Thomas Day: Master Cabinetmaker

A bed made by Thomas Day in the mid 19th-century was a life-changing experience for Jerome Bias. In 1998, Jerome saw the bed in an antique store and knew it was time to take up woodworking.

Now, in addition to his work on a dairy farm and as a quilter and upholsterer, Jerome is a woodworker and a historic interpreter of Thomas Day and his work. The bed pictured above is a copy of the one Jerome saw that day in 1998.

Day, born in 1801 in Virginia, was a free black man in antebellum North Carolina, and he was the most successful cabinetmaker in the state. With a new book out about Day and a museum exhibit of his work at the North Carolina Museum of History, there’s renewed interest in Day, and some of it’s controversial for there’s evidence he may have been a slave owner.

Jerome wrote about Day for the Arts & Mysteries column of the April 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. We’ve posted that story free online (click here).

And yesterday, Thomas Day was featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” show. Writer Fred Wasser discusses the controversy as well as Day’s legacy of remarkable furniture and architectural work. You can read the transcript or listen to the story at NPR.org.

– Megan Fitzpatrick