I am sad to report that Jay Gaynor, director of Historic Trades at Colonial Williamsburg since 2001, died today (July 31, 2014).
Jay was formerly the curator of Mechanical Arts at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which he joined in 1981. Prior to that, he was co-owner of Jamestown Tool Co., makers of reproduction 19th-century English metal handplanes, director of the High Point Museum in High Point, N.C., and associate curator of history at the Ohio Historical Village in Columbus, Ohio, among other positions at the Village, which he helped launch in the 1970s.
He’s also written countless articles on historic tools and trades, edited several books (including the fascinating “Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools: Papers Presented at a Tool Symposium” (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)) and, along with Peter Ross, worked on the most recent edition of “The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton” (TTHS) to measure and provide detailed descriptions and drawings of the tools therein.
In short, his work has been extraordinarily important to our knowledge and understanding of historic tools and trades. Jay, however, would have been the first to tell you that everything he knew was from conversations and correspondence with others – he just managed to talk and write to the right people. That’s a sentiment he expressed during a dinner I was privileged to share with him several years ago, just before the second edition of the Seaton book was published. Jay told me everything he knew was just a collection of other people’s knowledge – though I didn’t, and don’t, believe that. He was humble, kind and extraordinarily smart. He will be missed.