DOLLEY PAYNE TODD MADISON, who is best known as the wife of President James Madison, was born Dorothy (or Dorothea) Payne in North Carolina to Quaker parents in 1768, the fourth of eight children. See an earlier post here. Her father was a planter who, when he emancipated his slaves, moved his family, first to Virginia, and then, in 1783, to Philadelphia where he established a laundry starch-making business. When the venture failed, and following her husband’s death in 1792, Mrs. Payne for a time took in boarders, among whom was Aaron Burr. When Dolley was 21 (1790) she married John Todd, a lawyer and a Quaker; they, along with Dolley’s youngest sister Anna, lived in this brick house in Philadelphia. In 1793 when the city was struck by a yellow fever epidemic, John sent Dolley and their two small children to the country while he remained in the city. Sadly, he died as did their three-month-old son William Temple. By the terms of her husband’s will Dolley inherited their house and the property enumerated below. Todd’s will read:
I give and devise all my estate, real and personal, to the Dear Wife of my Bosom, and first and only Woman upon whom my all and only affections were placed, Dolly Payne Todd, her heirs and assigns forever, trusting that as she proved an amiable and affectionate wife to her John she may prove an affectionate mother to my little Payne, and the sweet Babe with which she is now enceinte. My last prayer is may she educate him in the ways of Honesty, tho’ he may be obliged to beg his Bread, remembering that will be better to him than a name and riches.—I appoint my dear wife executrix of this my will.
John Todd, Jr.
An inventory of the “very small estate” iincluded:
One large Side Board
Eleven Mahogany & Pine tables
Three Looking Glasses
Thirty-six Mahogany and Windsor chairs
One Case of knives & forks
And-Irons, Shovel & Tongs
Window curtains & Window blinds
Carpets & Floor Cloaths
Bed, Bedstead & Bed Cloath
Sundry Setts of China &c.
Articles of Glass Ware & Waiters etc.
Glass lamp, pr Scones & six pictures
Sundry Articles of Plate & Plated ware—also Sett of Castors
Sundry Kitchen furniture
Desk & Book case
An open stove
One fowling piece
One Horse & Chair
The total value was estimated as ƒ434 5 shillings. With the addition of the house, Dolley was fairly comfortably provided for.
Source credited HERE. The inventory is taken from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Dorothy Payne, Quakeress, by Ella Kent Barnard, which can be found online HERE, pages 73-75. The image of the Todd house is at Independence Historical Park, National Park Service. The painting of Dolley Madison by Vanderlyn is at Greensboro Historical Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Read the TRANSCRIPT of the Public Television production The American Experience devoted to Dolley Madison.