The Big Cheese


In 1801 there was a strong fear amongst Federalist citizens of the United States that the Republican President, Thomas Jefferson, was, by separating the church from the state, paving the way for a revolution akin to that in France, where “the altars of New England would be demolished, and all their religious institutions would be swept away by an inrushing and irresistible flood of French infidelity”. Elder John Leland of Cheshire, Connecticut, disagreed, however, and to show his support to his president and old friend, he produced what was dubbed ‘The Mammoth Cheese’.

Milk and curd was taken from every cow in town (about 900), although Leland was careful to exclude any cows owned by Federalists, “lest it should leaven the whole lump with a distasteful savour.” In an evidently political statement the cheese was made, according to Leland, “without the assistance of a single slave”. Freeborn farmers poured the ingredients into a huge cheese press fashioned from a cider press with a large metal hoop around it, and after some time “the greatest cheese ever put to press in the New World or Old” was ready to present to the president. It was transported to Washington DC via sleigh, boat and wagon.

By all accounts Jefferson was rather pleased, as he wrote to his son-in-law: “the Mammoth cheese is arrived here and is to be presented this day. it is 4 f 4 1/2 I. diameter, 15. I. thick, and weighted in August 1230 lb. … it is an ebullition of the passion of republicanism in a state where it has been under heavy persecution.”News of the cheese having been reported in the news for months before its presentation, Leland was convinced it was a contributing factor in Jefferson winning the 1801 election. There are reports that the cheese remained at the presidents house until as late as 1804 when it was described as “very far from being good”.


(via Oddment Emporium)


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