A look at the daily routine of Thomas Jefferson, who rose early, drank coffee, and wrote a lot

Here's what the Founding Father's daily life looked like.

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Here’s what the Founding Father’s daily life looked like.
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Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson helped draft the Declaration of Independence about 242 years ago. He was 33-year-old at the time.

Over the course of his career, he would go on to serve the fledgling United States as governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of state, vice president, and, finally, the country’s third president.

Despite wearing so many hats in the government, Jefferson adhered to a relatively well-defined schedule throughout his life.

Here’s a look at the Founding Father’s daily routine:


Jefferson didn’t wake up at a set time every day. Instead, he wrote that, “Whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun.” Typically, he would get out of bed whenever there was enough light for him to read the clock next to his bed.

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Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation.
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Wikimedia Commons

Source: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello


He once boasted that he hadn’t slept late in 50 years, according to Colonial Williamsburg’s official blog.

Source: Colonial Williamsburg


Before breakfast, the Founding Father would tend to his correspondence. Over the course of his life, he wrote somewhere around 20,000 letters.

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A handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson.
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Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library/Flickr

Source: Colonial Williamsburg, Early to Rise


Jefferson tended to dress simply. He liked to keep his pockets filled with all sorts of odds and ends including “… scales, drawing instruments, a thermometer, a surveying compass, a level, and even a globe,” along with a small ivory notebook and a pencil to record his observations and measurements.

Source: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello


Once, Jefferson’s casual style caused a bit of a political scandal. English diplomat Anthony Merry was bewildered when he called upon the president and found him still wearing his bedroom slippers.

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Tony Fischer/Flickr

Source: The White House


Jefferson typically ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m. According to the blog Early to Rise and Colonial Williamsburg, the meal would likely include tea, hot wheat and corn bread, cold ham, butter, and “hoe cakes” — or cornmeal pancakes — and would be served in the dining room.

Source: Early to Rise, Colonial Williamsburg


He is said to have had a preference for coffee, as well.

Source: Colonial Williamsburg


In his letters to his relatives and grandchildren, Jefferson advocated discipline and daily routines.

source
Wikimedia Commons

Source: Early to Rise


Throughout the day, Jefferson would adhere to one of his own routines — recording his observations. Throughout his life, he kept notes on temperature, wind speed and direction, meteorological oddities, the migration of birds, and the appearance of flowers.

Source: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello


Jefferson also would typically ride a horse across his 5,000 acre property.

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xiquinhosilva/Flickr

Source: Colonial Williamsburg


Dinner, the largest meal of the day, would take place around 3 p.m. Jefferson preferred to dine with around 14 people, including family, visitors, and fellow politicians.

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David McSpadden/Flickr

Source: Colonial Williamsburg


Toward the end of the day, the third US president would eat a smaller supper. This meal provided Jefferson — an “incessant conversationalist,” according to Colonial Williamsburg re-enactor Bill Barker — yet another opportunity to talk with his guests.

Source: Colonial Williamsburg


Hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children worked at Jefferson’s Monticello plantation growing crops and working trades like weaving and building barrels.

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Mulberry Row, where Monticello’s slave quarters once stood.
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Payton Chung/Flickr

Source: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello


Despite writing the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson only freed a total of seven people over the course of his life and in his will. He also unofficially freed several of the children he had with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who was believed to be Jefferson’s late wife’s half sister.

source
Wikimedia Commons

Source: Monticello