Thomas Jefferson, Scrapbooker
9/26/2009

You're not the only one who keeps scrapbooks—Thomas Jefferson did, too. (Though the third president had to scrapbook without the benefit of today's stickers, laser-cut templates and precision cutting tools.)

Robert M. S. McDonald, a professor at the US Military Academy at West Point, discovered four 6-by-9-inch, red-leather-bound scrapbooks while researching at the University of Virginia's Alderman Library. Archivists had previously thought the scrapbooks were assembled by Jefferson's granddaughters, but McDonald found that notations on some clippings match Jefferson's handwriting.

The scrapbooks contain thousands of newspaper articles about Jefferson's presidency (1801-1808). But they also reveal a sentimental side to the sage of Monticello: One book held an oak leaf pressed between an article on friendship and a poem, "Scenes from My Youth." Jefferson and a boyhood friend, Dabney Carr, used to study under an oak tree at Monticello, and promised each other that the survivor would bury whoever died first under the tree. Carr's burial, McDonald says, was the start of the Monticello family cemetery.

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