John Hemmings & the Joinery

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Arm chair, probably made by John Hemmings, mahogany, ca. 1817.
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Jack plane.JPG
Jack plane.
Collection of Robert L. Self
Plow plane.JPG
Plow plane.
Collection of Robert L. Self
1938-3 Cabinet.jpg
Hanging cupboard made by John Hemmings, walnut and tulip poplar, ca. 1820.  
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
2010-16ROblique.jpg
Jack plane.JPG
Plow plane.JPG
1938-3 Cabinet.jpg

"John Hemmings was a carpenter. He was a first-rate workman, a very extra workman. He could make anything that was wanted in woodwork." - Monticello overseer Edmund Bacon.

Jefferson established a Joinery on Mulberry Row to produce the distinctive architectural woodwork for his house. Here joiners (highly skilled carpenters) made doors, windows, and decorative finish work, such as cornices, mantels, balustrades, and railings. Beginning in the 1770s, Jefferson engaged a series of white joiners, including James Dinsmore and John Neilson, who trained slave apprentices. John Hemmings (1776-1833) succeeded Dinsmore as head joiner in 1809, making fine furniture for Jefferson, including cabinets, chairs, and tables.

Some of Hemmings’s woodworking signatures include: the way shelves are attached to the sides of a cupboard, the double-bead molding on shelves’ front edges, and the curved molding on door frames.

John Hemmings, who could read and write, often spelled his name with a double m, while other family members used a single m.

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