Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 12                                                                   December 1, 2016

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

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


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


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

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

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


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



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

 

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



 Only one event in December:

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


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

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



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


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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November 2016


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 11                                                                   November 1, 2016

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Here are my November events:

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

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







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

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

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


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

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 2016




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 10                                                          October 1, 2016

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

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


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

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

 


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

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

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



Here are my October events:

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


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

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

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 9                                                                     September 1, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


Thursday, August 4, 2016

August 2016




Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 8                                                                     August 1, 2016

LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS AT THOMAS JEFFERSON’S MONTICELLO: That’s the unoriginal, if accurate, title of a long-ish article by Julee Morrison that appeared in The Huffington Post July 6. In it, Morrison, who writes the Mommy’s Memorandum blog, offers a breezy, upbeat look at the visit she and her family paid to Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture a month ago, along with a little bit of Jefferson and Monticello history.

Morrison first mentions Uriah Levy while discussing Jefferson’s tombstone. She correctly notes that UPL, as I wrote in Saving Monticello, “moved the tombstone up to the house” because unbidden visitors had taken one too many chippings out of it as souvenirs. Morrison, in her section on Mulberry Row, does not mention the fact that Uriah Levy’s mother Rachel is buried there, despite including a picture of the Visitor Center exhibit’s images of Uriah, Rachel, and Jefferson Levy.

There are just a few lines about Monticello’s post-Jefferson history of the place. “About 10 years after the former President’s death in 1826, Uriah P. Levy purchased Jefferson’s run down estate that was almost in ruin,” Morrison correctly notes. “He began a long and costly program of renovation and restoration, including the purchase of an additional 2,500 acres adjoining the historic property.” Not exactly.



When UPL bought Monticello from James Turner Barclay in 1834, it consisted of just 218 acres (Barclay had sold off more than 300 acres in the three years he’d owned it). During the next twenty-five years, Uriah Levy did buy hundreds of acres near Monticello, but none adjacent to it. When he died in 1862, Monticello contained the same 218 acres that it had when Levy bought it from Barclay.

UPL’s nephew, Jefferson Levy, also bought (and sold) hundreds of acres around Monticello. When he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, the Monticello property itself was made up of 640 acres. Since then, the Foundation has expanded the property considerably. Today, Monticello, contains some 2,500 acres, including the former Jefferson holdings of Tufton and Shadwell.

Morrison ends her post by saying: “After Levy’s death in 1862, his will directed that Monticello - the house and property - be left ‘to the people of the United States.’ The government declined the offer.”

There are, however, two other (fairly minor) errors: Monticello is in Charlottesville, not Charleston. And the “nickel view” Morrison writes about is the one seen from the “back of the house,” as there is no “back.”

Thomas Jefferson officially named the two entrances the “East Front” and “West Front.” The latter is the “nickel view.”

To read the entire article, go to huffingtonpost.com/julee-morrison

EVENTS:  I am working with the copy editor on next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I soon will be doing a lot more speaking engagements on all of my books, including Saving Monticello.



The only event I have scheduled for August is a talk I will on Sunday, August 28, at 2:00 p.m. at the Graffiti House, the visitors center at the Brandy Station Civil War Battlefield in Brandy Station, Virginia, between Warrenton and Remington, in Fauquier County. My talk on Francis Scott Key and my biography, What So Proudly We Hailed is free and open to the public. For more info, go to brandystationfoundation.com


Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including my Francis Scott Key, biography, What So Proudly We Hailed, and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette, and my upcoming Barry Sadler biography (title coming soon) —at marc527psc@aol.com For more details on other upcoming events, go to http://bit.ly/SMOnline That’s the “Author Events” page on my website, 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: marcleepson.com/signedbooks.html to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia.

We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 7                                                                     July 1, 2016

THE AUCTIONS:  My friend, Rebecca English, who lives near Charlottesville and has done pioneering research on the fate of the four “Levy lions” that once graced the grounds at Monticello, has dug up some great new material on the second of two 1928 auctions of Jefferson Levy’s Monticello furniture and furnishings.



As I wrote in Saving Monticello, when Jefferson Levy sold Monticello to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation in 1923 for $500,000 he agreed to convey everything inside the house as well.

But the Foundation’s director of restoration Fiske Kimball did not want one stick of Levy’s furniture in the house. That’s why the Foundation held a public auction of Jefferson Levy's former furniture at Monticello on November 17, 1928, to, in essence, erase all traces of the 89-year ownership of Monticello by Jefferson Levy and his uncle Uriah Levy. 



“We are making room at Monticello for more of the original relics and furnishings which belonged to Thomas Jefferson,” the Foundation’s President Stewart Gibboney said the day before the sale. When Gibboney explained what furnishings were going up for auction, he did not mention the names Uriah Levy or Jefferson Levy.

“Only those furnishings which did not belong to Jefferson but which were placed there during the years when Monticello was in private hands will be sold,” he said. That meant that all the tables and chairs, sofas, carpets, chandeliers, clocks, vases, statuary, paintings, lamps, beds, bureaus, dressers, chests, and a pair of twin bed, that Jefferson Levy had purchased and conveyed with the sale would go to the highest bidders.


After the November 17 auction in Virginia, a second sale (of the larger items) took place December 4-8 at the Art Rooms at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Foundation officials pasted a label on each item that said that the piece had come from Monticello during the Levy period.

As Rebecca found out, Levy’s Monticello items were only a part of that sale, which took place over five days. The auction also included items from the collection of a mining magnate named John Markle. What’s more, many of the Jefferson and Monticello-related items appear to have been donated to the Foundation by their owners for the auction, the proceeds of which would be used to pay off the mortgage at Monticello and for the Foundation’s operating expenses. Above is an image of page two of the catalogue.

Rebecca found that more than a thousand items were sold during the sale. Of that group, she saw thirteen listed in the catalogue as having once been at Monticello during Jefferson Levy’s stewardship (from 1879-1923).

The group included a gilt bedstead; two green and gold, hand-carved bedsteads said to come from Mad King Ludwig; a bronze and rosewood inkstand; a set of 22 flags of the nations; a statue of Marcus Aurelius from Monticello’s lawn; a Pandora clock and pedestal “that once adorned the palace of Louis XV”; a blue and gold clock with two four-branch candelabra; and a set of three Royal Sevres vases and a clock from France.

The latter (in photo below from the catalog) sat atop the dining room mantel, the one on which Jefferson Levy had replaced the distinctive Wedgwood insets that had been destroyed by vandals in the 1870s. 


The Greek-style statue of a woman (below) also was listed in the catalogue. The photo is among those in the Holsinger Studio Collection of Monticello photographs taken from 1912-1917 that are now in Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library.


                       

For more on Rebecca English’s work on the auctions, go to http://forsythiahill.blogspot.com/2016/02/plaza-art-auction-new-york-city-items.htmlh

EVENTS:  I am about to begin working with the copy editor on next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I soon will be doing more speaking on my books, including Saving Monticello.

I have just one event scheduled this month, Monday, July 4, a live appearance at 7:50 a.m. Eastern time on the “The Warren Pierce Show,” on WJR Radio, Detroit. I’ll be talking about Francis Scott Key and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The show streams live at wjr.com/the-warren-pierce-show




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

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


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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 6                                                                     June 1, 2016


OLDEST CONGREGATION & SYNAGOGUE:  Here’s a quick two-part quiz:
  • What is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States?
  • What is the nation’s oldest synagogue?
If you answered Shearith Israel in New York City as the oldest congregation and Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode, Island, as the oldest synagogue, you go to the head of the class.

As I wrote in SavingMonticello, Shearith Israel was the first Jewish congregation established in North America. It was founded in 1654 by the first Jews who arrived in Niuw Amsterdam, as New York City was then known, from Recife, Brazil. Until 1825, it was the only Jewish congregation in the city.


Shearith Israel moved to its fifth and current home, a magnificent building at 70th Street and Central Park West (above), in 1897. Uriah Levy’s great grandfather, David Machado—who married Maria Caetana Nunez, the daughter of the family patriarch Dr. Samuel Nunez—moved from Savannah, Georgia, to New York to serve as hazzan of Shearith Israel in the 1740s. A hundred years later Uriah Levy joined the Congregation. His nephew L. Napoleon Levy (a brother of Jefferson Levy) served as president of Shearith Isreal in the 1890s. I had the pleasure of doing a talk there on the Levy Family and Monticello in March of 2002.

The congregation that would make its home in Touro Synagogue—which does not have a Nunez/Phillips/Levy family connection—was founded in 1658 as Nephuse Israel, also by Sephardic descendants of Jewish families who first went to the Caribbean to escape certain death during the Spanish Inquisition. The current Touro Synagogue was dedicated in 1763, making it the oldest in the nation. 

Touro—which was named for two of its congregants—recently won a legal battle with Shearith Israel in the District Court of Providence. It had to do with Touro’s proposed sale of an extremely valuable pair of 18th century silver ornaments called rimonim that sit on top of Torahs. Touro wanted to sell the finials to raise millions to keep the synagogue operating.

Shearith Israel argued that it owned not just the rimonim, but also the Touro synagogue itself. That’s because many of Touro’s congregants had moved to New York and joined Shearith Israel in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They closed the building, and took the keys to Touro and many other objects, including Torahs and rimonim, with them to Shearith Israel.

The objects were returned about a hundred years later when Rhode Island experienced a large wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern and Central Europe and the long-dormant Touro reopened.



“The central issue here is the legacy of some of the earliest Jewish settlers in North America, who desired to make Newport a permanent haven for public Jewish worship,” Judge John J. McConnell wrote in his decision, in which he ruled that Shearith Israel had been the trustee—not the owner—of Touro.

For more info on the dispute, here's an article in The New York Times.

EVENTS:  
·        Saturday, June 11  – 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. book signing of Saving Monticello at the Gift Shop at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Tuesday, June 14 10:20 a.m. talk on Flag: An American Biography, Brethren Village Retirement Community “Lunch & Learn” event, 3001 Lititz Pike, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  • Saturday, June 18 – 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. book signing of Saving Monticello, Flag, Desperate Engagement, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed at “Eat Local, Read Local” event, Cascades Library, Potomac Falls, Virginia
  • Sunday, June 19 – 10:45 a.m. talk on Flag and book signing at LZ Maryland Writers’ Hootch, Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium, Maryland
  • Saturday, June 25 – Luncheon talk on Lafayette and book signing for Virginia Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, Charlottesville, Virginia. 


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

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

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 2016


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 5                                                                     May 1, 2016


‘BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT’:  That’s the name of an exhibit, subtitled “Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War,” on view at the Princeton University Art Museum through June 14.
The exhibit, which opened in February, contains more than 170 objects—novels, poems, books, maps, religious works, paintings, photographs, newspapers, and scientific treatises—produced by, or relating to, Jews in the Early Republic.
The items are on loan from museums, synagogues, and private collections, including many objects from the collection of Princeton alum Leonard L. Milberg. That includes this 1831 portrait of strikingly beautiful Rebecca Gratz (above) by the famed, Philadelphia-based portrait painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872).
Several of the items in the exhibit are connected to Phillips/Levy family. That includes the famous June 27, 1787, letter written by the noted Philadelphia physician (and signer of the Declaration of Independence) Dr. Benjamin Rush to his wife, in which he described the June 1787 wedding of Uriah Levy’s mother and father, Rachel Phillips and Michael Levy in Philadelphia. Rush’s description of their wedding is thought to be the first written record of a Jewish wedding ceremony in the New World.

Family tradition holds, by the way (as I wrote in Saving Monticello), that George Washington, then president of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, attended the wedding. Other family stories claim that Washington had danced at the wedding of Uriah Levy’s grandparents, Jonas Phillips and Rebecca Machado back in 1762.

Also in the Princeton exhibit is another important letter in the annals of Jewish-American history. It was written on May 28, 1818, by Thomas Jefferson to Uriah Levy’s second cousin Mordecai Manuel Noah—a diplomat and journalist, and the first American-born Jewish person to become nationally prominent. Earlier that year Noah had given a speech at Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, a copy of which made its way to Monticello.

Jefferson wrote to Noah on May 28, 1818, expressing his views on freedom of religion and his condemnation of anti-Semitism. Jefferson wrote that he had read Noah’s speech “with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from it some valuable facts in 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 practiced 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, for although we are free by the law, we are not so in practice.... I salute you with great respect and esteem.”

The letter is in the collection of the Yeshiva University Museum.

           
The exhibit’s lavishly illustrated catalog, with thirteen scholarly essays, is being sold at the Art Museum Store. For more info, go to artmuseum.princeton.edu/art/exhibitions/1655


EVENTS:  I just sent in my manuscript for my next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I soon will be doing more speaking on my books, including Saving Monticello.

Just one event this month, on Sunday, May 15, at the Manassas Museum in Manassas, Virginia, a talk on Lafayette at 1:30 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. For info, go to manassascity.org/1657/Free-Book-Talks

  

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

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

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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April 2016


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson


Volume XIII, Number 4                                                                     April 1, 2016


HEMINGS FAMILY TOUR:  Although Saving Monticello begins on the day that Thomas Jefferson died (July 4, 1826), people regularly ask me what I think about the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemings, the famed enslaved woman. I always tell them that Saving Monticello is a history of what happened to Monticello after Jefferson’s death and I therefore do not cover the controversial question of their relationship in the book.

That said, I do provide a brief look at the house’s origins and Thomas Jefferson’s last years (1809-26) in the book. I mention that in a codicil to his will, Jefferson granted freedom to five of his enslaved men who had learned trades, all of whom were members of the Hemings family: Joe Fossett, Burwell Culbert and John, Madison and Eston Hemings. All five of the newly free men were also given houses. I also note that Burwell Culbert, Joe Fossett, and John Hemings joined with family members at Jefferson’s bedside during the last week of his life.

There was a lot more to the Hemings family at Monticello, of course. The newest special tour at Monticello, the Hemings Family Tour, helps visitors learn about seven members of the family, including Sally. Starting today, April 1, 2016, Monticello will offer this one hour, forty-five minute tour on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1:45 p.m through November. The cost is $27 per person and the tour includes the standard first-floor house tour.

 

 This is a small-group tour that takes visitors into the house and along Mulberry Row, interpreting life in the house and plantation through the stories of the Hemings family members.

“Through their experiences, you will learn about the challenges faced by members of this large, important family at Monticello as they negotiated to maintain family ties and strove for freedom,” the Monticello web suite notes. “The tour will also highlight how the Hemingses straddled the color line, defying the stark racial dividing lines imposed in American slavery.” 

This special tour is another example of the admirable job the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which bought Monticello from Jefferson Levy in 1923, has done in recent decades documenting the lives of the enslaved families at Monticello. The Hemings family is among the best documented—not just at Monticello, but anywhere in the U.S.

Researchers at Monticello have, as the website notes, done a massive amount of documentary research, archaeological analysis and oral histories of Hemings descendants, and have come up with “related narratives of struggle, survival, and family bonds across more than three generations.” For more info on the tour, go to http://bit.ly/HemingsTour

The Foundation also has just made available a free new app, “Slavery at Monticello,” that complements the tour. For info on that, go to http://bit.ly/Hemingsapp

EVENTS:  I’m wrapping up my next book, the biography of Barry Sadler, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” guy, which will come out in March of next year. I soon will be doing more speaking on my books, including Saving Monticello. Here’s what’s afoot this month:

·        Monday April 4 – 11:00 a.m. Pacific time appearance on “The Mike Slater Show” on KFMB radio in San Diego, discussing What So Proudly We Hailed, my biography of Francis Scott Key
·        Saturday, April 30 Talk on Francis Scott Key for the Cameron Parish DAR Chapter’s annual meeting, Ashburn, Virginia





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


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

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