From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Revision as of 11:55, 28 April 2008 by Bcraig (Talk | contribs)

Jefferson owned mockingbirds for most of his life and they really were his only pet. They gave him company as he worked alone. The first birds were purchased in the 1770s, but more documentation began during his presidency. As President, Jefferson's weather memorandum book states he owned at least four mockingbirds one of which he called a "New Orleans mockingbird."[1]

One of these birds was named Dick and it was considered his favorite. Margaret Bayard Smith states that Dick's cage was suspended among the roses and geraniums in the window recesses of the presidential cabinet.[2] It was not unusual to open the cage and let the bird fly around the room while he worked. Dick was known to even sit on Jefferson's shoulder and hop up stairs with him. When he retired, he still had a bird although we don't know the length of Dick's life.

Primary Source References

1772 November 2. "Pd. Martin at Forest for mocking bird 5/."[3]

1773 July 9. "Pd. Jame for two mockg. birds 11/6."[4]

1781 April 5. "Pd. Jame for mocking bird L18."[5]

1803 May 31. "Gave Joseph Daugherty ord. on J. Barnes for 10. D. to buy a mockg. bird & cage."[6]

1803 November 17. "Pd. Steele for a mocking bird 15.D."[7]


  1. Weather Book. January 22, 1806, February 19, 1806, February 25, 1806, January 23, 1808, January 31, 1808, March 2, 1808, and March 3, 1808. Thomas Jefferson Papers, MHi
  2. Smith, Margaret Bayard. The First Forty Years of Washington Society. (New York: Scribner, 1906), 385.
  3. MB, 1:297.
  4. Ibid, 1:343.
  5. Ibid, 1:508.
  6. Ibid, 2:1101.
  7. Ibid, 2:1112.

Further Sources