2021 | 2022 VOL 42 | 43

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Peter Oliver: Revisiting and Reassessing the Life of a Moravian African American Potter

Geoff Hughes

A funeral was held in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina in the afternoon of 30 September 1810. The service marked the passing of an esteemed community member, Peter Oliver. Born into enslavement, Peter Oliver became a skilled craftsman and purchased his freedom. Much of the work he undertook to achieve emancipation took place in the pottery workshops of Salem and the nearby town of Bethabara, making him one of the only documented African American potters in the Moravian’s North Carolina communities (collectively known as Wachovia) (Figures 1 and 2). During his lifetime, Peter Oliver was accepted into Salem’s Moravian congregation as a communicant member, a significant achievement integral to securing his freedom. His funeral and the procession that followed were noteworthy in its multiracial character amid an increasingly segregated American South. According to church records, “a large number of Negroes attended, and they were given the front benches” … Continued

The Prichard-Correll Piano: Amateur Piano Making and Rural Gentility in Piedmont North Carolina

Alexandra Cade

In rural antebellum America, a curious convergence of piano production and exuberant creativity inspired craftspeople with little to no formal training to create their own keyboard instruments. Amateur-made instruments deviate from professional norms, yet often display aesthetic influences from conventional piano forms and showcase creative solutions to the construction of intricate mechanisms that comprised some of the most complex technology extant in the early nineteenth century. Once dismissed by most experts for their odd qualities, surviving instruments and archival materials document a numerically small tradition of amateurism within American keyboard instrument craft. This article explores the intersection of cabinetmaking traditions, female accomplishment, and the musical environment of rural North Carolina as reflected in the production of an amateur-made piano crafted by David Prichard of Iredell County, North Carolina. While piano making falls under the broad category of the woodworking trades, the skills required for the production of keyboard instruments are more … Continued

Thomas Chittum, Cabinetmaker, Lexington, Virginia: His Shop, Product, and Client Accounts, 1839–1852

J. Christian Kolbe

  The focus of this article is the 125 outstanding client accounts from 1839 to 1852 of Rockbridge County, Virginia, cabinetmaker Thomas G. Chittum. The client accounts are found in the 1855 Rockbridge County chancery court case John D. Camden vs. Thomas G. Chittum, Etc. The case has been digitized and may be accessed online through the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records Index.[1] This article will analyze the client accounts to understand Chittum’s furniture production, look at his connection with other craftsmen, and provide a list of customers. Analysis of the accounts will add to the relatively few published resources and contextualize the cabinetmaking business in this part of the Valley of Virginia (Figures 1 and 2).[2]   Early Life Before examining the client accounts it is necessary to understand Chittum’s career and the socioeconomic environment in which he worked. Thomas G. Chittum was born in 1805 in Goochland County, … Continued

Schools and Teachers that Contributed to the Kentucky Sampler Tradition

Sheryl DeJong

  Anglo-American settlement of Kentucky began in the 1770s and it was divided from Virginia and granted statehood in 1792, by which time a sampler tradition in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and coastal regions of the South had been established for over a century and schools teaching needlework to young women were already well established.[1] Did young women and girls in early Kentucky have opportunities to go to school and make samplers like their contemporaries elsewhere in America? If so, were Kentucky’s female schools impacted by early nineteenth-century reforms in women’s education that elsewhere in America that had begun to eliminate sampler making from curricula in favor of chemistry and other classes in the sciences? And how might Kentucky’s non-Protestant female schools have influenced its sampler tradition? Without any published scholarship on Kentucky’s samplers, this study addresses those questions by beginning to contextualizing Kentucky samplers within the American South and elsewhere in … Continued

Editor’s Welcome

Gary Albert

Most readers of the MESDA Journal did not know Betsy Allen or will not recognize her name. She was a private person and given to strong opinions, but also wonderfully literate and an unapologetic Anglophile. Betsy was passionate about antiques and history. She provided expertise and well-honed editorial skills that shaped every article published in the MESDA Journal for over a decade. Betsy Allen passed away in April 2021. Our deep sense of loss has been buoyed by a significant anonymous gift in her memory to establish the Betsy W. Allen Memorial Fund that ensures publication of the MESDA Journal in perpetuity by underwriting all of the journal’s direct costs and expenses. This endowment is a most appropriate and meaningful way to remember and celebrate Betsy’s life and legacy. She loved antiques, but even more she cherished the evocative stories about people and places that are revealed through the study … Continued

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