Attributed to Thomas Day (American, 1801–1861)

Object Place: Milton, North Carolina


Height x width: 90 x 45 x 23 in. (228.6 x 114.3 x 58.4 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Mahogany veneer, mahogany, maple; pine, yellow poplar

On View

Lurie-Marks Gallery (Gallery 138)




Case furniture and boxes

A master craftsman and person of color in a slave society, Thomas Day was born free to mixed-race parents in southern Virginia. He established his furniture making business in Milton, North Carolina, where he attracted customers from among the region’s white planter elite. In 1850 his shop was the largest furniture business in the state. His works, like this secretary, were rural adaptations of the fashionable Late Classical (or Empire) style of the day. But the dramatic scrolls on the front of the glass doors are a signature element of Day’s best designs.


In pencil inside the back of the lowest drawer: "Made Sept 29, 1841/brought to Lowryville, Aug 24, 1899". In pencil on the underside of secretary drawer: "[P?] [illegible] & [?H] [illegible] Sept. 29. 1841."
A small symbol, resembling a D, is stamped twice on the proper left side of the secretary drawer.


1899, private collection, Lowryville, [Tennessee, see note]. 20th century, acquired on the Charleston, S.C. art market by a private collector; early 1990s, sold by this private collector to Derrick Beard, Washington, D.C.; November 20-21, sale (consigned by Beard), Neal Auction, New Orleans, lot 419, to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 15, 2010)

A pencil inscription inside the back of one drawer, written in what appears to be late nineteenth-century handwriting, reads "made Sept 29, 1841 / brought to Lowryville, Aug 24, 1899." The inscription noting the object's move to Lowryville might suggest that the secretary was owned by someone in Thomas Day's family. According to the consignor, Day's mother's family is said to have migrated west to Tennessee in the late nineteenth century.

Credit Line

The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection