Jefferson presented with a “mammoth loaf” of bread - HISTORY
Year
1804

Jefferson presented with a “mammoth loaf” of bread

On this day in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson attends a public party at the Senate and leads a diverse crowd in consuming an enormous loaf of bread dubbed the mammoth loaf. The giant bread was baked to go with the remnants of an enormous block of cheese.

Two years earlier, a group of Baptist women from Massachusetts had sent Jefferson a 1,200- pound hunk of cheese in gratitude for his support of religious tolerance. The cheese, they said, illustrated Jefferson’s claim that North America’s superior natural resources would one day enable the U.S. to outstrip all of Europe in agricultural production.

Early Americans’ use of the descriptive term mammoth arose from the discovery of a giant woolly mammoth skeleton in New York in 1801. Jefferson, fascinated with the natural sciences, was a member of the American Philosophical Society and helped the organization raise funds to complete the archaeological project. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents ridiculed the president’s scientific side projects as frivolous. In an attempt to embarrass the president, they dubbed the giant dairy product the mammoth cheese. To the Federalists’ surprise and disappointment, the general populace embraced the term with nationalistic zeal. Almost immediately, butcher shops and markets advertised mammoth-size products from sides of veal to pumpkins and loaves of bread.

The unveiling of the mammoth loaf occurred at a Senate-sponsored March 26 party to rally support for a naval war against the Barbary States. At noon, a Navy baker wheeled in the mammoth loaf along with the remnants of the Baptist women’s mammoth cheese, an equally enormous side of roast beef and copious amounts of alcohol. President Jefferson stepped up, pulled out his pocketknife and cut the first slice of bread. According to written observations, the party quickly degenerated into a noisy, drunken affair.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Salk announces polio vaccine

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announces on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. In 1952–an epidemic year for polio–there were 58,000 new cases ...read more

Israel-Egyptian peace agreement signed

In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.Less than two years earlier, ...read more

Naval warfare gets new weapon

On this day, Italy attacks the British fleet at Suda Bay, Crete, using detachable warheads to sink a British cruiser. This was the first time manned torpedoes had been employed in naval warfare, adding a new weapon to the world’s navies’ arsenals.The manned torpedo, also known as ...read more

First Battle of Gaza

The first of three battles fought in the Allied attempt to defeat Turkish forces in and around the Palestinian city of Gaza takes place on this day in 1917.By January 1917, the Allies had managed to force the Turkish army completely out of the Sinai Peninsula in northeastern ...read more

Hue falls to the communists

The city of Hue, in northernmost South Vietnam, falls to the North Vietnamese. Hue was the most recent major city in South Vietnam to fall to the communists during their new offensive. The offensive had started in December 1974, when the North Vietnamese had launched a major ...read more

Antiwar demonstration in Washington

A group called Women Strike for Peace demonstrate in Washington, D.C., in the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January. The antiwar movement had initially given Nixon a chance to make good on his campaign promises to end the war in ...read more

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel published

This Side of Paradise is published, immediately launching 23-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald to fame and fortune.Fitzgerald, named for his ancestor Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star Spangled Banner,” was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a once well-to-do family that had ...read more

American Beauty tops Academy Awards

On this day in 2000, Billy Crystal hosts the 72nd annual Academy Awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.An Oscar crisis had been narrowly averted a week earlier, when Willie Fulgear, a man who made his living recovering and selling discarded objects, found 10 ...read more

Deadly earthquake hits California

An earthquake felt from Mexico to Oregon rocks the Owens Valley in California on this day in 1872, killing 30 people.California, with the large San Andreas Fault running through the entire state, is a prime area for earthquakes. At 2:30 a.m. on March 26, a large quake hit Inyo ...read more

Torture chamber uncovered in Philadelphia

Responding to a 911 call, police raid the Philadelphia home of Gary Heidnik and find an appalling crime scene. In the basement of Heidnik’s dilapidated house is a veritable torture chamber wherethree naked women were found chained toa sewer pipe. A fourth woman, Josefina Rivera, ...read more