In 1822 a man named Joseph Eccles wrote to the then-retired former President Thomas Jefferson who was 79-years-old at the time (Jefferson was America’s 3rd President from 1801-1809). Eccles wrote to Jefferson: “I’m 33 years old, and I haven’t had much education. I was raised by a guardian, I only went to one year of school when I was 14 years old, learned a little of arithmetic, so I’m writing to you as a fellow Virginian because now I’m a fairly successful businessman, enough to support my family, but I want to know what books I should read to further my education, and I’m writing to you because I know that you’re a knowledgeable and worldly guy.”

In his reply, Jefferson gives Eccles a lovely and thoughtful reading list of which books he felt would be most helpful to Eccles’ goal of becoming more knowledgeable about world history. Four years prior to this, Jefferson had founded the University of Virginia, and he cared deeply about helping people achieve their educational dreams — particularly people who didn’t have the financial means to obtain a higher education. Four years after writing this letter Thomas Jefferson passed away at 83-years-old.

In June 2013 Antiques Roadshow appraised the letter in Boise, Idaho, and you can watch the appraisal in full below. For all of my favorite Antiques Roadshow moments be sure to visit Antiques Roadshow on FEELguide.
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Writer, editor, and founder of FEELguide. I have written over 5,000 articles covering many topics including: travel, design, movies, music, politics, psychology, neuroscience, business, religion and spirituality, philosophy, pop culture, the universe, and so much more. I also work as an illustrator and set designer in the movie industry, and you can see all of my drawings at

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