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Thomas Jefferson's farm book


This manuscript volume, Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, forms part of the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts. This volume contains Thomas Jefferson's working records primarily of his home, Monticello, and his private retreat, Poplar Forest, but also other farms and estates that he owned in Albemarle, Bedford, and Campbell counties in Virginia including Lego, Shadwell, Tufton, Elk Hill, Willis's Creek, and Bear Creek. Jefferson's property holdings were significant; he inherited and purchased land, and acquired several estates through marriage. The Farm Book contains two lists of his properties, one dated 1794 (page 32) and another from 1810 (page 127). Each list shows that he owned more than 10,000 acres.

The volume contains detailed information about farming activities and Jefferson's livestock and slaves. In 1795 and 1796 Jefferson wrote short entries outlining the plowing, sowing, planting, and cutting activities; these "Diary" (Jefferson's term) entries are arranged by date. He also maintained precise lists. Some lists include the names and locations of his slaves; others tracked the cloth, bedding, and food (fish, bread, and beef) distributed to them. The volume contains inventories of livestock (horses, sheep, cattle, etc.) and numbers of hogs killed during various years. The middle sequence of pages (pages 61-119), entitled, "Aphorisms, Observations, Facts in Husbandry," contains concise notes, observations, and calculations about farming subjects such as equipment, livestock, workers, plants, crop rotation, and spinning.

The Farm Book contains three sequences of pages. The first (pages 1-60) and third (pages 123-174) sequences, consisting of lists, inventories, and diaries, are arranged in rough chronological order. The first sequence spans the years 1774 to 1805, and the third sequence spans the years 1809 to 1824, but not every type of record is assembled for every year and some inventories cover many consecutive years, with gaps. The middle section (pages 61-119), a sequence of concise notes about various farming topics, includes both dated and undated entries.