Last Updated on 13 April 2011

Last week I had the privilege of visiting Monticello. The home, plantation, and community designed and built by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia in 1769.

You’ve seen Monticello a million times, but may have never thought about it… It’s the image on the US 5-cent piece, the nickel.

Here’s a picture of the real thing…


I’m always looking for people to include in the Idea Sandbox Imaginary Board of Directors.

While I’ve always known that Thomas Jefferson – founding father, farmer, architect, inventor, musician, slaveholder, book collector, scholar, diplomat, and the third president of the United States – was an interesting person… my visit to his home left me inspired.

Thomas Jefferson

Among many other things, I learned…

Man of Enlightenment

Jefferson was strongly influenced by the ideas of the 18th-century “Enlightenment.” This philosophy focused on human reason, knowledge, and inquiry – and how they could be used to improve the human condition. Idea Sandbox, inspired by this concept, hopes we’re applying this philosophy to help improve the human condition in the 21st Century.

Book Lover

“I cannot live without books…” wrote Jefferson to John Adams in 1815. Jefferson had such a large library of books, he was able to sell most of them to Congress “to replace the devastations of British Vandalism at Washington.” During the War of 1812 the British captured and burned public buildings in Washington.

Jefferson built a revolving book stand (pictured below) allowing him to have up to five volumes open at once. My kinda guy!

Thomas Jefferson Book stand

Observer and Note-taker

Jefferson knew of the importance of jotting down ideas, thoughts, and observations as they came to him. He used a reusable pocket notebook… a “Hipster PDA” of the 1700s.

To record all these measurements, Jefferson carried a small ivory notebook on which he could write in pencil. Back in his Cabinet, or office, he later copied the information into any of seven books in which he kept records about his garden, farms, finances, and other concerns; he then erased the writing in the ivory notebook.

Thomas Jefferson PDA

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