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Thomas Jefferson Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

Thomas Jefferson modeled his handwriting on the neat penmanship of his legal mentor, George Wythe. Like Wythe, Jefferson did not use any capital letters.9

Jefferson was a very musical fellow. Not only was he a fantastic violinist, but he also loved to sing. In fact, Jefferson would sing or hum to himself under his breath all the time. He was, almost literally, never without a tune on his lips.10

Jefferson's violin playing came to an end in 1786, when he broke his wrist trying to impress the young, beautiful, married Maria Cosway. She was a notorious heartbreaker with whom Jefferson became hopelessly infatuated. Although his heart eventually healed, his wrist never fully recovered.11

Jefferson had no tolerance for ceremony. While president, he would receive foreign dignitaries, who would come to meet him dressed in full diplomatic regalia, with plumed hats and swords, while wearing nothing but work-clothes and slippers.12

While in France, Jefferson developed a taste for exorbitantly expensive fine wines. He never broke the habit. The wine bill for his first term as president ran to roughly $10,000 (or nearly $190,000 in today's dollars!).13

Although Jefferson was awfully proud of the University of Virginia's students, some of their behaviors irked him. After dark, early UVA students would run around the campus, making loud noises, cursing, and firing revolvers. Jefferson didn't really know what to make of these "Calathumps," but they made him mad, forcing the students to start wearing masks to avoid expulsion.14

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day: 4 July 1826, exactly fifty years after the publication of the Declaration of Independence. Famously, Adams' last words were either "Thomas Jefferson survives" or "Thomas Jefferson still lives." Either way, Adams was wrong: Jefferson beat Adams to the hereafter by about five hours. Some Virginians thought Adams's reported death was one last "d--n'd Yankee trick" to steal the spotlight from Jefferson.15

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