Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: furniture maker

Invented and exhibited.



The Annual Fair of the North Carolina State Agricultural Society commenced, at the grounds near this City, on Tuesday last; and will close to-day, Friday.

The weather since Monday has been unpropicious; but notwithstanding this, the attendance has been large, and the exhibition of articles of all kinds better than on any former occasion.

We give below, as far and as fully as it could be obtained, a list of the various articles on exhibition in Floral Hall, in Planter’s Hall, in Mechanic’s Hall, and on the grounds. No doubt many articles, as well as stock, deserving of particular notice have been overlooked; but this — though this press has had three Reporters on the grounds — could not be avoided. It is impossible, amid the press of the crowd and the excitement of the occasion, to do exact and equal justice to all. And so we trust no one will conclude that their articles have been slighted, or intentionally overlooked. — The premium list will, after all, show who is entitled to praise for superior enterprise, industry, patience and skill.


A new patent invalid chair, invented and exhibited by J.T. Alston, a free man of color.

Lexington and Yadkin Flag, 7 November 1856.

Thomas Day.


Thomas Day, a cabinetmaker by trade, is the most celebrated of North Carolina’s antebellum craftsmen. He was born 1801 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, to a family of free, landowning African-Americans. His father, John Day, was a skilled cabinetmaker who plied other trades as well, but always relied on woodworking to bring in money. Thomas and his brother John Day were well-educated. John’s education, during which he boarded with prominent whites and attending schools with them, is documented in his later correspondence, and it is assumed that Thomas did the same. Both of the Day sons initially followed in their father’s footsteps, learning the skills of a cabinetmaker. John eventually left the trade to study theology and later moved to Liberia, becoming one of its founders by signing its Declaration of Independence.

John Day moved to Warren County by 1820 and it is believed that Thomas was with him. The Days had established themselves in the furniture business in Milton by 1823. Thomas Day became a prominent and well-respected citizen of the community. In response to an act that prohibited free blacks from immigrating into the state, Milton’s white leaders petitioned the General Assembly in 1830 to allow Day’s bride, Aquilla Wilson, a free black from Virginia, to join him. They reared two sons and a daughter. In his almost forty years in Milton, Thomas 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.

Adapted from

In the 1850 census of Milton, Caswell County: Thomas Day, 49, cabinetmaker, born Virginia, property valued at $8000; wife Aquila, 44; son Devereux J., 17, cabinetmaker, born Milton; Mourning S. Day, 84, born VA; and Joshua Wood, 32, cabinetnaker; all mulatto except the last, who was white.