Thomas Jefferson Correspondence – On Seed Saving and Sharing

The following are transcripts of two letters written by the Founding Father Thomas Jefferson on the subject of seed saving.

“November 27, 1818. Monticello. Thomas Jefferson to Henry E. Watkins, transmitting succory seed and outlining the culture of succory.” [Transcript]
Thomas Jefferson Correspondence Collection
Collection 89

Dear Sir,

Your fav[ou]r of the 6th. did not get to hand till the 23d. and I now with pleasure send you as much of the succory seed as can well go under the volume of a letter. as I mentioned to our colleagues at the Gap, I had forgotten which of them expressed a willingness to try this plant, and therefore I have waited for their application having taken care to have a plenty of seed saved.

Sow the seed in rich beds, as you would tobacco seed, and take the advantage of good seasons in the spring to draw & transplant them. The ground should be well prepared by the plough. I have generally set the plants 18.I. or 2.F. apart every way, to give room for several weedings the lst. summer, for during that they are too weak to contend with the weeds. after that they will not be in danger from weeds. do not cut the plants the 1st. year that they may shed their seed and fill up all the intervals. The grasing [sic] of sheep destroys the plant. it is perennial, & of immense produce, and is a tolerable sallad [sic] for the table in the spring, somewhat like the turnip tops but earlier. The warm spring bath proved extremely injurious to my health. I have been very poorly ever since, but within a week past have got on horseback, altho’ not yet entirely well. Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of great esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson
Henry B. Watkins esq.

– – – – – –

[U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – Jefferson MSS. – A. L. S.]
“April 17, 1810. Monticello Thomas Jefferson to Col. Skipwith, concerning millet seed.” [Transcript]
Thomas Jefferson Correspondence Collection
Collection 89
Monticello Apr. 17. 10.

Dear Sir

Overhauling my seeds reminded me that I was to send you some Millet seed. it is now inclosed. put it into drills 3. or 4.F. apart so that you may conveniently plough it, and the stalks at 0.I. distance in the drill. it is planted immediately after corn planting, say in May. it is to be used for the table as homony [sic], boiled or fried, needs nether husking nor beating, & boils in about two hours. it is believed here it will yield 100. Bushels to the acre. I shall have some acres of it this year. always affectionately yours,

Th. Jefferson.
Colo[nel] Skipwith.
[Indorsed:] Skipwith Henry. Apr. 17.10.
[Mr. W. K. Bixby of St. Louis presented the original of this letter to Secretary D. F. Houston for the U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 30, 1915]
[U.S. Dept. of Agriculture – Jefferson MSS. – A. L. S.]

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Because its blessings are abused, Must gold be censure, cursed, accused? E’en virtue’s self by knaves is made, A cloak to carry on the trade.

— Gay