Dixon, James Willis
Autograph Letter Signed, New York, September 6-7, 1835, to his future wife, Ann Shepperson, Benwick, Cambridgeshire, England

folio, three pages, partially cross written, some splitting at fold joints, few words missing from rough seal opening on third page, some old tape repairs to third page as well, few additional notes on integral address leaf, else in good, readable condition.

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The famed British silversmith, James Willis Dixon, writes to his fiancé describing Andrew Jackson’s White House, eight months after an assassination attempt against the President:

       “Most Affectionate Ann,

           … I have since been to the cities of Baltimore and Washington. The latter place being the Seat of Government. Shook hands with the President, General Jackson. Saw the President’s House, and the “Capitol” building which we should call Houses of Parliament. The whole front of building is 352 feet long, has 3 large domes, a great part of which as well as President’s House is composed of white marble and has noble marble pillars of various colors.  A Building well worthy, the pride of an American and one which is in every way fit for the Senate of so great a nation to assemble in. The City has only 20,000 inhabitants, but being small and out of the bustle of trade, the Representatives have sufficient opportunities for the proper attendance of their duties. Each has an assigned chair, desk, paper, pens, with several newspapers a day, 32/ a day and 32/ a mile travelling expences so long as Congress sits…

            I talked to two young ladies who quizzed me pretty much, said anything but what they thought, joked me much, but I was not lacking, whatever they said out of reason, I said something stronger, they enquired whether I should write a book? As several English have and they do not like it, replyd certainly, well will you put our conversation in? to be sure, and your names, also that you requested me to write a book, it would sell so much better, etc.

           … having travelled over so great an extent of country while I’ve been in the New World such is the state of these States that …it would be the greatest difficulty to find a white man who could not read and write, except he might be an emigrant. Nearly everybody dresses well, and great many girls play and sing tolerably well…”

       Founded by the writer’s father, the Sheffield firm of James Dixon & Son, still in existence today, produced fine silverware, which is still avidly sought by collectors. Dixon remained in America for some years as his father’s representative though he briefly returned to England to marry Ann Shepperson, whom he brought back to New York. Dixon became a noted art collector, his Rembrandt, Rubens and other paintings were auctioned off after his death. A large archive of 190 letters written by Dixon during his American travels (July 1835 to February 1839) were sold at Sothebys in 1979, and are now in the Sheffield City Library, with a microfilm copy in the Library of Congress. Very few of his American letters remain in private hands.