The Mammoth Cheese of Cheshire
was the most unusual gift ever given to a President of the United States. In the aftermath of the "Revolution of 1800"
, the eccentric
Baptist preacher John Leland
decided to celebrate the presidency of Thomas Jefferson by convincing the predominantly Baptist farmers of Cheshire, Massachusetts
to create a giant 1,235-pound block of cheese as a monument to small-"r" republicanism and religious freedom.
The cheese eventually reached Thomas Jefferson on New Years Day in 1802, the same day
that Jefferson wrote his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists
about the wall of separation between church and state
. The Federalist Party
, which opposed Jefferson's funding of scientific research during the Lewis & Clark expedition
, ridiculed the cheese as a "mammoth," a reference to the recent exhumation of a mammoth
by the painter and naturalist, Charles Willson Peale
. The derision of the Federalists backfired, however, as the delivery of the cheese coincided with a huge "mammoth craze"
that popularized the word "mammoth" as an adjective
describing anything enormous, including a mammoth loaf
of bread gifted to Jefferson in 1804. An experimental dairy station in Perth, Ontario eventually made a bigger mammoth cheese
, but Jefferson's mammoth cheese has inspired a novel
, a children's book
, a monument
protected by funds from the Department of Homeland Security
, and a subplot on The West Wing
. Last but not least, check out this research paper
, which places the Mammoth Cheese of Cheshire in the context of Jeffersonian participatory democracy.