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Jefferson's Portable Writing Desk

Jefferson's Portable Writing Desk Famous Historical Events Law and Politics Revolutionary Wars American History American Presidents

Thomas Jefferson used this writing desk—which he had designed himself—as he drafted the Declaration of Independence.  He carried it with him on the trip from Virginia to Philadelphia.

About six months before he died, Jefferson gave the portable writing desk to Joseph Coolidge, Jr., upon his marriage to Ellen Randolph (Jefferson's granddaughter).  The Library of Congress tells us more about this important American treasure:

The Declaration of Independence was composed on this mahogany lap desk, designed by Jefferson and built by Philadelphia cabinet maker Benjamin Randolph.

Jefferson gave it to Joseph Coolidge, Jr. (1798-1879) when he married Ellen Randolph, Jefferson's granddaughter.  In giving it, Jefferson wrote on November 18, 1825:  "Politics, as well as Religion, has it's superstitions. These, gaining strength with time, may, one day give imaginary value to this relic, for its association with the birth of the Great Charter of our Independence."

Coolidge replied, on February 27, 1826, that he would consider the desk "no longer inanimate, and mute, but as something to be interrogated and caressed."

Jefferson wrote many thousands of letters during his public life. 


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Library of Congress.

 

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