A Remarkable Group Of Architectural Drafting Tools Which Once Belonged To Thomas Jefferson
Even among the brilliant and able men who comprised the Republic's Founding Fathers, Jefferson stood out. He is often described as a true "Renaissance man," and with good reason. As a political philosopher, he penned the Declaration of Independence as well as the 1777 Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and later, together with James Madison, wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which attempted to nullify the Alien and Sedition Acts adopted under John Adams (and in so doing provided the philosophical arguments for States Rights.) As a public servant, he served as Virginia's wartime governor during the Revolution, Secretary of State under Washington, and of course two terms as the third president of the United States. During the 1780s he functioned as a diplomat in France, ultimately becoming the first United States Minister to that nation. In this role he utterly charmed the cosmopolitan French with his intellect and wit. As president, he oversaw the vast Louisiana Purchase. To the end of his days, he wrote extensively on the philosophy of government and politics.
Jefferson's interests ranged from philosophy to the sciences, and he was an early and prominent opponent of slavery. In 1819 his love of learning led him to found the University of Virginia. One of Jefferson's most famous avocations was, of course, architecture. Self-taught, he became an accomplished designer and draftsman whose masterwork, Monticello, remains one of the most-visited American historical sites. Jefferson also contributed to the design of the new capital, the city of Washington, and to various public buildings in Virginia. He even submitted an anonymous proposed design for the new official presidential residence, now known as the White House. Accordingly, Heritage is both proud and excited to be able to make this unprecedented offering of no less than five marvelous drafting instruments actually owned and used by Thomas Jefferson.
The provenance for these objects is both fascinating and ironclad. They are consigned by a direct descendant of James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president. The Jefferson and Monroe families, as well as the Madison's, were closely intertwined in Virginia, both socially and politically. This relationship was explored in a televised PBS documentary several years ago. Four of the first five U.S. presidents (all except John Adams) were from Virginia. The drafting tools offered here descended from Jefferson to his great-great-great granddaughter, Frances Maury Burke. Miss Burke was very friendly with the prominent Hoes family, direct descendants of Monroe, who were extremely active in Virginia historical preservation efforts. Rose G. Hoes (1860 - 1932) was a founding regent of Monticello in 1922. Her son Lawrence Gouvernour Hoes (1900 - 1978) was co-founder of the James Monroe Shrine in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In the 1920s Fanny Burke painted a copy of the well-known Vanderlyn portrait of Mrs. Monroe for Lawrence Hoes, inasmuch as the original would go to his elder brother, also a founder of the James Monroe Shrine. Lawrence Hoes owned the famed Vanderlyn portrait of James Madison, which was sold to the White House during the Nixon Administration.
In those days Thomas Jefferson was widely believed to have had a hand in drafting the plans for James Monroe's mansion, Oak Hill (now no longer believed to have been the case). This was perhaps the motivating factor in Miss Burke's transfer of the drafting tools offered here, along with various other items which had belonged to Jefferson, to the Hoes family. For years they were on display at the family's privately-maintained and operated James Monroe site. Upon the death of Lawrence Hoes in 1978, most of the Monroe items were transferred to the James Monroe Law-Office Museum. Several Jefferson items, including a gold watch, death bed notes, and locks of hair from Jefferson and his wife, went to the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, a number of Jefferson items remained with the Hoes family. In 1984 a group of these items was sold to Monticello by the widow of Lawrence Hoes (now Mrs. Pope). However, these drafting instruments remained in her possession until the present day, and are now consigned for sale by Heritage directly from Mrs. Pope. Each object is accompanied by a notarized letter outlining its lineage and attesting to its authenticity.
When the possessions of prominent historical figures appear in the marketplace, the level of interest is almost always directly proportional to the degree to which they relate to a characteristic for which that individual was famous, and to the extent to which they can be presumed to have been frequently handled and used by the individual. One of the best-known aspects of Thomas Jefferson's persona is his role as architect of Monticello. With a patina exhibiting clear signs of use, these instruments may well have been employed in that pursuit, and were in any case certainly often handled and used by Jefferson.
Items of any kind which were personally owned by Thomas Jefferson rarely become available for private purchase. While not all auction sales records are available to research, our efforts failed to turn up a single item, other than an occasional book from his library, which was personally owned by Jefferson. These evocative drafting instruments present a most unusual and important opportunity for collectors and institutions alike.