Identifying Thomas Day Furniture

There is not yet an absolute way of identifying a piece of Thomas Day furniture short of having the bill of sale with Thomas Day’s name on it. There is one instance we are aware of where the initials TD appeared on the back of a large sideboard he made but that is rare. He incorporated many of the fashionable styles and designs of the day in the furniture he produced, yet often put these elements together in a unique, “improvisational” way. If you believe you may have a piece of Thomas Day furniture, here are some things to look for:

Curves and Scrolls

Day and many other period artisans featured curves and S-shapes as both decorative and functional elements. These kinds of curvilinear designs can be found in a pattern book called, The Cabinet Maker’s Assistant ( Baltimore: John Murphy, 1840) which is one Day used as a reference. He often uses S-shapes in unique ways as in the supports for this mirror.

Expert Veneer Work

Day used imported mahogany veneers extensively which he applied to less expensive woods like pine and poplar. His veneers were cut unusually thin for the times (sometimes as thin as 1/16th of an inch). They are also distinctive in the way he expertly matched the wood grain as shown here where the two pieces of veneer come together beneath the key holes of each drawer.

Dovetail Joints

The mark of fine cabinetmaking is joinery. In this piece of Day furniture, notice the dovetail joints that are expertly cut, thin, and not concealed or hidden.

Newell Posts & Distinctive Interior Architecture

Day is especially known for his sculptural newel posts and other distinctive interior architecture. Some people have seen a parallel between some of these forms and the stylized abstract forms of African sculpture. Art historians advising the TDEP, however, are reluctant to attribute the aesthetic preferences in Day’s work to an African aesthetic. They argue that much more research on Day’s body of work would need to be done before it could be called “African” or for that matter “European.” What we do know is that it is “American,” which means that it is a mix of diverse cultural and aesthetic influences.

84 thoughts on “Identifying Thomas Day Furniture”

  1. I have just been informed that a piece of furniture we have may have been made by
    Thomas Day. If I could send a picture, may I get an opinion?

    1. I would love to see a picture of it. My girlfriend is a decendent of Mr. Thomas Day and we have been studying his work for some time now. We are working hard to aquire a piece for her Dad.

      1. I was looking at the site for Thomas Day and saw your post about looking for a piece of his furniture. I have a piece that I bought that had been in Orton Plantation close to Southport, NC. It is a very large sideboard with three drawers and three doors below. It is mahogany and has been identified as a probable Thomas Day piece. I actually have a piece that was my Mothers very much like it and that is the only reason I would ever sell this one since it is such a beautiful piece. If your girlfriend is still looking for a piece for her father I would be glad to send her a picture of it.

        1. I’m not sure why I never received this message years ago. My then girlfriend is now my wife and I came across this link while continuing my search as surprise Christmas gift to her. If you still have this piece please let me know. My email address is

          1. I have a beautiful mahogany sideboard attributed to Thomas Day that I bought many years ago in NC. I can take a picture and email to you, if you would like.

      2. I have a cabinet/ curio that I bought in NC at an estate sale and I was told it was a Thomas Day piece. I’ve not seen another one like it and wanted to know if I sent a pic, you may be able to tell?

      3. We have some dressers that belonged to my GGG grandfather, an abolitionist Congressman who also was a conductor in the UGRR . They look like other Thomas Day furniture, and have all of the characteristics. Who is the best source for confirmation of identity? I’d love to contact Day’s decedents. My GGG grandfather and Thomas Day most likely ran in the same abolition circles.

      4. Hi I just inherited a really nice dresser it’s I think 1865 I lost the Providence on it I would like to know what you think Thanx Derek

    2. I have a piece that I would like someone to take a look at also! Would like some info on who to send a picture to! Also, to the S. Uzzell, would you by any chance be related to Edwina Uzzell who grew up in Virginia Beach? We were friends in Elementary School!

  2. I have recently purchased an antique armoire, vanity and desk bedroom set. My father though it looked like a pennsylvania dutch colonial piece however when i opened the drawer i saw faint insignia or stamp. One of them was more legible it said Thomas Day Cabinet maker. It has hand painted birds and designs. I would love to have someone take a look at a picture but i dont know who to send it to. I live in NJ and wouldn’t know who to trust. please email me back if you have the time.

    1. An expert is looking at the photos of the pieces you send. I will hopefully be able to get back to you soon OR perhaps one of them will be able to comment on the work. Do you know ANYTHING about the provenance of the pieces? Where did you purchase the pieces – what did they say about them?

  3. I have a sofa that was purchased by my grandmother who lived in Pelham, NC. Is there someone I could send a picture to in order to determine if it might be a Day piece? It was originally covered in brown velvet and is veneered. I tried to have it appraised many years ago and was told they don’t know because they haven’t seen one like it. Thanks.

  4. My Spouse is a decendant of Mr. Thomas Day and I have been looking for a Thomas Day piece for her. If you have a piece you are willing to sell of know of someone who is willing to do the same, or know where I might find a piece, please contact me.

    Thank you

    1. I have a sideboard and a wardrob that be something you are looking for ,write back if you would like to see them,thay are in Eden,nc

    2. My late Father collected antiques for years. He was convinced he had a couple of T.D. pcs. My Mother still has them and would sell them. She lives in Reidsville, NC. Email me if you’re interested Mike.


      1. Margaret, I am researching Thomas Day tables for my internship. If you still have the library table would you mind sharing a picture? It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    4. i have 2 thomas day pieces and would be willing to sell. your ad is from 2012 and i realize you may not be interested but let me know. thanks

      1. I have an Empire dresser that I purchased at an antique stall years ago in Charlotte North Carolina. I believe it’s Thomas Day. Would you be interested in photos?

    5. Mike, I have been researching Thomas Day for a couple of years now. My neighbor passed away and left me the most amazing chest, no one walks into my home without admiring it. He was 97. After researching and even if the bureau I have is not a Thomas Day (though I believe it is) I am honored to have learned what an amazing man he was and about the his history. How intelligent he must have been to be a man of color but earn the respect of so many in a time, I can only imagine, was exceptionally hard to accomplish. Then to also be in a secret society that were aimed at abolishing slavery and to be able to keep his composure and live basically a dual role in his life. I have read his writing and many other things about him and I feel he was a very centered person and a true artist. A man way before his time. I posted the piece I have on a website called Dusty Old Thing and I was floored in a couple of days to see over 3000 like and shares and comments. Mostly about the beauty of the piece but also reading the history I knew about Thomas Day and so many seemed excited to learn about him. I was so happy to learn his work was in the Smithonian and that his descendants had a gathering this year in his honor. After so many years of knowing about him, I felt honored to have already known of his life and achievements. If you receive this note and would like to see the bureau I have, it is in the flaming mahogany, please send me an email and I will be glad to send you a pic. I was so proud to post it on the Dusty Old Thing website and to get so much appreciation for showing it. You could also go on Dusty Old Thing facebook or website and see the featured antique for October 16, 2013 and that is mine. Thank you!

    6. That is interesting. My wife is also a descendant on Mr. Day. I have found a couple of pieces that may be Day works that I will be looking at in hopes to purchase them as a Christmas gift. Let me know if you would like some leads. If nothing else it would be cool to put them in contact to discuss family history.

  5. I also believe I have a Thomas Day Library Table and I will be investigating further. Perhaps we could trade photos

      1. I have a bedroom set that I believe could be Thomas Day. Very exceptional details.
        Can you help me identify?

    1. Gail

      Are you still interested in a Thomas Day piece? I have a crotch/flame mahogany chest of drawers which may likely be made by him…..all the best, Bryan

      1. Bryan, I saw your piece on ebay and it prompted me to post mine on a website Dusty Old Thing (also on Facebook) Your piece was the first I have ever seen that was even close to what I have. I have thought after much research that it is a Thomas day work but because he did not sign his work, how would someone go about getting it appraised as a Thomas day work. I love mine and your also. The bottoms are different in our but that beautiful flaming mahogany is unmistakable. Check out that website Dusty Old Thing and look for the featured antique for Oct 16 and you will see mine. I would love your opinion on it, Thanks!! April

  6. I have two pieces that I believe to be made by Thomas day. They were given to me by my Grandmother who got them from her parents. Is there someone I can send photos to?

  7. I have two Thomas Day pieces that I am interested in selling. One is a prototype of a lounge, similar in style to the one made for Gov. Reid and a marble top dresser.

  8. The Thomas Day Education Project does not become involved in buying/selling Day pieces. Perhaps you could contact an antiques dealer about your pieces? Shops in the Hillsborough, NC area or anywhere in the Piedmont of North Carolina may be interested. I believe that since 2008 and the financial crisis that the prices of antiques have plummeted. In short, I doubt if this is the best time to sell because I think the values of antiques are down.

  9. I have a secretary/bookcase we are unable to ID. It could be a T.D. We were told it was made by “African Americans during the 18th century.” I could send you a picture if you are interested in helping us out.
    Thank you,

  10. Hello, I have a gorgeous crushed blue velvet Civil War couch that was purchased in Halifax, VA. I have been told by two ladies that had just come from a Thomas Day exhibit, that my couch was a Thomas Day piece and to have it checked. The couch is so beautiful that everyone that saw it, asks if I still have it. If I send you photos can you tell me more about it? MDH

  11. Hello – I just bought 5 chairs from an antique shop in Montreal, Quebec and the owner showed us a newpaper clipping with a photo that showed some Thomas Day chairs that are nearly identical. Can I send you some photos to find out whether they are genuine?


  12. We are located in Apex, NC & I have a Thomas Day 2 x 4 drawer beautiful dresser. I’m going to be entertaining serious offers soon. It’s 45″ H x 42″ W x 22″ Deep.Reply for pics, etc.


      1. We have 2 dressers passed down from my GGG grandfather who was an abolitionist, conductor of the UGRR, and U.S. Congressman in Lincoln’s administration. They have all of the characteristics of Thomas Day furniture. My parents still use the beautiful dressers. I’m trying to find a good source to send pictures to, or who can evaluate them in person. Are you an expert , a decedent, or able to put us in touch with one? The dressers are currently in North Carolina. Thank you for your help!

  13. I recently purchased a walnut sleigh bed at an estate liquidation. I have been trying to identify markings found on the headboard, footboard, and side rails. The markings were brushed on in black, are hard to discern. There are three letters in script followed by the number 44. The first letter could be a capital d. The 2nd an o or a. The 3rd is definitely the letter y. I would love a picture from anyone with a TD sleigh bed or if anyone has found similar markings. Also the length is 65 inches by 55 inches wide which makes me think it is pretty old. The veneer appears to be thin and finely book-end matched. Please tell me what you think. Thanks!

  14. I have set of four Empire side chairs, purchased in the 1930s in New York State, and am wondering whether they might possibly have been made by Thomas Day. The crest especially seems to resemble chairs attributed to Day. I can provide pictures and would appreciate hearing from anyone who might be able to offer an opinion on them. Thank you.

  15. I have two side chairs in excellent condition that were made by Thomas Day an d were in a set of sixteen made for the Governors Mansion in Raleigh. The 16 chairs were purchased by my great-grandfather, Thomas S Harrison of Caswell County. He gave each of his six daughters two chairs each and I have the two that my grandmother had. Also have a chest we believe were made by Thomas Day. Would sell chairs. Paul Davis

  16. Hello. I have recently purchased an antique American Empire Flamed Mahogany Tall Post Tester Bed from an antique shop in Stantonsburg, Wilson County, North Carolina. All I know of the bed is what I was told, and unfortunately, the provenance and history of the bed has been lost, as the proprietor of the establishment did not know much herself. She said it was purchased at a local estate sale, or auction, and was dated, by an antique expert, to the 1820s. When I asked her what she knew of its manufacture and origins, she said that she could not be certain, of course, but she believed it to be a North Carolina-made piece. My bed has a very thin mahogany veneer, a headboard almost identical to a “floating headboard,” and what appears to be a dark red wash on the back of the headboard – all of which Thomas Day seems to be known for. The headboard features an arched shaped top with scrolls at the shoulders and recessed panels of flamed mahogany below. It has cylindrical posts transitioning to square, which are topped with beehive type finials with the tester top frame resting on the top, and which sit upon bun feet. It is of bolted construction with wood square rails, and wood bed bolt covers. The posts are 80 inches tall (6ft. 6 in.), the width of the bed is 66 ½ inches, and the inside length of the bed is 72 ½ inches. The total weight of the bed is approximately 200 lbs. I would really like to know if this bed could possibly be attributed to Thomas Day, as I am planning to have it restored and lengthened to accommodate a 66 x 80 inch mattress. I have photographs available, if that would assist anyone in helping me to determine whether Thomas Day manufactured this piece. I can be contacted at Thank you very much.

  17. I own a house in Madison NC that I believe has Thomas Day fireplace mantels(6), mill work, and staircase. The house was built in 1832 by the town founder Randolph Duke Scales. Would you like to see some pictures?

  18. i would love to get an opinion on a piece that we have in our store considering it is so much difference in prices. Thanks for your time

  19. I have a solid walnut wardrobe that maybe attributed to Mr. Day. My family, who are from northern Alamance County, can trace it back to about the 1840’s or so. Is there anyway I could send pictures to verify if indeed, this piece was made in Mr. Day’s shop?

  20. I believe I have a T.D. piece. It’s a tall dresser. No markings to be found. It is the flame mahogany with dovetail joints. Stands 44 1/2 tall x 42 1/2 across. Is there any way this can be verified ? I can send pictures. I am looking to sell it so any info would be helpful.

  21. Hey so I am no antique specialist so if I messed up don’t be angry haha. I found a dresser at a garage sale that matches every discription I have found for a Thomas Day cabinet. Now a hobby of mine is to strip down old furniture and re do them. I hadn’t gotten too far in this piece when I noticed somthing written very lightly in pencil. My eyes are not that great so reading it is difficult. The paragraph makes it seem like this dresser was a gift for someone. I made out the name John Búhner? I think that’s what it says. At the bottom it is signed but I can’t make out the signature. It also says somthing about Jefferson county, NY, 1857 and that is very legible. I am now commited to refinishing this thing but would love to know the history on it. I have pictures of the inscription that is somewhat legible if anyone is interested.

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  23. Barbara
    I believe I have a TD chest of drawers. It is very beautiful with a separate mirror with two drawers and it swings. I bought 40 years ago at a estate sale in Charleston, SC. I am looking to get info on it and possibly sell it. Thank you!

  24. I believe I have a Thomas Day chest of drawers, it is very beautiful with separate mirror with two drawers and it swings. I bought it 40 years ago at a estate sale in Charleston SC. I am looking for info on it and possibly selling it! Thank you, Barbara

  25. I just purchased an Empire dresser that I suspect may be a TD piece. It looks to be made of crotch mahogany veneers. How can I get this piece identified. Could I send you pics.

  26. I have a piece I believe may have been made by Thomas Day and am looking for advice on it. It has had a new stain put on it at some point and new hardware at some point so I want to have it refinished, but how I do so depends on it being – just an older nice piece of furniture – or a Thomas Day. (Don’t want to paint TD!) thank you for any direction you can provide!

    1. The piece has been in Person County, NC (for at least 75 years) in a home that has been owned by a single family since (at least) 1900. Need to check for more information the family may have on it.

  27. We are a local historical house museum in Connecticut which has been given a “Lincoln rocker”. A recent restoration after damage brought to light that it might be attributed to Thomas Day. It was in North Carolina for over 150 years most of the time near the Pimlico Sound area with one family. What is the best way to send a photograph for your opinion? Thanking you in advance.
    Newington Historical Society & Trust, Inc.

  28. Good morning; my wife inherited a chest of drawers from her grandparents several years ago and we have been told it may be a Thomas Day piece. I would like to email a couple of photos for your review and comment. Thanks in advance for your help.

  29. Many cabinet makers worked in the style of Thomas Day. You must remember that furniture reflects its time or period so there are many pieces out there that can “qualify” as a Day piece. Probably 99.99% of furniture claimed to have been made by Thomas Day isn’t, so watch out for those who say that a piece came from an estate sale in Day’s hometown is therefore a Day unless they have good documentation to back it up. And you have to be careful about purchasing pieces online that claim to have been made by Day. Recently I saw several pieces on ebay attributed to Day but, again, no documentation. I questioned one seller about provenance and he got rather angry about it. His reasoning was that Day or one of his workers wrote the owner’s initial on the back of the piece to distinguish it from other pieces. The seller also didn’t allow returns. Big red flag! A good rule of thumb is to always assume that what a seller says is false until you can prove otherwise.

  30. Can anyone give me the name or email address of someone who is an expert in identifying Thomas Day furniture?

  31. I have possibly 2 pieces of Thomas Day furniture. One is a mahogany wardrobe that has rounded corners and has no bolts holding it together, the center divide has wedges top and bottom holding it together. The second piece is a butlers style secretary with a glass paned top section. The bottom has 2 paneled doors below the secretary section. Inside there are file sections and a center pigeon hole section. Both are circa 1830’s. Where can I get information about his unique style of cabinet making so I can so I can associate them with my pieces. Thank you, Floyd Van Etten.

  32. I may have a Thomas Day cupboard. It is about 7′ tall and 49″ wide. It is all walnut. When you take out the drawers and look underneath, there are the unmistakable marks of a round saw.
    Out family has always know the Provenance, because it has never been out of the family. Unfortunately, there is no bill of sale. The piece was bought for a young bride 19 years younger than her husband. The bride was my gr. gr. gr. grandmother. They were married about 1825.
    The piece was bought directly from Thomas Day in NC and shipped to VA. The house which it was brought to has a Thomas Day mantel and balustrade. The house is still in the family, in Henrico Co., VA. My 97 year old father told me to look the house up on-line because it was on the market. Unfortunately, if sold the house would be out of the family for the first time. The mantel and balustrade are clearly photographed and described as made by Thomas Day by the Real Estate Company. Hate to think that would happen.

    I am planning to move the cupboard from SC to Santa Fe next month. I need to put a value on the cupboard, but have no idea what to put. Any ideas?

  33. My mother has a Tom Day wardrobe with original bill of sale signed by TD. We would be interested in selling it. Does anyone know of a reputable broker familiar with TD work?

  34. Interesting reading here for a couple of years . I have been a collector of TD for 35 years. There are many factors such as joinery, wood color, veneer that distinguish Day. There is a very distinctive color to the unfinished poplar and pine areas. Take a look at yours or any verified TD to get a feel. Buying from a household where there were several pieces is also a bonus. Buying in the Piedmont of NC( if the furniture can be traced back 100 years in a family) is a plus too. Much of the furniture was ordered in suites. This isn’t all standard operating procedure on identifying TD , but it is a sure way to rule common pieces out. Good luck

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