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"Gossip, Flattery, and Flirtation: The Art of Eighteenth-Century Letter Writing"

In a world of instant messaging, emails, and cell phones, there is something uplifting about opening the old-fashioned mailbox and discovering, beneath the bank statements, utility bills, and junk mail, a handwritten letter from a friend, a relative, or a lover. For Thomas Jefferson, letters from friends and family were "like gleams of light, to cheer a dreary scene." If the humble longhand epistle is, during the twenty-first century, on the road to quaintness, in the eighteenth century it epitomized communication.

Primary Source of the Month

Inkstand, circa 1795, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Inkstand, ca. 1795,
with reproduction quills and handwritten letter.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

This silver-plated inkstand contains small glass bottles for holding quills, ink, and sand. Quills were the predominant writing instrument in the Western world from medieval times to almost the end of the nineteenth century, since they were readily available, cheap, and relatively easy to construct.

A More Perfect Union EFT
The Next Electronic Field Trip
is A More Perfect Union
October 13, 2011

Find sources of federal funding for EFTs in this PDF.

Downloadable American History
Lesson Plans from ABC-CLIO
and Colonial Williamsburg

Teaching News

Gift to the Nation

Gift to the Nation September 6-30
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is offering complimentary access to this electronic field trip about the conflict and compromises that accompanied the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. To register for complimentary access to “A More Perfect Union,” go to

Colonial Williamsburg CONNECT

CONNECT Launches September 14
Colonial Williamsburg's CONNECT invites you to join a national dialog about what it means to be an American engaged in the Great Debate. Colonial Williamsburg's rich resources of video, audio, documents, books, texts, articles, and interactive media provide the background to re-examine who we are as a nation. Each week introduces a new topic. CONNECT is designed to be a place for continuing vibrant debate about our core values.

June Podcasts
September Podcasts
09/05: Constitution Day–The Evolution of the Jury
09/12: A Tombstone's Forgotten Tale
09/19: Hammer and Tongs in the Blacksmith's Shop
09/26: Spies at Jamestown

Live CONNECT Webcast
Sept 22, 2 p.m. Eastern

George Washington and James Madison discuss the arguments involved in the framing of the Constitution, and how those arguments relate to 21st century issues.

The Idea of America
The Idea of America
A digital American history program that inspires and prepares high school students for active citizenship, developed by Colonial Williamsburg and distributed by Pearson Education.


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Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers


PSCU Financial Services Logo

2011–2012 Electronic Field Trip Scholarships


Teaching Strategy: Eighteenth-Century Letter Writing

In the eighteenth century, letter writing was the primary form of communication with people in the next town, another colony, or across the ocean. The language and style of colonial writing is often rich in its use of language and detail. In this lesson, students will read and respond to real letters from eighteenth-century correspondents using eighteenth-century words and phrases.

Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Resources for Your Classroom

2011–2012 Teaching Resources Catalog

Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality instructional materials about 18th-century life, including:

  • Quill Pen and Ink Powder
  • Jefferson and Adams (DVD and Teacher Guide)

Check out our Back to School specials.

Kids Zone: History, Games & Fun
Check out our two new
Constitution Day
word searches!

2010 Distance Learning Award
21st Century Award
for Best Practices in Distance Learning, preK–12
United States Distance Learning Association, 2010

2011 AEP Finalist
Distinguished Achievement Award Finalist 2011
Association of Educational Publishers

Quotation of the Month

"Take pains ... to write a neat round, plain hand, and you will find it a great convenience through life to write a small and compact hand as well as a fair and legible one."

Thomas Jefferson, April 16, 1810, in a letter to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph.
The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson
, p. 395, eds. E.M. Betts and J.A. Bear, Jr. (1966).

The Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip Series is supported in part
by the William and Gretchen Kimball Young Patriots Fund.

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