On the first day of 1802, the residents of Cheshire, Massachusetts, presented Thomas Jefferson with perhaps the oddest gift ever offered to a U.S. president — a stupendous cheese weighing 1,235 pounds.
A local paper reported how the event came about. “The old dairy town, in a triumphant mass meeting, resolved to put its curds together and build a mammoth cheese, which would eclipse all previous workmanship of that character in pyramidical size and weight.
The 12th of July, 1801, was fixed upon for the constructing of this great bovine gift. Darius Brown, the mechanical engineer, at once constructed a monstrous cheese hoop four feet in diameter and 18 inches high, while the village blacksmith strengthened and secured it with huge iron braces so that it could not burst. Every milk cow and heifer within the precincts of the town was brought in, with the exception of such bovines owned by Federalists [Jefferson’s opposition].
“After every cow in the county had contributed, the cheese was salted and pressed, Elder Leland said a benediction, and the cheese was removed for curing and drying. It arrived in the Capital on New Year’s Day, 1802. Thomas Jefferson exclaimed that it was one of the happiest days in his history, then proceeded to carve off large slices of the cheese and served it to all present.”
Cheshire no longer makes cheese, but a replica of the famous gift rests proudly in the town center.
Excerpt from “Hail to the Cheese,”
Yankee Magazine, January 1993.