member) Albert Kahn (1869-1942).


The first Kahn building, at Woodward and Eliot Street, was built in 1902. I thought it very interesting that the Ionic portico and dome that Kahn created are strikingly similar to elements that Thomas Jefferson’s used in designing Monticello, Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia. That building today is owned by Wayne State University and is used as the Bonstelle Playhouse.

The second building that Kahn designed for Beth El, a huge Beaux Arts structure, opened in 1924 at Woodward and Gladstone in Detroit.

In subsequent decades many Beth El members moved to the northern suburbs of Detroit, and the congregation moved with them. In 1973, construction was completed on a new synagogue at the intersection of 14 Mile Road and Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills.


This was not just any temple, though. The congregation chose one of the nation’s most prominent architects to build it, Minoru Yamasaki. Born in Seattle in 1912, Yamasaki was best known for designing the World Trade Center in New York in 1965.


For Beth El, Yamasaki created a soaring house of worship shaped like a tent that allows tons of natural light to flood into the sanctuary through glass walls and through the room-length narrow skylight at the top (see photo, next page). The imposing sanctuary seats a thousand. Yamasaki also designed the tall chairs on the bema and tall, narrow brass Torah ark. The sanctuary is one of the most impressive houses of worship I’ve ever set foot in.

I also was impressed by the stained glass windows from the old Detroit temples that Beth El has prominently displayed through the large, open building, which also houses the archives, a smaller sanctuary, meeting rooms and a Hebrew school.

We had a great crowd for my talk, 115 people on a Wednesday evening. Judge Shapero gave a few remarks, including stories about his days as a law student at the University of Virginia in the 1950s. I was pleasantly surprised that a large number of the folks who showed up had been to Monticello. They seemed to get a lot out of my talk about the Levys and Monticello judging by the number of questions and comments I had afterwards.

The audience included the three Jacobowitz siblings, Ellen, Ann and Charles, whom I had met earlier in the day for lunch. Their mother, the late Lois Levy Jacobowitz, had done genealogical research that indicated that her family was directly descended from Uriah Levy’s mother Rachel’s twin sister.

At lunch we went over the family’s genealogical chart and compared it to Uriah Levy’s. Both families have roots in the United States that go back centuries. In the Jacobwitz’s case to the 17th century. As I noted in Saving Monticello, Uriah Levy’s great great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Nunez, came to this country in July of 1733 with a group of 40 Jews who had escaped the Inquisition in Portugal by way of London. They were the founders of Savannah, Georgia.

Although there were similarities in both families’ trees, we were unable to nail down confirmation of the families’ direct connection. Still, it was fascinating to see the number of coincidences between the two families, including the family names of Phillips and Levy.

All in all, I had a memorable experience at Beth El, and I thank everyone, especially Jan Durecki, who made me feel so welcome.

Changes at the Foundation: Today, November 1, 2008, marks a memorable transition at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Dan Jordan, who has headed the Foundation since 1984, officially steps down, and Leslie Green Bowman will become the new president. What’s more, a week from today, on November 8, sees the opening of the Tomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. At 11:00 that morning the new Welcome Pavilion, Monticello Museum Shop and Café at Monticello will be opened to the public and three classroom spaces will be put to their first use.

To mark the occasion, Monticello distributing specially made cookies to the first 2,000 visitors and commemorative T-shirts to the first 500 children under age 12. There also will be a performance by Williamsburg Field Musick, a fife and drum corps that plays music from the 1700s and 1800s.

As readers of this newsletter know, Dan Jordan was extremely helpful to me when I did the research for Saving Monticello. He has continued to support the book and my work after Saving Monticello was published. I am extremely grateful to him for that, as well as for his sterling work at Monticello, especially his untiring efforts to get the word out about the Levy family’s crucial stewardship of Jefferson’s essay in architecture.

I have met Leslie Bowman and have every reason to believe she will carry on Dan’s sterling legacy.

Appearances:

On Tuesday, November 4, I’ll be the luncheon speaker at the monthly meeting of the Kate Waller Barrett Chapter of the DAR in Alexandria, Virginia, and I’ll be talking about Saving Monticello. Later that evening, I’ll be doing a talk on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, for the Col. W. Norris Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

On Sunday, November 9, I’ll be doing a talk on DE at the new Barrel Oak Winery in beautiful Delaplane, Virginia, in Fauquier County beginning at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’ll stick around for a couple of hours to sign books, including SM. Check out details at www.barrelloak.com

I have two events on Tuesday, November 11. I’ll be speaking about Saving Monticello at lunch time at the Washington Club on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. That evening, I’ll do talk on Desperate Engagement for the Turner Ashby Camp of the SCV in Winchester, Virginia.

For all the details on these and other upcoming talks, please go to the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 10
October 1, 2008


Jefferson and Jews: The cover story of the current issue of Reform Judaism magazine, “Founding Myths,” is a look at the recently published book, Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by the journalist and www.beliefnet.com co-founder Steven Waldman, with a Q&A and a sidebar containing excerpts from the book. The Q&A is interesting, but the sidebar contains an out-of-context quote from the book that quite unfairly makes Jefferson look like a rabid anti-Semite.

“To an extent rarely acknowledged, Thomas Jefferson despised Jews—or at least the Jews of the Old Testament and the religion it seemed to spawn,” Waldman wrote. Jefferson, he said, wrote that the “‘vicious ethics of the Jews’ were the ‘irreconcilable with the social dictates of reason and morality’….”

A friend pointed this out to me, and also pointed out that Waldman’s book paints a much fuller picture of Jefferson’s views on Jews than the excerpt suggests. The book discusses the separation of church and state at great length, as well as the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, which Jefferson wrote in 1779, and which was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1786. That document, which is not mentioned in the magazine article, is a cornerstone of the American concept of Freedom of Religion. Its principles and language, moreover, have inspired supporters of religious freedom around the world for more than two centuries.


That includes Uriah Phillips Levy. As I note in Saving Monticello, Levy’s ardent admiration for Jefferson sprang from the Sage of Monticello’s views of religious tolerance, as expressed primarily in that pioneering statute. To wit: “…That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion…”

The article also fails to mention the famous letter that Jefferson wrote to Uriah Levy’s second cousin, Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851), in which Jefferson expressed his views on freedom of religion and Judaism. As I noted in the book, in 1818, the noted journalist Noah had given a speech at Shearith Israel Congregation in New York, a copy of which made its way to Monticello. Jefferson wrote to Noah on May 28, 1818, saying that he had read the speech “with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from it some valuable facts about Jewish history” which he had not known.

“Your sect by its sufferings has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance, inherent in every sect, disclaimed by all while feeble, and practised by all when in power,” Jefferson wrote. “Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our religious as they do our civil rights by putting all on an equal footing, but more remains to be done.”

“Few American documents express with more considered eloquence the comprehensive emancipation Jews have striven for on this side of the Atlantic,” Kenneth Libo and Michael Skakun wrote in an essay published by the Center of Jewish History.

“Coming a generation after President Washington’s famous response to Moses Seixas, the president of Touro Synagogue, declaring that the American government ‘gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,’ Jefferson’s missive reaffirms yet again the centrality of religious tolerance to the American way of life. Writing in his capacity as an individual citizen, but with the moral weight and authority of the presidency behind him, Jefferson espouses the ideals that have made this nation the greatest democratic republic in history.”

The Statute and the Noah letter provide a much fuller picture of Jefferson’s views on Judaism. It’s a shame that the editors of Reform Judaism did not include them or give a fuller picture of our nation’s third president’s views on Jews and religious freedom.

Changing of the Guard: As we’ve reported, Dan Jordan will be stepping down as president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation on November 1. He will be replaced by the Foundation’s president-elect, Leslie Green Bowman, who already has moved to Charlottesville and is getting a great deal of on-the-job training. We’ll cover the November 1 change and the concurrent opening of the new Visitors and Education Center in depth in upcoming issues. Stay tuned.




Appearances: I’m happy to say that three of the five events I have on tap for October will be talks on Saving Monticello.

On Thursday, October 2, I’ll be the luncheon speaker for the monthly meeting of the Albemarle County DAR Chapter in Charlottesville, and I’ll be talking about Saving Monticello. On Saturday, October 4, I’ll be signing copies of my three most recent books (Desperate Engagement, Flag, and Saving Monticello) at the huge annual Waterford Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit (aka the Waterford Fair) in the historic Loudoun County village of Waterford, from eleven to one in the afternoon.

I’ll be taking part in two panels at the annual James River Writers Conference at the Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond on Friday, October 10 and Saturday, October 11. The Friday panel will be at 1:00 on “How Publishers Sell Your Book: On the Shelf and On the Web.” The Saturday panel, on “Pitching History to a Popular Audience” will take place at 2:15. My friend Dean King will join me on that one, along with Cathy Maxwell.

On Saturday morning, October 26, I’m doing a talk on Saving Monticello for the National Society of New England Women, Virginia Company Colony, in Chantilly, Virginia. And on Wednesday, October 29, I’ll be in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where I’ve been asked to speak about Saving Monticello in the Mary Einstein Memorial Lecture Series at Temple Beth El.

For all the details on these and other upcoming talks, please go to http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 9

September 1, 2008


Twilight at Monticello: I had the good fortune to be invited to the annual “State of the Foundation” program and reception on Tuesday evening August 26 at Monticello. It’s always a treat to journey up to Jefferson’s mountain, but it’s especially enervating to be there in the evening as the sun goes down and to take in the grounds in the glow of a late summer’s twilight.

Dan Jordan, the President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (not the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation—its former name—as I erroneously said in last month’s
newsletter), hosted the event, which this year also included the introduction of the Foundation’s President-Elect, Leslie Green Bowman, who will take over from Dan when he retires in November.

I had a peek at the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and the adjacent Smith Education Center, and from what I saw and heard both will be first-rate, state-of-the-art venues and will add immeasurably to the visitor experience on the Mountain. The new Education Center will be a many-faceted facility with many programs aimed at different ages of schoolchildren and school groups. That’s a first for the Foundation, which, Jordan said, “has never had the resources to educate young people.” That will change 180 degrees in November.

I spoke briefly to Leslie Bowman after Dan Jordan’s presentation. She told me she had taken Saving Monticello with her on a recent trip. I saw that as a very good sign. Another good sign: what Leslie Bowman had to say about her new job, which begins in November. She told me that someone recently had asked her about how it felt to replace Dan Jordan. She said that the words that immediately came to mind were those of Jefferson’s, who, when asked about replacing Benjamin Franklin as U.S. Minister to France said: “I cannot replace Mr. Franklin; I am here to succeed him.”

Leslie Bowman told me that she very likely was going to be using those wise words often in upcoming months.

More Good News from the Mountain: The Foundation announced August 21 that, in keeping with its mandate to preserve and protect Monticello and its surroundings, it had purchased the 29-acre Hartman tract, which is located along the Thomas Jefferson Parkway (the road that leads up from Route 20 to Monticello) for $500,000. The Foundation will use the wooded acreage to preserve and expand nearby trails on the land, which connects the 89-acre Kemper Park to the Secluded Farm along the Parkway.

Thomas Jefferson Parkway was developed in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to create a scenic entrance along Route 53 to Monticello. It is a 266-acre private park that is free and open to the public. Its trails, which opened in 2000, are popular year-round with hiker and cyclists.

At the base of the Parkway, Kemper Park includes an arboretum, a scenic overlook, a two-acre pond, and a small trailhead parking lot, which you see on your right as you begin driving up from Route 20. The Saunders-Monticello Trail winds for two miles through the park along the side of Carter Mountain toward Monticello. The trail leads directly to the Monticello ticket office over the recently completed stone-arch Saunders Bridge.

“It was important for us to get this land for preservation,” Jason Stevens, the manager of the Parkway, told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “If this land was developed it would be an eyesore. There is nothing wrong with development, but our goal is to preserve as much of the area around Monticello as possible.”

For more info on the Parkway, go to: http://www.monticello.org/parkway/overview.htm/

Tree News: There was an interesting article in the August 26 Richmond Times-Dispatch about Longwood University Prof. Dan Druckenbrod and the work he’s doing reconstructing the history of the forests and development at Monticello and Mount Vernon. Druckenbrod, who received his PhD in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia and teaches that subject at the Farmwood, Virginia, school, is working to reconstruct the histories of the forests on Jefferson’s mountain and George Washington’s farm in Alexandria.

“Much of my research is about tree rings and forest change in an effort to understand landscapes," Druckenbrod told the T-D. “In both projects, I'm interested in how the surrounding forests have changed over time, which is largely in response to how Jefferson and Washington used the environment two centuries ago.”

Druckenbrod began his work at Monticello six years ago while studying for his doctorate at U-Va. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation is supporting the project, which, among other things, is trying to discover what nearby Montalto (aka Brown’s Mountain), which the Foundation purchased in 2004, looked like during Thomas Jefferson’s time.

“Hopefully this research will help to shed some light on the timing of the field-clearing, since the Foundation wants to reconstruct the appearance to that of Thomas Jefferson’s retirement years,” Druckenbrod said.

Druckenbrod and his student assistants use several methods to determine ages of trees and their histories, including taking core samples, which doesn’t injure the trees, and can provide a wealth of information. “You can find some old trees, but you can also tell the story of how people have interacted with the woods, with the forests, and how these forests have responded to environmental change—how [people] have used the trees and used the land going back to the Colonial period,” he said.

“Instead of saying, ‘This tree is 210 years old,’ we can say, ‘Ah, this tree grew really well this period; not so well that period—why is that?’ And that is really a science question.”

To read the entire article, go to:
http://www.inrich.com/cva/ric/news.apx.-content-articles-RTD-2008-08-26-0014.html

Appearances: I have a busy month in September. In addition to teaching my U.S. history class at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, on Thursday nights and my usual writing duties, I’ll be doing ten talks and book signings on my three most recent books, including Saving Monticello.

What follows is my September schedule in brief. For all the details, and info on other upcoming appearances, go tot http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

On Tuesday, September 2, I’ll be the guest speaker for Vietnam Veterans of America’s Winchester, Virginia, Chapter at the American Legion Hall in Winchester. I’ll give a talk on Flag: An American Biography, my 2005 history of the Stars and Stripes from the beginnings to today. On Friday, September 5, I’ll be one of the guest speakers at the annual Loudoun Reads program outside the Loudoun Museum in historic downtown Leesburg, Virginia, beginning at 6:00. I’ll be reading a passage from Saving Monticello at this event, which is sponsored by Loudoun Literacy. Refreshments and a Booksigning follow. For info, call 703-777-2205.

I’ll be doing a talk on Flag on Saturday, September 6 in Falls Church, Virginia, for the Oak Hill Chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812. I’m flying out to Illinois to be one of the guest speakers at the Decatur Civil War Round Table’s 13th Annual Fall Symposium on Saturday morning, September 13. I’m speaking on my latest book, Desperate Engagement, the story of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s July 1864 move on Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, September 16, I’ll be speaking on Desperate Engagement at a luncheon of the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Vienna, Virginia. I’ll be signing copies of my three latest books from noon to five on Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21 at the annual Bluemont Fair, in the village of Bluemont, Virginia, in Loudoun County. Come on by and say hello. Look for me with other local authors under a tent on Bluemont’s main street across from the Post Office.

On Tuesday, September 23, I’ll be speaking at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Deltaville Library on Virginia’s Northern Neck on Saving Monticello. I will take part in a panel discussion on Saturday, September 27 at 10:00 a.m. at George Washington University’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery on the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs Building at 21st and F Streets in Washington. The topic: the American flag. Also on the panel will be Tyler Anbinder, the chair of the History Department at GWU, my alma mater. The gallery will have a special exhibit of the political flag collection of Mark and Rosalind Shenkman. There’ll be a book signing afterwards.

After that I’ll hustle out to old town Warrenton, Virginia, to do a talk that afternoon, Saturday, September 27, on former Warrenton resident John Singleton Mosby and his role in Desperate Engagement at 2:30 at the Warren Green Building on Hotel Street during Warrenton-Fauquier Heritage Day. The events for the day in Warrenton begin at 10:00 a.m. and include an 11:00 a.m. parade. I’ll be signing books after my talk.

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 8
August 1, 2008


The Noah-Noel Connection: In July, my friends at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation forwarded an email to me from Jim Noel in California. Mr. Noel was looking for information about one of his ancestors, Amelia Noel (1760-1818), a watercolor artist and engraver who lived in England and, among other things, was King George III’s daughters’ drawing mistress.

Jim Noel had read in Saving Monticello that during Uriah Levy’s ownership a portrait of “Madame Noel, an aunt of Captain Levy” by the famed British portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds hung on the wall in the Entrance Hall. I had gleaned that bit of information from an article that appeared in the July 1853 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine by Benson J. Lossing, in which the writer described a visit he paid to Monticello in March of that year.

Uriah Levy had welcoming Lossing to the mountain, and showed him around the place. In the article Lossing more or less gave an inventory of what he saw in the house. That was all I knew about Madame Noel, I told Jim Noel. I told him I checked Malcolm Stern’s extensive genealogical study, American Families of Jewish Descent, and could find no Noel’s in Uriah Levy’s family tree, which included the Levy, Nunez and Phillips families.

Jim Noel wrote back to say that he had discovered that Madame Noel’s husband, Henry, had changed his name from Noah to Noel, and that he was, indeed, related to the Levy’s. “What really surprised me,” Jim Noel told me, “was that Amelia and Henry had been married in the New Synagogue on Leadenhall Street, London, in 1781. That was the first I knew of our [family’s] Jewish roots, and that our name had originally been Noah.”

The Noel family’s Jewish ancestor Henry Noah was the brother of Manuel Noah, who was born in 1755 in Germany, immigrated to the United States, and married Zipporah Phillips, one of Uriah Levy’s aunts (she was the sister of his mother, Rachel Phillips Levy) in 1784 in Philadelphia. Manuel and Zipporah Noah’s son was the famed diplomat and journalist Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851), who was a leading voice in the American Jewish community in the early 19th century.

As I note in Saving Monticello, Mordecai Noah has an important connection to Thomas Jefferson. That came about after Mordecai Noah received what would become a famous letter from Thomas Jefferson in which the Sage of Monticello expressed his views on freedom of religion and Judaism.

In 1818, Mordecai Noah had given a speech at Shearith Israel synagogue in New York, a copy of which made its way to Monticello. Jefferson wrote to Noah on May 28, 1818, saying he had read the speech “with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from it some valuable facts about Jewish history which I did not know before.”

Judiasm, Jefferson said, “by its sufferings has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance, inherent in every sect, disclaimed by all while feeble, and practised by all when in power. Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our religious as they do our civil rights by putting all on an equal footing, but more remains to be done.”

That letter was sold October 29, 1986, at Sotheby's in New York for $396,000—the highest price ever paid at auction at that time for any letter or Presidential document.

Britton’s Sample: I first ran into Rick Britton in the fall of 1999 at the Albemarle County Historical Society’s Research Library in the McIntire Building in downtown Charlottesville while doing research for Saving Monticello. Rick, a writer, historian, and cartographer (www.rickbritton.com), also was researching there, and we got to talking.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Rick’s review of Saving Monticello in The Washington Times when the book came out in 2001, and more than pleased the next year when he invited me to do a talk for the (renamed) Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society on SM. Our paths crossed again most recently in March when he did a terrific job moderating a panel that I was part of at the big Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. That panel was videoed by Book-TV and is archived at http://tinyurl.com/booktv

Rick Britton has specialized in writing about Thomas Jefferson and Monticello for years in newspaper and magazine articles and book reviews. Now comes his new book, Jefferson: A Monticello Sampler (Mariner Publishing, 226 pp, $19.95, paper). This is a smoothly written, well researched collection of essays on topics such as the British Col. Banastre Tarleton’s 1781 raid on Charlottesville that came close to capturing Jefferson; slavery at Monticello; Jefferson’s friendship with Italian vintner Filippo Mazzei; Jefferson’s wide-ranging scientific pursuits; Lafayette’s famed 1824 visit to Monticello; Jefferson’s founding of the University of Virginia; and his architectural legacy.

The book’s last chapter, titled “Securing a Shrine: The Early Years of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation,” includes material that I covered thoroughly in Saving Monticello. There’s a concise accounting of Maud Littleton’s quest to wrest Monticello from Jefferson Levy, background on Uriah Levy’s purchase of Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture, and close look at the founding of the Foundation that ultimately purchased the place. The entire book makes great reading.

Appearances: I have two events in August, both of them in conjunction with my latest book, Desperate Engagement. I always have copies of Saving Monticello for signing and selling at my all of my talks and I continued to be delighted that people are interested in that book.

I am very grateful to Bryan Hagen of Merrill Lynch in Charlottesville who arranged the purchase of fifteen copies of SM (which I autographed), and gave the books to a group of recuperating war veterans whom he and the Blue and Gray Education Society brought down from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to tour Monticello.
Here’s a brief rundown on my August events:

On Tuesday, August 5, I’ll be doing a talk at 6:00 p.m. on Desperate Engagement at the brand new Thurmont Regional Library in northern Frederick County, Maryland, near Camp David. The library will be celebrating its grand opening all that week. For more info, call 301-271-7721.

I will be the featured speaker at the annual Franklin County, Virginia, Book Festival at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 9 at the Franklin County Library in Rocky Mount, Virginia, the hometown of Confederate General Jubal Early, the main player in Desperate Engagement. For more info, go to http://franklincountyfriends.org
You can find more detailed information on these and all of my upcoming appearances at http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com



Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 7 July 1, 2008


Tree Down: Thomas Jefferson did not, as rumor had it, plant the huge, 115-foot-tall tulip poplar that for more than a century wowed visitors to Monticello, where it stood on the house’s south side. The massive tree was planted during the Levy family’s ownership of Monticello, perhaps even by Uriah Levy between 1836 when he took possession of the place, and 1862 when he died. You can see a tree in the same spot in the oldest known photos of Monticello, taken in the early 1870’s, just before Jefferson Levy took over as owner.

Sadly to say, as of last week, the magnificent tree no longer stands. It was so damaged by root disease and its canopy was so thinned out in a long effort to save it, that the folks at Monticello had no choice but to have it taken down. For decades, Monticello caretakers had tried to nurse the tulip poplar to avoid cutting it down. To no avail. The final act in the tree’s life came when a crew took the tree down after visitors hours on June 25 and 26. The demise made the newspapers and TV stations in Charlottesville.

It’s not that the tree had gone unattended. In the 1920s, the center trunk and other limbs were cut off, and it received regular prunings. But by 1997, arborists were recommending that it be removed. Instead, a cable system was used to support the tree—and to make sure that if it fell, it would head toward the lawn and not the house. But this year Monticello felt it had no choice but to take the giant tree down.

“When it was healthy it really provided some shade, and it’s going to change the landscape around the house,” Wayne Mogielnicki, Monticello’s director of communications, said. “We feel bad about it and have tried everything.”

The tree will continue to live, in a way, though. It looks like Historical Woods of America will be able to put some of the wood to good use. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based company works with artists and artisans to take wood from trees of note and turn them into items such as fountain pens, bookmarks, vases and furniture. The company recently did just that with wood taken from a Cedar of Lebanon that had to come down at James Madison’s Montpelier, with a white oak branch from Madison’s Ash Lawn, which is near Monticello, as well as a pecan tree from George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

“It’s a way to keep the history alive for generations to come through the creation of these products and also not let this stuff go to the landfill,” William Jewell of Historical Woods told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. For more info, go to http://tinyurl.com/6eonl4


Bush on the Fourth of July: Take a guess as to what do these four presidents (and these dates) have in common: Franklin D. Roosevelt (in 1936), Harry S Truman (1947), Gerald R. Ford (1976) and George W. Bush (2008). The first three participated as sitting presidents in the annual July 4 ceremonies at Monticello. The last-named individual will follow suit on the Fourth of July.

As for other presidential visitors to Monticello, Bill Clinton made a trip up to the mountain in 1993, just prior to his assuming office. And as we noted in Saving Monticello, Teddy Roosevelt made a famous impromptu visit on June 17, 1903, by horseback from Charlottesville.

The current President Bush will be the featured speaker at Monticello’s 46th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. “We are truly honored to have President Bush as our featured speaker on July 4,” the ever-gracious Dan Jordan, the president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, said in announcing the White House’s acceptance of Monticello’s invitation. We “regard it as a great compliment that he has chosen to spend part of the last Independence Day of his presidency at Monticello.”

As in past years, the centerpiece of the event will be the naturalization ceremony, during which 75 people from 30 different countries will be sworn in as U.S. citizens. Since 1963, more than 3,000 men and women have taken the oath of citizenship at Monticello in Independence Day ceremonies.

The event begins at 10 a.m. and is free and open to the public. Since the commander in chief will be on the mountain, though, it’d be best to check with the folks at Monticello about what impact security arrangements will have.

Appearances: I have yet another busy month in July in the book promoting and marketing portion of my job. That includes three live (and one TV) appearances to talk about my two most recent books, Flag: An American Biography and Desperate Engagement. I always have copies of Saving Monticello for signing and selling at my all of my talks and I am delighted that people continue to be very interested in that book.

Here’s a brief rundown on July’s events:

On Thursday, July 3, a book review of mine is scheduled to appear in The Wall Street Journal. The book is, appropriately enough, titled The Fourth of July. It deals with the myths associated with that holiday, including the fact that the vote for independence came on July 2, that the famed Trumbull painting of the signing (the one that replaced the image of Monticello on the back of the two-dollar bill in 1976) is apocryphal, and that the final words of the Declaration of Independence were not solely those of Thomas Jefferson.

On Tuesday, July 8, I’m doing a talk on Flag in Washington at a brunch for the DAR National Chairmen’s Association. The DAR ladies will be in town for their 177th Continental Congress. The next day, Wednesday, July 9, I’ll be speaking on Desperate Engagement at the weekly meeting of the Frederick, Maryland, Rotary Club.

The nearly one-hour battlefield tour I did for Book TV will be shown on C-SPAN 2 at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, July 12, the anniversary of the fighting that took place in 1864 outside Fort Stevens in Washington, D.C. We taped that quasi-documentary (that’s me, above, giving the Keynote Speech this spring at the Carroll County Historical Society’s Civil War Conference in Westminster, Maryland) at the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center) at Monocacy and at the recreated Fort Stevens back in November and it aired for the first time late in December and early January on Book TV.

On Friday, July 24, I’ll be doing a talk on Desperate Engagement at the Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, as part of their new Summer Civil War Lecture Series. For more info, go to www.civilwarmed.org/events.cfm#292

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, events, and more


Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 6
June 1, 2008

A ‘Huge Coup’ for the T.J. Foundation: “Leslie is joining Monticello at an inflection point. The most important education initiative undertaken since the Foundation acquired Monticello in 1923 is about to be launched. She’s the perfect person to take our exciting plans forward.”

Those were the words of Alice W. Handy, the chair of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Board of Trustees, as she announced on May 16 the board’s choice to succeed Dan Jordan as its president: Leslie Greene Bowman, who has been director of the famed Winterthur Museum & Country Estate of Henry Francis du Pont in Delaware for nearly nine years.

Bowman, 51, will start on Mr. Jefferson’s mountain on November 1, just in time for the opening of ambitious, new 42,000-square-foot, $55 million Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center. She also will supervise the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, which includes the Jefferson Library, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.

“I can think of very few opportunities that can tear me away from Winterthur,” Bowman said. “Monticello is the place that could do it. Lightning struck.” Winterthur and Monticello, she said, “are very similar in that they have an academic mission. They have an historic house and beautiful grounds that all need maintaining,”

The news is “a huge coup” for Monticello, said, Marjorie Schwarzer, the author of Riches, Rivals and Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America. “And it’s a big loss for Winterthur. She really steered the museum through a very difficult period in the economy. Those are big shoes to fill.”

Jordan, a former Jefferson scholar at the University of Virginia, and history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has led the Foundation since 1985. One of his first acts in the job, as we noted in Saving Monticello, was refurbishing Rachel Levy’s grave along Mulberry Row and welcoming Levy family descendants to Monticello. Under his stewardship, the Foundation has made it a point to tell the story of the Levy family—just one of many reasons Jordan will be a very hard act to follow. Another reason: He spearheaded the acquisition of hundreds of acres of land on the mountain, and placed much of that land under permanent scenic easement.

Bowman’s background is impressive. A native of Ohio, before coming to Winterthur she had been the director of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and head curator of decorative arts and assistant director of exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

She also serves, by presidential appointment, on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and sits on the boards of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic St. Mary’s City in Maryland. She has served on the Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums and the board of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

“The stewardship of this world heritage site is an immense responsibility,” Bowman said. “I’m thrilled and honored to be entrusted with leading the Foundation in its mission to preserve Jefferson’s home and advance his ideas around the world.”


Out with the Old (Visitors Center): A week before Bowman’s appointment was made public, the Foundation announced that on June 8 it will close up shop at the old visitors center on Route 20. The exhibits there, including one on the Levy family’s stewardship, will be packed up and relocated to the new Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center and displayed there when it opens in November.

The old visitor center, which is several miles from Monticello, is a relic from the mid-1970’s. It was built by Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial, and never was intended to be the permanent first stop for visitors interested in taking in Jefferson’s home up on the mountain.

The building’s future will belong to nearby Piedmont Virginia Community College, which has plans to renovate and expand the facility. The brick building (below, left) also includes the Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau’s tourist information office. They will remain open after the Monticello visitors center closes.

On the Mountain: For the month of June Monticello has announced a program to try to encourage residents of nearby counties to pay a visit.

Under the “Good Neighbor Month” plan, folks who live in Albemarle, Augusta, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Orange Counties, and the cities of Charlottesville, Staunton, and Waynesboro will pay a discounted rate of $10 for admission, a five-dollar savings. Adults from those counties and cities will get free admission if they bring someone paying the regular admission price.

Appearances: Things usually slow down this time of year in the appearances department, but I will have a busy month with four events scheduled for June, two of them for my latest book, Desperate Engagement, which comes out in paperback in mid-June. That book tells the story of the Civil War battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s subsequent move on Washington, D.C.

Around Flag Day, appropriately enough, I’m doing two talks on my previous book, Flag: An American Biography. I always have copies of Saving Monticello for signing and selling at my all of my talks and I am delighted that people continue to be very interested in that book.

Here’s a brief rundown on June’s appearances:

On Tuesday June 3, I’ll be the keynote speaker at parent-student banquet for the West Springfield (Virginia) High School Applied History class. I’ve participated in this event twice in the past, both times speaking about Saving Monticello. This time I’ll do a talk on Desperate Engagement.

On Thursday, June 12, I’m doing a talk on Flag, two days before Flag Day, for the Bethesda (Maryland) Kiwanis Club at their weekly luncheon meeting. Then on Flag Day itself, Saturday, June 14, I’ll be in Christiansburg, in Southwest Virginia, to do a 2:00 talk on Flag, as part of a city-wide celebration.

On Saturday, June 28, I’ll be speaking about Desperate Engagement at a meeting of the Ellicott City (Maryland) United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter.

You can find more detailed information on these and all of myupcoming appearances at http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, events, the upcoming documentary, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume V, Number 5 May 1, 2008


The Jefferson Collection at the LOC: When I was doing research for Saving Monticello in 2000 at the Library of Congress in Washington, I was thrilled to discover that the library had just mounted an exhibit honoring Thomas Jefferson’s sale of some his entire library, 6,487 books, to the nation in 1815. The exhibit (in the LOC’s main building, left, appropriately named the Thomas Jefferson Building) included a full-sized replica of Jefferson’s library set up in one of the building’s many floor-to-ceiling marble rotundas.

It was a thrill to take a break from my research labors and admire the twenty, twelve-foot high bookcases. They were filled with the original books that had survived another disaster there—an 1851 fire—augmented with copies from the library’s collection of many of the missing volumes. The high-tech feature of the exhibit was a computerized catalog, with photographs, of all of the books.

As I pointed out in SM, Jefferson had offered the books—the largest personal collection in the country—to the nation soon after he learned that British troops had burned the congressional library in Washington a month earlier. Because of his generous offer to expand the library, Jefferson has been known as the father of the Library of Congress, which had started in 1800 and had consisted of some 3,000 volumes before the disastrous 1815 fire.

The Library of Congress has been working since 2000 to purchase books to recreate the original Jefferson collection. With the benefit of a one-million-dollar endowment, the library has mounted an extensive effort to seek out and buy books from private collections and universities in this country, as well as in France, Netherlands, Italy and England. A new display of the Jefferson library went on view on April 12, the day before Jefferson’s birthday.

The collection of Jefferson’s books is not complete—the library has been unable to find about 300 volumes. Still, the exhibit, which is free and open to the public, is as close as anyone ever will get to experiencing the priceless library that Jefferson had accumulated at Monticello.

“You are seeing the library pretty much how Thomas Jefferson would have seen it,” Mark Dimunation, the LOC’s chief of Rare Books and Special Collections, told The Washington Post. You can read the WP article on the exhibit at: http://tinyurl.com/3z3o4c



Jefferson Slave Family Data: Since Dan Jordan took over the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1984, Monticello has done an admirable job of telling the complete history of Thomas Jefferson’s “essay in architecture.” That includes the story of the Levy family’s stewardship and of the enslaved population on the Mountain.

In the latter category, the Foundation provided crucial support for a new, in-depth genealogical look at Jefferson’s slave families, B. Bernetiae Reed’s acclaimed two-volume The Slave Families of Monticello. The book, which was published in April, offers an enlightening look at 619 slaves who were owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Reed, a retired obstetrics nurse who is now a Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies Fellow at Monticello, started the work that led to the book by researching her own family history. She ended up with a fascinating and enlightening book that includes color and black and white photos, genealogy charts, chronological charts, census records, new and old maps, and original documents.

In the book, the eminent historian John Hope Franklin notes, “Reed has brought together a remarkable amount of data on Thomas Jefferson’s slaves.” Through “careful digging over a long period of time, Reed has brought together a veritable treasure trove of materials about Jefferson’s slaves from their family life and their labors to their involvement with their owner. Anyone interested in this family, the white side or the black side, as well as slave families in general would do well to read this work carefully.”

For more info or to order, go to www.sylvest-sarah.com/book.php


Big News from U-Va. Press: It pleases me very much to announce that the paperback edition of Saving Monticello this month goes into its third printing at the University of Virginia Press.

The publishing history of the book goes like this: The first hardcover printing came out in November of 2001 from Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The hardcover subsequently went into two more printings and then, in 2004, S&S decided to take it out of print.

U-Va. Press came out with the paperback in 2003. It has sold steadily since then, and now we have the third printing. We are not talking John Grisham-like numbers here. The total print run, hardcover and paperback, is just under 20,000. But that figure is more than respectable and it heartens me to know that the story of the Levy family and Monticello is of continuing interest to so many people. Now, on to the fourth printing!


Appearances: I have three speaking appearances scheduled for May, along with a date during the week of May 12 to contribute to an upcoming History Channel documentary on the Star-Spangled Banner (the flag, not the Anthem).

Two of the talks in are for my latest book, Desperate Engagement, the story of the Civil War battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s subsequent move on Washington, D.C And one is on Flag. But I always bring copies of Saving Monticello for signing and selling at my talks and I am delighted that people continue to be very interested in that book.

Here’s a brief rundown on May ’s appearances:

On Thursday, May 1, I’ll be leading a battlefield tour at the Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland, for high school social studies teachers who come to Washington in a program sponsored by the Close Up Foundation.

On Saturday, May 10, I’ll head up to Ellicott City, Maryland, near Baltimore, to do a 2:00 talk on Desperate Engagement at the B&O Railroad Museum, located at 2711 Maryland Avenue. The talk is free and open to the public. For info, call 410-461-1945.

And on Saturday, May 17, I’ll be the speaker, on Flag, at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Colonel Trench Tilghman DAR Chapter in Bethesda, Maryland.

You can find more detailed information on these and my other upcoming appearances at http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com




Volume V, Number 4, April 1, 2008


Where is Uriah Levy Buried? If you are an endnote reader (with a good memory), you know that when I discussed Uriah Levy’s 1862 funeral in Saving Monticello, I added an endnote, noting that he was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Uriah Levy died of pneumonia on March 22, 1862, at his townhouse at 107 St. Mark’s Place in New York City. The first mention of his burial spot I found during my research was in Levy’s March 25, 1862, New York Times obituary, which reported that he was interred at Salem Fields Cemetery, which is adjacent to Cypress Hills. The second mention came in a May 28, 1862, NYT article on the details of Levy’s will. Said document, the article said, “directs the executors to erect a monument at Cypress Hills….” Every other reference I saw to Levy’s grave after that went with Cypress Hills as his final resting place.

I had an email last week from an attentive reader, John Aburzzo, who lives near Cypress Hills. He wrote to say that he believed Levy was not buried at Cypress Hills, but at an adjacent cemetery called Beth Olom, which is affiliated with Shearith Israel Congregation in New York City, the synagogue that the Levy family in New York belonged to. That email led me to do some more research, and here’s what I discovered.

Cypress Hills Cemetery (www.cypersshillscemetery.com), located on the Brooklyn-Queens border at 625 Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn, was founded on November 21, 1848, and opened to the public in 1851. It is a non-profit, non-sectarian facility, and is situated in an area that contains a dozen other cemeteries in as rural a section of Brooklyn as there is.

After New York City enacted a law in 1852 prohibiting burials in Manhattan, Cypress Hills Cemetery donated plots to churches that were closing their burial grounds in Manhattan. Soon thereafter, some 35,000 remains were transferred from cemeteries in Manhattan to Cypress Hills.

Cypress Hills, which still has a large amount of land left for present-day burials, is the final resting place of several famous people, including the great jazz musician Eubie Blake (1883-1983), the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett (1866-1933), the great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), and the actress Mae West (1893-1980). It does not contain the grave of Uriah Phillips Levy.

Uriah Levy is buried at a cemetery directly across Cypress Hills Street from Cypress Hills Cemetery at the Brooklyn-Queens border. What is the name of that cemetery? It turns out that it has two names: Shearith Israel Cemetery and Beth Olom Cemetery. “It’s all one in the same,” an official at Shearith Israel Congregation told me.

Uriah Levy, by the way, is not by any means the only notable Jewish-American entombed at the Shearith Israel Cemetery, aka Beth Olom. The list of accomplished American Jews buried there includes (the Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, the poet Emma Lazarus, the 19th century journalist Mordechai Noah (Uriah Levy’s first cousin), the movie mogul Sam Spiegel, the world chess champion Emmanuel Lasker, and U.S. Navy Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy.


Uriah Levy’s brother, Jonas Levy, also is buried at Shearith Israel/Beth Olom. But Jonas’ son (and Uriah’s nephew) Jefferson Monroe Levy, who owned Monticello from 1879 to 1923, as far as I can tell, is buried at Cypress Hills.

Gov. Holton on Dumas Malone & Monticello: “He and I would drink a little whiskey and roam around Monticello,” the 84-year-old former Republican Governor told Lisa Provence in an interview published last week in The Hook, the Charlottesville weekly. “He took me up to the Dome Room. He said to me one time, ‘Governor, write your memoir. Otherwise, your views will never be known.’”

Governor Holton, who served as Virginia’s first post-Reconstruction Republican Governor (from 1970-74), is Virginia Democratic Governor Tim Kaine’s father in law. His recently published memoir is titled Opportunity Time. The publisher is the University of Virginia Press, the good folks who publish the paperback of Saving Monticello. To read the full interview, go to: http://tiny.cc/Holtonint


Appearances: I have five appearances scheduled this month, as my unending quest to get out there and tell the world about my books, including Saving Monticello, continues.

All of the talks in April are for my latest book, Desperate Engagement, the story of the Civil War battle of Monocacy and Confederate General Jubal Early’s subsequent move on Washington, D.C. (That’s Ole Jube in the picture in the book I’m holding at a recent talk, below).

I always have copies of Saving Monticello for signing and selling at my talks and I am delighted that people continue to be very interested in that book.
Here’s a brief rundown on April ’s appearances:

On Tuesday evening, April 8, I’ll be doing at talk for the Historical Society of Frederick County, Frederick, Maryland, at 7:00 at the C. Burr Artz Library, 110 East Patrick St. in downtown Frederick. Frederick For more info, call 301-663-1188 or 301-600-1373.

On Wednesday, April 9, I will be speaking to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is part of George Mason University at the OLLI facility at 21641 Ridgetop Circle, in Sterling, Virginia.

On Friday evening, April 11, I’m heading out to the College of Southern Maryland, in Leonardtown, Maryland, where I’m doing a 7:00 p.m. talk in CSM’s Connections Literary Series. This will be my third talk in that series. For more info, call 301-934-7864 or 301-870-2309 ext. 7864

Finally, on Saturday, April 19, I’ll be speaking to the Erasmus Perry DAR Chapter, at the Rockville, Maryland Library, at 2:00 p.m.

You can find more detailed information on these and my other upcoming appearances at http://leepsoncalendar.blogspot.com That site also is the “Author Events” link on my website, www.marcleepson.com

If you’d like me to do a talk for your library, book group, civic club, or other organization on Saving Monticello, Flag, or Desperate Engagement, please email me at marcleepson@aol.com

The Documentary: For the latest information on the documentary film of Saving Monticello, go to: www.savingmonticellofilm.com





Volume V, Number 3, March 1, 2008


Footnote Me: The first thing I did when I picked up Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson (Random House, 322 pp., $27), Alan Pell Crawford’s excellent new book, was to see if Saving Monticell

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