Though their family lived at Jefferson’s Poplar Forest plantation, brothers James and Philip Hubbard were brought to Monticello in their early teens to work in the nailery. In later years, both were runaways, but for different reasons.
In 1805, with money he had saved, James purchased forged “free papers” and new clothing. He set out on foot for Washington but was apprehended outside the city, when his papers were spotted as forgeries. Like most Virginia slaves, without access to education, he didn't recognize what poor forgeries they were. He left again six years later, remaining at large for over a year, and was sold by Jefferson.
Philip Hubbard also ran away: from Poplar Forest to Monticello to ask Jefferson to intervene with an overseer so he and his wife could live together.
In the nailery, enslaved boys worked from sunup to sundown six days a week, swinging their hammers over a hot forge as many as 20,000 times a day. In 1806 an overseer reported that most nailers made between eight and ten pounds of nails a day.
A selection of nails excavated at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson Foundation
To make a rose head nail: Hold a piece of heated nailrod with pincers. Hammer the end into a point. Hold the nailrod over a hardy, inserted in a socket in the anvil. Strike it at the desired length to notch the nailrod. Then stick the pointed end of the nailrod into the header...
Rose head nail. Thomas Jefferson Foundation
In addition to rose head nails, Monticello nailmakers made smaller L-headed finish nails, called brads, using a different heading technique.
Brad. Thomas Jefferson Foundation
To make small lath nails, the nailers used nail-cutting shears to clip off wedge-shaped pieces from narrow strips of hoop iron. The head was then hammered into shape.
Lath nail. Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Archaeologists have found many nail wasters, or misshapen and discarded nails, at the site of the Monticello nailery.