Mammoth Cheese

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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-The '''mammoth cheese''' <ref>This article is based on J. Boehm, Monticello Research Report, October 1997.</ref> was a present given to President [[Thomas Jefferson]]. In the summer of 1801, Elder John Leland persuaded the ladies of his Baptist congregation in Cheshire, Massachusetts, to manufacture an enormous cheese.<ref>The best account of this incident is found in L.H. Butterfield, "The Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant," [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=10752 Proceedings American Antiquarian Society,] 62(1953): 216-219. [[Short Title List|Malone,]] 4:106-108 supplies an abbreviated account.</ref> He intended to present it to President Jefferson in honor of his republicanism and his support of religious liberty.+In the summer of 1801, Elder John Leland persuaded the ladies of his Baptist congregation in Cheshire, Massachusetts, to manufacture a "'''mammoth cheese'''."<ref>This article is based on J. Boehm, Monticello Research Report, October 1997.</ref> He intended to present it to President Jefferson in honor of his republicanism and his support of religious liberty.
-Word of the cheese-making and its purpose soon appeared in print. That August, a Republican newspaper in Rhode Island reported that the cheese utilized the milk of 900 cows, was formed in a cider press that measured six feet in diameter, and had engraved on it the motto, "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." Federalist papers responded with derision. One writer in the ''Hampshire Gazette'' employed [[Charles Willson Peale|Charles Willson Peale's]] scientific term "mammoth" to underscore how ludicrous he found the production of the enormous cheese.<ref>Peale, a Republican, was utilizing the term to popularize a specimen he was then mounting in his museum at [[Philadelphia]]. [[Short Title List|Malone,]] 4: 107.</ref> On January 26, 1802, after the cheese had been delivered, the ''Norwich Packet'' sarcastically reported that bakers in New York were "now preparing an oven of a magnitude sufficient to make a loaf of bread proportionate to the cheese," and that a glass manufacturer in Albany had "already blown a bottle of a size to contain one tun, which they intend to fill with...[the] best American Porter." The article included that "Mr. Jefferson convivial friends...may not only have cheese, but bread, cheese, and porter."<ref>''Norwich Packet,'' January 26, 1802.</ref>+Word of the cheese-making and its purpose soon appeared in print. That August, a Republican newspaper in [[Rhode Island]] reported that the cheese utilized the milk of 900 cows, was formed in a cider press that measured six feet in diameter, and had engraved on it the motto, "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."<ref>This was the motto used on Jefferson's [[Personal Seal|personal seal]].</ref> Federalist papers responded with derision. One writer in the ''Hampshire Gazette'' employed [[Charles Willson Peale]]'s scientific term "mammoth" to underscore how ludicrous he found the production of the enormous cheese.<ref>Peale, a Republican, was utilizing the term to popularize a specimen he was then mounting in his museum at [[Philadelphia]]. [[Short Title List|Malone,]] 4:107.</ref> On January 26, 1802, after the cheese had been delivered, the ''Norwich Packet'' sarcastically reported that bakers in New York were "now preparing an oven of a magnitude sufficient to make a loaf of bread proportionate to the cheese," and that a glass manufacturer in Albany had "already blown a bottle of a size to contain one tun, which they intend to fill with...[the] best American Porter." The article included that "Mr. Jefferson's convivial friends...may not only have cheese, but bread, cheese, and porter."<ref>''Norwich Packet,'' January 26, 1802.</ref>
-Late in November, Leland transported the cheese by sleigh or wagon from Massachusetts to the Hudson River, by sloop to New York and Baltimore, then by wagon to Washington, where it arrived on December 29, 1801. The Baptist elder presented the cheese to Jefferson in a small ceremony in the President's House on New Year's Day. He praised Jefferson for the "singular blessings that have been derived from the numerous services you have rendered to mankind in general." Leland further noted that the cheese "was produced by the personal labor of freeborn farmers with the voluntary and cheerful aid of their wives and daughters, without the assistance of a single slave." The president's accepting remarks praised the people of Cheshire for this "extaordinary proof of the skill with which those domestic arts which contribute so much to our daily comfort are practised by them." In keeping with scientific character, Jefferson recorded the mammoth cheese's dimensions: 4 feet 4 1/2 inches in diameter, 15 inches thick and weighing in at 1,235 pounds.+Late in November, Leland transported the cheese by sleigh or wagon from Massachusetts to the Hudson River, by sloop to New York and Baltimore, then by wagon to Washington, where it arrived on December 29, 1801. The Baptist elder presented the cheese to Jefferson in a small ceremony in the President's House on New Year's Day. He praised Jefferson for the "singular blessings that have been derived from the numerous services you have rendered to mankind in general." Leland further noted that the cheese "was produced by the personal labor of freeborn farmers with the voluntary and cheerful aid of their wives and daughters, without the assistance of a single slave." The president's accepting remarks praised the people of Cheshire for this "extraordinary proof of the skill with which those domestic arts which contribute so much to our daily comfort are practised by them." Jefferson later wrote privately to his son-in-law of the cheese: "the Mammoth cheese is arrived here and is to be presented this day. it is 4 f 4 1/2 I. diameter, 15. I. thick, and weighted in August 1230 lb. They were offered 1000. D. in New York for the use of it 12. days as a shew. it is an ebullition of the passion of republicanism in a state where it has been under heavy persecution."<ref>Jefferson to [[Thomas Mann Randolph]], Washington, January 1, 1802, in [[Short Title List|''PTJ'']], 36:262. [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page025.db&recNum=563 Recipient copy] available online from the Library of Congress.</ref>
-Jefferson's policy to refuse gifts while in office led him on January 4, 1802, to pay Leland $200 for the cheese.<ref>[[Short Title List|MB,]] 2:1062.</ref> Though no precise date can be given for the cheese's ultimate disposal, it appears to have been present at the President's House the following New Year's Day, and may well have been there as late as March of 1804. Apocryphal accounts assert that the last of it was served at a presidential reception in 1805, or that it was dumped in the Potomac at some date unknown.+Jefferson's policy to refuse gifts while in office led him on January 4, 1802, to pay Leland $200 for the cheese.<ref>[[Short Title List|''MB'',]] 2:1062.</ref> Though no precise date can be given for the cheese's ultimate disposal, it appears to have been present at the President's House the following New Year's Day, and was reported to still be there as late as March of 1804 (at which point it was described as "very far from being good").<ref>Everett S. Brown, ed., [http://books.google.com/books?id=jl9jGwAACAAJ ''William Plumer's Memorandum of Proceedings in the United States Senate, 1803-1807''] (New York: Macmillan, 1923), 212-3.</ref> Apocryphal accounts assert that the last of it was served at a presidential reception in 1805, or that it was dumped in the Potomac at some date unknown.
==Footnotes== ==Footnotes==
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==See Also== ==See Also==
*[[Gifts from Foreign Dignitaries]] *[[Gifts from Foreign Dignitaries]]
 +
 +==Further Sources==
 +*Butterfield, L. H. [http://tjportal.monticello.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=10752 "The Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant."] ''Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society'' 62(1953): 216-219.
 +*Browne, C. A. "Elder John Leland and the Mammoth Cheshire Cheese," ''Agricultural History'' 15(1944): 145-53.
 +*Davis, John. ''Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America During 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802.'' New York: Holt, 1909. See [http://books.google.com/books?id=tKULAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22travels%20of%20four%20years%20and%20a%20half%20in%20the%20united%20states%20of%20america%22&pg=PA359#v=onepage&q&f=false pp. 359-60].
 +*Kennedy, Thomas. "Ode to the Mammoth Cheese Presented to Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, By the Inhabitants of Cheshire, Massachusetts, January 1, 1802." Broadside, Williamsport, Md., January, 1802. Later published in Kennedy, Thomas, ''Poems'' (Washington, D.C.: Rapine, 1816), [http://books.google.com/books?id=tAFMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA85 85-87].
 +*[[Short Title List|Malone,]] 4:106-108.
 +*Schulz, Constance B. "'Of Bigotry in Politics and Religion': Jefferson's Religion, the Federalist Press, and the Syllabus." ''Virginia Magazine of History and Biography,'' 91, no. 1(1983): 73-91. See especially pp. 80-82.
[[Category:Food and Drink]] [[Category:Food and Drink]]
[[Category:Frequently Asked Questions]] [[Category:Frequently Asked Questions]]

Current revision

In the summer of 1801, Elder John Leland persuaded the ladies of his Baptist congregation in Cheshire, Massachusetts, to manufacture a "mammoth cheese."[1] He intended to present it to President Jefferson in honor of his republicanism and his support of religious liberty.

Word of the cheese-making and its purpose soon appeared in print. That August, a Republican newspaper in Rhode Island reported that the cheese utilized the milk of 900 cows, was formed in a cider press that measured six feet in diameter, and had engraved on it the motto, "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God."[2] Federalist papers responded with derision. One writer in the Hampshire Gazette employed Charles Willson Peale's scientific term "mammoth" to underscore how ludicrous he found the production of the enormous cheese.[3] On January 26, 1802, after the cheese had been delivered, the Norwich Packet sarcastically reported that bakers in New York were "now preparing an oven of a magnitude sufficient to make a loaf of bread proportionate to the cheese," and that a glass manufacturer in Albany had "already blown a bottle of a size to contain one tun, which they intend to fill with...[the] best American Porter." The article included that "Mr. Jefferson's convivial friends...may not only have cheese, but bread, cheese, and porter."[4]

Late in November, Leland transported the cheese by sleigh or wagon from Massachusetts to the Hudson River, by sloop to New York and Baltimore, then by wagon to Washington, where it arrived on December 29, 1801. The Baptist elder presented the cheese to Jefferson in a small ceremony in the President's House on New Year's Day. He praised Jefferson for the "singular blessings that have been derived from the numerous services you have rendered to mankind in general." Leland further noted that the cheese "was produced by the personal labor of freeborn farmers with the voluntary and cheerful aid of their wives and daughters, without the assistance of a single slave." The president's accepting remarks praised the people of Cheshire for this "extraordinary proof of the skill with which those domestic arts which contribute so much to our daily comfort are practised by them." Jefferson later wrote privately to his son-in-law of the cheese: "the Mammoth cheese is arrived here and is to be presented this day. it is 4 f 4 1/2 I. diameter, 15. I. thick, and weighted in August 1230 lb. They were offered 1000. D. in New York for the use of it 12. days as a shew. it is an ebullition of the passion of republicanism in a state where it has been under heavy persecution."[5]

Jefferson's policy to refuse gifts while in office led him on January 4, 1802, to pay Leland $200 for the cheese.[6] Though no precise date can be given for the cheese's ultimate disposal, it appears to have been present at the President's House the following New Year's Day, and was reported to still be there as late as March of 1804 (at which point it was described as "very far from being good").[7] Apocryphal accounts assert that the last of it was served at a presidential reception in 1805, or that it was dumped in the Potomac at some date unknown.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on J. Boehm, Monticello Research Report, October 1997.
  2. This was the motto used on Jefferson's personal seal.
  3. Peale, a Republican, was utilizing the term to popularize a specimen he was then mounting in his museum at Philadelphia. Malone, 4:107.
  4. Norwich Packet, January 26, 1802.
  5. Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Washington, January 1, 1802, in PTJ, 36:262. Recipient copy available online from the Library of Congress.
  6. MB, 2:1062.
  7. Everett S. Brown, ed., William Plumer's Memorandum of Proceedings in the United States Senate, 1803-1807 (New York: Macmillan, 1923), 212-3.

See Also

Further Sources

  • Butterfield, L. H. "The Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 62(1953): 216-219.
  • Browne, C. A. "Elder John Leland and the Mammoth Cheshire Cheese," Agricultural History 15(1944): 145-53.
  • Davis, John. Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America During 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and 1802. New York: Holt, 1909. See pp. 359-60.
  • Kennedy, Thomas. "Ode to the Mammoth Cheese Presented to Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, By the Inhabitants of Cheshire, Massachusetts, January 1, 1802." Broadside, Williamsport, Md., January, 1802. Later published in Kennedy, Thomas, Poems (Washington, D.C.: Rapine, 1816), 85-87.
  • Malone, 4:106-108.
  • Schulz, Constance B. "'Of Bigotry in Politics and Religion': Jefferson's Religion, the Federalist Press, and the Syllabus." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 91, no. 1(1983): 73-91. See especially pp. 80-82.