Monday, August 6, 2018

August 2018

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

Volume XV, Number 8                                                                      August 1, 2018

The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner
STUDIO 360 REDUX:  I distinctly remember the day in the summer of 2010 when I sat down in a small studio at WETA, the NPR station in Arlington, Virginia, put on a pair of large headphones, and began talking into a giant radio microphone about the Levys and Monticello. On the other end of the line at the studios of WNYC in New York where Studio 360 originates was the producer Amanda Aroncyzk, who had contacted me a few weeks earlier.

The interview became part of a 50-minute Studio 360 “American Icons” program that ran on October 22, 2010. It was very well well done, and I was gratified that the last ten minutes or so covered the Levy family story I told in Saving Monticello.

That section also included the words of Susan Stein, Monticello’s long-time curator, and Harley Lewis, the Levy family descendant who helped me so much when I was doing the research for the book—and a bit of clever audio reconstruction.

In the intervening eight years, Studio 360 has rebroadcast the show three or four times, most recently last month. That most-recent version included up-to-date info on Monticello’s new Sally Hemings exhibit and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s latest efforts to tell the story of all the enslaved people at Monticello.

You can hear the original and the latest version of the show on the Studio 360 website at

SISTER AMELIA:  Twenty years ago, when I was doing the research for Saving Monticello, I spent many hours going through archival material at the Center for Jewish History at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City. It was there that I discovered a treasure trove of primary-source material on Jefferson M. Levy: several giant scrapbooks containing letters, speeches, and scores of yellowing, crumbling newspaper clippings about that prominent New Yorker. The clips included extensive coverage of his fight to keep Monticello during the 1912-17 effort by members of Congress to take the place from him and turn it into a government-run shrine to Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson M. Levy
Since then, much of that material has been digitized and some is available on the Center’s website. As I was browsing through the material the other day, I came across a newspaper clipping about Jefferson Levy’s younger sister Amelia.

Amelia Levy, who was born in 1858, married Carl Mayhoff, a New York City cotton broker, in 1890. The Mayhoffs lived most of the year in New York City at 66 East 34th Street, the same block where Jefferson Levy lived. Their only child, Monroe, was born in 1897.

Four years earlier, in the summer of 1893, Amelia had begun to play a not-insignifcant role in her family’s stewardship of Monticello.

As I noted in the book, after their mother’s death in January of 1893, Jefferson Levy (a life-long bachelor) asked Amelia—who used the name “von Mayhoff”—to be his hostess at Monticello, a position she relished. For the next thirty years the siblings regularly hosted long visits from friends and relatives who often arrived at Monticello with children and servants. Amelia also occasionally accompanied Jefferson Levy on his travels to Washington and to Europe.

During the seasons when she was in charge of Monticello, Amelia Mayhoff also presided over countless dinner parties, playing hostess to visiting dignitaries including President Theodore Roosevelt, ambassadors, members of Congress, and university professors, in addition to family and friends from Charlottesville, New York, and elsewhere.

Jefferson Levy left his entire estate to Amelia in a will he had executed on September 28, 1923, less than six months before he died on March 6, 1924. He wrote the will after he had agreed to sell Monticello to the newly formed Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation. The deal was finalized on December 1, 1923, when Jefferson Levy signed the title of Monticello over to the Foundation in New York City. Within days after her brother’s death in March Amelia announced that she would not stand in the way of the final transfer of Monticello to the Foundation.

Amelia Mayhoff lobbied in 1928 to have portraits she had inherited of her brother Jefferson Levy and her uncle Uriah Levy that had long been hung in Monticello kept on display in the house. But Fiske Kimball, who was hired to chair the Foundation’s Monticello Restoration Committee, turned down the officer.

Amelia then donated the full-length Uriah Levy oil portrait to the U.S. Navy. It is on display today at the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. She presented the 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

EVENTS: Taking a rare break from speaking events in August, but have plenty scheduled for the fall. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, for info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to

 If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including Ballad of the Green Beret—please email me at  For details on other upcoming events, go to

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at  I also have a few as-new, unopened hardcover copies.
Or go to to order copies through my local bookstore, Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, and What So Proudly We Hailed, and Ballad of the Green Beret.