Mary Randolph (Physiognotrace)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Mary Randolph by Saint-Memin. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
Mary Randolph by Saint-Memin. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

Artist/Maker: Charles Fevret de Saint-Memin (1770-1852)[1]

Created: 1807

Materials: engraving

Dimensions: 5.6 (2 3/16 in.)

Location: South Square Room

Provenance: Possibly a gift from Mary Randolph to Martha Jefferson Randolph; by descent to Charles, James, and John Eddy; by gift to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1962

Accession Number: 1962-1-39

Historical Notes:Although members of Jefferson's extended family, Mary Randolph and her husband, David Meade Randolph, were among his most bitter political critics. Jefferson recommended David for the post of United States marshal for Virginia during Washington's presidency, but his suspicion that Randolph packed a jury with Federalists led Jefferson to dismiss him in 1801. The couple remained in close contact with Jefferson's family because Mary Randolph was Thomas Mann Randolph's sister (the husband of Jefferson's daughter Martha). Following his dismissal from office, the Randolphs opened a boardinghouse in Richmond, and there Mrs. Randolph gained a reputation for her culinary skills.[2] Both Randolphs continued to be outspoken critics of Jefferson.

In 1825, Mrs. Randolph capitalized on her skills and published one of the best-known cookbooks of the nineteenth century, The Virginia House-Wife. She sent a copy of Jefferson who thanked her for the book, writing that it was "one of those which contribute most to the innocent enjoyments of mankind...a greater degree of merit few classes of books can claim."[3] Manuscript cookbooks kept by Jefferson's granddaugthers reveal that Mrs. Randolph was the source of over forty dishes that were served at Monticello, including catfish soup and floating island.[4]


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 206.
  2. Fillmore Norfleet, Saint-Memin in Virginia: Portraits and Biographies (Richmond VA: Dietz Press, 1942), 201-202.
  3. Mary Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, March 17, 1825. Thomas Jefferson Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society.
  4. Virginia Randolph Trist manuscript cookbook, University of Virginia; Mary Randolph, Virginia House-Wife, ed. Karen Hess (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1984), passim.