Customs

Adams and Jefferson Take a Piece of Shakespeare With Them


#Shakespeare #JohnAdams #ThomasJefferson #chair #souvenirs

In March of 1786, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson traveled to England as diplomats of the newly-independent United States of America. While there, they engaged in a little sightseeing — and a wee bit of vandalism.

Among the places visited by the two revolutionaries was the home of William Shakespeare, Stratford upon Avon. Adams, who once counseled his son, “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket,” apparently wanted more than just the words of this particular poet in his pocket. Together with Jefferson, he sliced off a piece of the Bard’s chair when no one was looking. Later, he wrote in his journal, “They shew Us an old Wooden Chair in the Chimney Corner, where [Shakespeare] sat. We cutt off a Chip according to the Custom.”

The chip itself was catalogued by Jefferson, along with this note: “A chip cut from an armed chair in the chimney corner in Shakespear’s house at Stratford on Avon, said to be the identical chair in which he usually wrote, if true, like the relicks of the saints, it must miraculously reproduce itself. Cut by myself in 1785.”

A piece of William Shakespeare’s chair, cut off by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as a souvenir.

Curiously, Jefferson puts the date at 1785, even though John Adams’ diary and Abagail Adams’ letters all confirm that the date of the visit was 1786. Then again, Jefferson did have a tendency to overlook little details — such as the fact that he held the office of President of the United States. Also, he was not the only one who wasn’t entirely sure how to spell Shakespeare’s name. Even Shakespeare wasn’t sure how to spell his name.


Read more fun facts about William Shakespeare.

Read more fun facts about John Adams.

Read more fun facts about Thomas Jefferson.

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