Happy President’s day from MAKE – a look at a President who made things – Thomas Jefferson

Happy President’s day from MAKE – a look at a President who made things – Thomas Jefferson

Mountrushmore Monument
President’s day was once associated with just Washington (and later Lincoln) but now all Presidents are celebrated today, and by that I mean you might have the day off. Here’s @ MAKE we’re going to take a look at Thomas Jefferson.

Make Pt0424
Not only was Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president of the United States but an inventor. Here’s a look at some of the things he made (or remade).

Wheelcipher Lg
Disassembled Wheel Lg
Wheel cipher – In 1792 while Jefferson was US Secretary of State he developed a wheel cipher to encode and decode secret messages (here’s how it works).

Portable copying press – called the polygraph, Jefferson helped perfect this two-pen writing device used to copy letters and used it for all his correspondance. It’s like a manual BCC’ing! Here’s a Quicktime VR of the device.

Plow “Moldboard of least resistance” – using math, Jefferson designed a better plow to lift and turn over sod more effectively – this new plow had a huge impact and instead of patenting the invention, Jefferson gave it away it – to be “solely used for the good of the people and not for the advancement of the inventor, Jefferson encouraged public use of this easily duplicated invention”.

The Great Clock – Jefferson created a cool clock – made from hanging cannonballs, this gravity power clock was connected to a giant gong on the roof of the entrance hall at Monticello. He also needed to invent a folding ladder to repair it (which was later used for other things like getting books and trimming trees).


  • Macaroni machine
  • Sundial
  • Dumb waiters
  • Automatic double doors
  • Revolving bookstand
  • Beds that lift
  • Revolving chairs

All these and more can be found at the Jefferson’s inventions page – Link.

Further reading:

  • Thomas Jefferson – His Life as an Inventor – Link.
  • Jefferson @ Monticello – Link.
  • Jefferson @ Wikipedia – Link.
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