The Jefferson Cup

Wythe-Jefferson cupsCropped

As a man of impeccable classic taste, it is no wonder that nearly every aspect of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, including his drinkware, was crafted to his preference. The silver and gold tumblers that appear in Monticello’s Dining Room exude the simple elegance and style popular to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1810, Jefferson designed his own tumblers based on one he had acquired in Paris. He contacted Richmond silversmith John Letelier for the project and requested he melt down two silver cups he received at the death of his friend and teacher, George Wythe with two of Jefferson’s own canns (round-bellied mugs) in order to create eight new silver tumblers with a gilded interior.

These tumblers were of practical design and intended for travel and everyday use. They feature a low- bottomed, heavier base and a small-sized cup, making them hard to spill. The cup’s silver composition made it more durable than those made from other materials such as glass or crystal. Jefferson’s eight tumblers remained at Monticello for the rest of his life, and were used almost every day at mealtime. One Monticello guest noted that “beer and cider, and after dinner wine” were all served from Jefferson’s silver cups.

Jefferson distinguished his personal collection by having them engraved. Of the five cups exhibited at Monticello, three are engraved with “G.W. to T.J.” (undoubtedly George Wythe to Thomas Jefferson), while the other two are simply engraved “T.J.” In the 1830s Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, gave one cup to each of her six children, and one to a grandson. Since then, only six of the original eight survive.

The Shop offers a beautiful Sterling Reproduction Cup, which can be personalized just as Jefferson did with his own collection. Crafted with the same classic elegance and quality as the 1810 originals, these cups are multipurpose for any room in the house. They are beautiful accent pieces and great for holding small items on your desk or dresser. Their customizability also makes them wonderful wedding or graduation gifts that will never lose their timeless significance.

In addition to the Sterling Reproduction Cup, the shop offers three additional tumbler styles: the Pewter Jefferson Cup, the Book Quote and Wine Quote Pewter Cups, and the Monticello or University of Virginia Seal Jefferson Cup. Each unique cup gives you the opportunity to bring a piece of history into your home with a personal twist. The Jefferson Cup is great for anyone—whether a book lover or a University of Virginia graduate, a wine connoisseur or a Jefferson enthusiast—making it a perfect gift for any occasion.

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