Nov 17, 2016 - Sale 2432

Sale 2432 - Lot 192

Price Realized: $ 1,375
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(LEWIS AND CLARK.) Fitzhugh, Dennis. Letter forwarding Major Clark's Rocky Mountain sheepskin to Thomas Jefferson. Autograph Letter Signed "DFitzhugh" to President James Madison. One page, 9 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches; lacking address leaf, docketed on verso. (MRS) New York, 26 June 1809

Additional Details

Two years after William Clark's return from his great transcontinental journey, on 2 June 1808, he wrote a letter to President Jefferson, forwarding "a skin of the sheep of the Rocky Mountain" (the original is at the Massachusetts Historical Society). He entrusted the letter--and the sheepskin--with his brother-in-law Dennis Fitzhugh (1778-1822), a prominent merchant in Louisville, KY who was married to Clark's sister. Fitzhugh delayed, perhaps intimidated by the logistics of mailing a poorly tanned sheepskin to the president, and then by March 1809 Jefferson was out of office, complicating the shipment further. That summer Fitzhugh made a business trip to New York, and unloaded the skin there--by sending it to new president James Madison:
"Herewith I take the liberty of inclosing to your care a letter handed to me some time since by Genl. Wm. Clark for Mr. Jefferson, and by the same conveyance I send a skin brought from the Rocky Mountains. . . . Will you have the goodness to take charge of the letter & skin, and have them delivered by the first opportunity. I suppose Mr. Jefferson is at Monticello."
Jefferson received Clark's letter soon afterward and thanked him profusely: "Mr. Fitzhugh delivered the skin of the sheep of the Rocky Mountain to the President, from whom I expect to receive it in a few days at his own house" (10 September 1809 letter at the Missouri Historical Society). The correspondence between Clark and Jefferson on this subject has been preserved elsewhere, but this transmittal letter provides the missing link.