President Andrew Jackson's Big Cheese Tasting

February 4, 1837

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President Andrew Jackson's Big Cheese Tasting
Autograph Letter Signed
3 pages | SMC 399

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      Background

      The most famous cheese in American history is the subject of this letter. A gift of the dairymen of Oswego County, New York, to Andrew Jackson in 1835, it weighed 1,400 pounds, was four feet in diameter and two feet thick, and arrived at the White House in a cart pulled by twenty-four horses. Deposited in the vestibule, it remained there two years, aging; whereupon Jackson announced that on Washington’s birthday, 1837, at his last big reception before leaving the White House, he would hold a cheese tasting…
       
      I intend to have eaten on the 22nd instant, my large cheese, presented by my friends of the state of N. York - can you… be here & partake of the feast… & any of your friends who may wish to accompany you - it will be my last & only possible day.
       
      On the day of the cheese tasting, Washington closed early and, seemingly, then descended on the White House. The crowds were such that those who could not get in by the front door, entered by the windows. Every possible place was filled, with the widest variety of people: rag-a-muffins mixed with diplomats in full dress. Jackson, looking thin, emaciated and exhausted, left early, and President-elect Van Buren had to take over the handshaking. Within two hours, mercifully, the cheese was devoured.  Likewise ravaged was the White House itself: its floor and carpets were demolished, and the mansion reeked of cheddar for months.
       
      But as Jackson readied to leave one mansion, he was also preparing to move into another. His beloved Hermitage, which had burned in 1834, was being refurbished under the supervision of his son and daughter-in-law, and here too he discusses the ordering of furniture and paying of bills. Another thing on his mind was his feet: he also asks Toland for socks and stockings.


      Autograph Letter Signed, as President, 3 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Washington, February 4, 1837. To Henry Toland in Philadelphia.
       
      With Free Frank.
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      Page 1 transcript
      Washington
      February 4th 1837

      My dear Sir,

      The third of March is approaching to my great joy, before which, I hope, to see you here, or I hope my health will permit me to leave by the morning of the 6th of March.

      I intend to have eaten on the 22nd instant, my large cheese, presented by my friends of the state of N. York - can you, and my friend Seeper be here & partake of the feast - see him if you please, present him my kind regards, & ask him for me, to partake with me on that day of this feast, & any of your friends who may wish to accompany you - it will be my last & only public day.

      Wishing to leave nothing unpaid - will you have the goodness to see to all those who are making the furniture for the Hermitage agreeable to Andrew & Sarah[']s memorandum, & request them to send on their bills that they may be paid before the last of this month the sooner the better

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      Page 2 transcript
      better [sic], as I wish to close all accounts as soon as possible, & when their accounts come on I will send you a check to have them paid.

      One other little matter, and my dear friend, I will trouble you no more-  I have tried to get here, a few pair of good black silk stockings of English manufacture, without success - will you have the goodness to get, & bring with you, on [text is crossed out] three pairs of long stockings & three pair of socks, and half dozzen [sic] of long thread stockings & the amount will be paid on their receipt.

      With my kind regards to all your household, & best wishes for yourself, I am very respectfully

      Your friend
      Andrew Jackson

      Henry Toland Esqr

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      Page 3 transcript
      Free Andrew Jackson

      Henry Toland Esqr
      Philadelphia