Archive for July, 2009

Thomas Jefferson as Virginia’s Governor.

Today started off as has been the norm for the past week or so – got to the Library slightly late, dug into some e-mails, and the cracked open some books to start my research for the day. I also began double-checking for holes in the outline for my essay, and sure enough – I had overlooked a big one. I had neglected to include the establishment of the Law school (then called the school of Law and Police) at William and Mary, with his good friend and mentor George Wythe as its first professor. This is essential, as it shows that FINALLY Jefferson had gotten some sort of improvement into the College. Awesome. So I dove into the TJPortal in search of further information, and found practically nothing. I had tried JSTOR, and I had already read the articles of interest that they had to offer.

Then it hit me – perhaps I should try the Princeton volumes of TJ’s papers. Jefferson said it himself somewhere (I remember reading it at some point…but I can’t remember where… the researcher’s dilemma :P) that his biography was contained within his letters, so into the volumes I went. So far, I’ve only found a letter to a Mr. James Madison singing the praises of what George Wythe was doing with  the law school. Based on what Jefferson had written, it seems like there were quite a few debates and mock trials taking place with lots of participation by the students and other Williamsburgians. Sounds pretty sweet.  However, I then had read somewhere (Gah!) that Wythe had later left his post, as the College was once again brewing with mischievous behavior in both the faculty and the students. A sad ending to something that had so much promise… 😥

I am now sitting here still doing my research, and hopefully I’ll find more tasty tidbits for posting by the time my day at the Library is over. So that’s all for now, more to come later! : )

July 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Doing Some Hardcore Research at UVa.

Last Thursday, I was flipping through a few of my sources looking for more tasty tidbits to include in my time line when I stumbled across a footnote in H.S. Randall’s biography of TJ that pointed to a memoir written by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. This had instantaneously sparked my curiosity, as TJ Randolph was to some extent raised by ol’ grandpa TJ back in the day.

So I had set off to Google books to find a copy  of this work, but to no avail. I then tried various other means to see if it might be in print somewhere, but again no such luck. Was it just me? Was there something that I was missing? I referred back to the endnote, and sure enough it was not a published book but a manuscript deep within the Special Collections library at the University of Virginia. Awesome. Since I had made this discovery fairly late in the day on Thursday, my research had to be put on hold until Monday.

Monday began with a surge of excitement, as I absolutely LOVE going to the special collections section of libraries. I love everything about it – I love the strict procedures for viewing materials, the musty, finely aged smell of the old documents, and that feeling of scholarly officialness when I’m doing my research in these places. It just feels awesome.

As soon as I had checked in, made my requests, and sat down in the chair closest to the bust of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Awesome! 🙂 ), the friendly librarian brought me my first box of documents to have a look at. As I was leafing through, I couldn’t help but read what TJR had written as a fragmented book of hilariously awesome and sometimes random anecdotes. One story that had caught my eye in particular was the one about the Bishop James Madison (president of William and Mary College, and cousin to the US President, I think) not being able to receive Thomas Jefferson in Staunton at some point, so Bishop Madison’s father received him instead and apparently there were a few others at the place engaged in a heated round of cards in one of the rooms. While those people were playing, the Bishop’s father walked around the room while very discretely leaving a trail of black powder behind him. No sooner than when TJ  and the father left the room that someone inside had said something about sinning and hell, and the father lit the trail on fire with all of the now very alarmed card players  surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke and fire. I found that both hilarious but also very dangerous at the same time, as building fires were a huge problem back in those days.

After I had finished up at UVa,  I unfortunately had to leave immediately due to parking in the Central garage and not having enough cash on hand to stay for another hour to explore the grounds. So I don’t have any good photos of campus to post here just yet, but perhaps I will return before I leave for Massachusetts next week to see the Rotunda and the academic village. However, I am happy to say that I had a good time at UVa and gathered many tasty tidbits to include in my essay, which was pretty awesome since my last visit to a Special Collections yielded nothing that wasn’t available to me via databases already. スゴイ!

Picture of the Day:

Ah! A cute lil cicada outside my window this morning.

Ah! A cute lil' cicada outside my window this morning.

July 28, 2009 at 11:00 am 1 comment

A Sunday at James Madison’s Montpelier

Sometime last week, I had decided that today was going to be the day that I would go to James Madison’s Montpelier. I figured that with wrapping up research during this week and with getting ready to go home to Massachusetts next week, I wouldn’t have any time to go back and see how much the place had changed since I had last seen it in its stripped down, down-to-the-brick form undergoing renovation two years ago. It was certainly a real treat to see the hard work of so many people at the Montpelier Foundation finally starting to come to a real fruition.

The interior of the house was still in an in-progress state, but certainly far from where it was when I had last been there. Most of the walls were covered, and there was even artwork hanging in some of rooms. They even had a few more pieces of furniture that Madison had once owned – such as one of his bookshelves from his library room. This time around, they also walked us out onto the rooftop patio on the right side of the building, which is something that I had wanted to do on my last visit but it wasn’t open for touring at the time. I had also noticed on the outside of the house that the last portion of the du Pont additions had finally been demolished, which was cool.

Also on my little trip, I visited some of the rescued Thoroughbreds up at the Montpelier barn. Apparently, since I was last there the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation had set up shop there and has been very active in caring for these horses and finding them each a better home. I was so happy to see this, and I really wished that I could’ve taken one of them home but I don’t think my landlady would like that too much. Or Toronado, for that matter. 😛

After I visited the horses, I walked down to the graveyard to pay respects to Mr. and Mrs. Madison and then headed home. It was such an awesome trip, and I hope that I can come back a third time (!) when the Foundation has aquired more of Madison’s furniture and the house is finally completely transformed into what it was when James and Dolley had lived there.

Pictures of the Day (and even more on Flickr):

Oh man, that is such a good part!

Enjoying some quality reading time with James and Dolley.

Goofing around with Jeanie, a rescued Thoroughbred.

Goofing around with Jeanie, a rescued Thoroughbred.

July 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm 2 comments

My, How Time Has Flown!

Wow, is it really July 24 already?  I can’t believe that I only have little more than two weeks until I make the long haul back to Massachusetts. These past two months have been nothing short of spectacular, and well worth the six months of prior hassle and planning to get there.  I’ve made so many new and fantastic friends within the world of professional and public history, and I’ve also learned so much about myself and how to write history. 🙂

Well, how to research history. The writing part is always that last stretch of the race that usually proves to be the most difficult and hyperventilation-inducing. As an undergraduate I have made it through to a decent, up-to-par product only a few times, and in taking up this internship it has been one of my goals to finally get over this paralyzing fear of the writing process. It almost never fails to happen when I get to the point of putting everything that I’ve researched together into an essay. I freeze. I begin second guessing myself, posing such questions to myself as “Did I do enough research?”, “Am I even capable writing anything good with what I’ve got?”, and the classic – “Do I even have enough time for this? This is going to take me FOREVER!”

Even as I’m sitting here typing this, I can feel the fear stirring around already. I’ve got two weeks to finish up my research, and within that time frame I plan to get over this irrational fear of finishing any kind of writing assignment. How can I even consider a career in research and history if I can’t even finish an essay? So with this in mind, I’m going to do my best to continue as I have been, and for certain hopefully I’ll get over it. You must face your fear in order to conquer it, non?


Also, I found this link thanks to Paula via Facebook. I’m sad to say that I didn’t get the chance to see them yesterday, as they didn’t stop by the Library. But they did have ice cream at a place near my apartment! 😛

That’s all for now, more to come later! 🙂

July 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Mundane Mondays.

Nothing too exciting today. The weekend went fairly well, got a lot of cleaning and laundry done. Today just seems to be an “Eh” kind of day. I haven’t been digging into anything terribly exciting, but more or less just reorganizing all of the material that I’ve amassed since starting my research. Which, now that I think about it,  is a good thing since my notes were starting to get a little sloppy and all over the place. 😛

However, I did find one little gem in my research today from a gentleman who had written to the President and Masters of the College of William and Mary in February of 1804 in reference to what Jefferson had written in his Notes on the State of Virginia:

“The College is a large, but rude building. The person, Sir Christopher Wren, who planned it, has not manifested an exquisite taste for  the beauties of architecture. Mr. Jefferson in speaking of it calls it a ‘rude, misshapen pile, which, but that it has a roof, would be taken for a common brick-kiln’. It is certainly not an elegant structure, but it is easily distinguishable from a brick-kiln” (Letter of William T. Barry, WMQ Second Series, Vol. 8, No. 4, pg. 247).

What a whiner! 😛

Picture of the Day:

View from the mountain trail near Monticello on my first walk with Anna and Susan. 🙂

July 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

And Now A Word About William Howard Taft.

Mad props to Scott Wilson for sending me this. 🙂

July 16, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

Colonial Williamsburg = Pure Awesome.

Today started out like usual.  I woke up, did my daily routine, and walked out the door five minutes later than I should have. But today, I broke from the norm. Instead of heading up the mountain to Jefferson Library for some quality research time, I packed up my lil’ car and gunned it all the way to fabulous, Colonial Williamsburg.

Of course, the real reason that I was there was to check out the Special Collections archive at the College of William and Mary’s Swem Library for any tasty TJ tidbits and to have a look at the infamous Sir Christopher Wren building – the very same in which TJ attended his college classes. Talk about an “Oh my god!” moment for me – I have spent the past month or so digging into research about TJ and this very building, so it was amazing to finally see it in person. The interior reminded me a lot of Hogwarts, which was pretty cool.

The only thing (okay things) about today that I was sad about was 1) the places where the foundations for the TJ designed expansion weren’t marked and 2) I couldn’t go into the crypt where TJ mentor Peyton Randolph’s (and his misses and several other prominent people from W&M in the 18th century) remains are kept, and 3) I didn’t really find anything that I didn’t already know from another source in the Special Collections archives. However, I would like to note that the Librarians at Swem Library are fantastic, and were willing to help me in any way they could. I also learned how to use a microfilm to PC scanner for the first time today, so that can be added to the list of pluses. 🙂

After I was finished up at the College, I went to have a poke around good ol’ Colonial Williamsburg. First thing on my list was to buy something crazy for my two sisters (Jen and Kate! Look! I mentioned you! :P) back in Massachusetts (Erin – I didn’t forget you either, but you wouldn’t want what I got the other two. You’ll have a gift too though! :)), because what I wanted to get for  them isn’t sold at the Monticello gift shop, and also because I was really antsy to get a spectacular tri-cornered hat to share with Scott. Awesome! 😀

I then made my way to the Governor’s Palace, when I noticed large crowds of families flocking onto the lawn. Then, it seemed like the earth shook as the thundering of drums and sweet fife melodies accented by the sound of colonial marching crashed through the air. A large red-coated (but not THE redcoats, there IS a difference!) corps of Williamsburg’s finest marched their way across the lawn, leaving me stunned in awe in their wake. Listening to drum and fife music is one thing, but actually EXPERIENCING it is a completely different horse. I just stood watching even after they and their hordes of tourist groupies with video cameras had gone by, and one local (I could tell because he was dressed like Ben Franklin) looked at me and nodded as if to say,  I completely understand.

I continued to poke around the historic portion of the town for a little while longer, walking by the open air market stand where one can buy deluxe hand-made (and with Napoleon-esque ribbons!) tri-cornered hats (I settled for a poor man’s plain black one though :P) and floppy-doppy sunhats for the lady. There were also plenty of games, cookware, and writing utensils; so they certainly had something to offer for everybody.

Then six o’ clock came around, and I knew that my time at Colonial Williamsburg had expired. I had a two-hour drive ahead of me, and I sadly shuffled my way back to my trusty vehicle and sped off towards the Charlottesville sunset.

Picture of the Day (and others from today available to view on Flickr):

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

"Oh hey TJ, whatcha writin'?"

July 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm 5 comments

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