Thomas Day (1801-61), a free man of color from Milton, N.C., became the most successful cabinetmaker in North Carolina—white or black—during a time when most blacks were enslaved and free blacks were restricted in their movements and activities. Through in-depth analysis and generous illustrations, including over 240 photographs (20 in full color) and architectural photography by Tim Buchman, Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color by Patricia Phillips Marshall and Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll provides a comprehensive perspective on and a new understanding of the powerful sense of aesthetics and design that mark Day’s legacy.
The Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit, “Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color“, showcasing thirty-nine pieces of furniture crafted or attributed to the Day workshop, as well as his personal Bible, three period quilts, and both historic and contemporary photographs of architectural structures designed by Day. The exhibit is scheduled to run through July 28.
Marsha Dubrow from Examiner.com provided a review of the exhibit. Much like Marshall and Leimenstoll’s book, Dubrow describes the Smithsonian’s exhibit as, “doubly intriguing—combining his startlingly unique cabinets, bureaus, chairs, even a child’s Gothic-Classical style ‘commode’ (potty), architectural designs, with his extraordinary career.” The review from Examiner.com also features a slideshow presentation for a glimpse at the exhibit and some of the work of Thomas Day.