Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bottled Water Then

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Watersheds

Ed Hessler

The following is a letter from General James Wilkinson to President Thomas Jefferson (January 18,1802)


Presuming that a sample of the Waters of the Mississippi & Arkansas Rivers, remarkable for their difference to each other & to the Waters of all other Rives within my Knowledge, may not be unacceptable to you, I avail myself of a conveyance by Doctor Carmichael of the Army, who will have the Honor to deliver this, to send you a Bottle of each, taken from those Rivers in their lowest & least disturbed State--that from the Arkansaw being not full--& may not be uninteresting to remark, that the "voyageurs" of the Mississippi, who drink constantly of, & prefer, its Water, are never afflicted by the Graval*, and that they ascribe curative properties to its external application in cutaneous affections. ...

Your obliged, Obedient, & ready Servant
Ja: Wilkinson

*"Graval. A term applied to aggregations of urinary crystals which can be recognized as masses by the naked eye (as distinguished from sand) also the disease of which these are characteristic." OED (And here from a medical dictionary--in other words kidney stones. My addition).

McLaughlin notes that "Sen. William Plumer of New Hampshire reported that Jefferson proudly served Mississippi water at a dinner party at the President's House, although it is doubtful whether it was the same water Wilkinson had sent almost three years earlier. (There is a citation which includes this note: "On 3 December 1804, Plumer attended a dinner at the President's House where 'there was also exposed on the table two bottles of water brought from the river Mississippi. ...'").

Both Wilkinson's letter and McLauglin's comment may be found on pp.310-311.
Source: McLauughlin, J. (1991). To His Excellency Thomas Jefferson: Letters to a President. New York: Avon Books.

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