DAY, THOMAS (1801–1861), North Carolina, furniture manufacturer, master carpenter, woodworker, artist.
Thomas Day was a successful furniture maker particularly renown for beds but also for furniture suites and interior design. Living near the Virginia state line in Milton, North Carolina, Day produced furniture for many North Carolina and Virginia clients including North Carolina’s governor. Day’s furniture, reflecting the Greek revival fashion of the period, often included distinctive variations of the ‘‘thumb’’ or curved Ionic style. Although no one has yet established an explicit connection, some pieces, including many newel posts Day made for the staircases of local plantations, resemble art made in West Africa.
It was in 1822 or 1823 that Day established himself in Milton with the intention of staying only long enough to refine his furniture-making skills. Although there is no record of his early business, by 1827 Day purchased his own shop on Milton’s Main Street for $550. With a reputation as an upstanding, churchgoing individual, Day enjoyed steady growth in his business. The region’s successful tobacco growers often had Day furnish interior trim and complete rooms of furniture. The 1830 census records Day as a black artisan with two slaves in his possession. It is also known that Day employed white apprentices. It is uncertain how Day used his slaves, but it is reasonable to conclude that they were involved with his business, particularly after 1848 when Day consolidated his family and business under one roof.
Increasing business and lack of room led Day to purchase the Yellow Tavern in 1848. Located on Main Street and built in 1815, the Tavern was well made