Thomas Jefferson has been described as an "American Sphinx." As the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, he is one of the most famous Americans. Nevertheless, he is an enigmatic figure: an intensely private man who spent more than thirty years in public service; the spokesman for popular democracy who, at the same time, held hundreds of men, women and children as his personal property; an urbane, widely-travelled, and widely-read exemplar of the Enlightenment, who appeared happiest in a meticulously-planned environment that he had created for himself in the back country. The exhibition aims to pull back the veil and uncover the private Jefferson. Kicking off a year-long 225th anniversary celebration, The Private Jefferson: From the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society is open at the MHS through 20 May, Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
One of the Society’s greatest treasures is the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts. The collection is comprised of letters, journals, record books, accounts, and 400 architectural drawings and sketches—almost 9,500 documents in all—collected by Jefferson’s descendants who lived in Massachusetts and donated them to the Society.close