Cabinet maker Thomas Day was a master at his craft. He is especially known for his sculptural newel posts and other distinctive interior architecture.
Day was born in 1801 in Dinwiddie County in southern Virginia to free black parents. His family moved to Warren County, North Carolina in 1817, to Hillsborough, Orange County in 1821, and then to Caswell County in 1824. He married Aquilla Wilson of Halifax County, Virginia (1830), and had three or four children.
Day began his cabinet making business in Milton, North Carolina with his brother, John Day, Jr., By 1850, Day operated the largest furniture business in the state. Day’s furniture business employed at one point up to twelve workers, and distributing furniture to wealthier customers throughout the state. His furniture is still cherished today in private homes and museums primarily in North Carolina and Virginia.
Day did not sign his furniture pieces; the only piece that can be documented to him through discernible markings is a dresser at the North Carolina Museum of History, which has an interior plank made from wood recycled from a shipping crate.
Pieces of Day’s work have been displayed at various museums throughout North Carolina and Virginia, and an exhibit of Day’s work opened at the North Carolina Museum of History in May 2010. A statue of Thomas Day stands outside the North Carolina Museum of History, along with statues of Frederick Augustus Olds, and a representative Sauratown Woman.