Thomas Day of Milton, North Carolina’s Premier Furniture Craftsman

A bureau made by Day and now in the collection of the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn March 1, 1827, Thomas Day ran an advertisement in the local newspaper, the Milton Gazette & Roanoke Advertiser, thanking his patrons and advertising his handmade furniture and quality service.  Day, a cabinetmaker by trade, was one of North Carolina’s most celebrated antebellum craftsmen.

Day was born in Dinwiddie County, Va., in 1801 to free, landowning African Americans. Like his brother John Jr., he followed in his father’s footsteps and learned the cabinetmaking trade. Both of the Day sons were well educated.

Thomas and his brother established themselves in the furniture business in Milton by 1823. There, Thomas became a prominent and well-respected citizen of the community. In his almost 40 years in Milton, Day built an extraordinary business, employing freedmen and slaves alike to craft stock lines of furniture and to fill custom orders for furniture and interior woodworking.

By 1850, Day had the largest cabinetry shop in North Carolina. He is believed to have died in about 1861, after having suffered financial losses due to the national panic of 1857. The surviving examples of his work are tangible evidence of his skill and accomplishments as a woodworker and craftsman.

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