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PATINA July 2021 Meeting (Scott Merrifield)
July 11, 2021 @ 8:30 am - January 19, 2023 @ 2:00 pm
The guest presentation on July 11 featured Scott Merrifield, who is an Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Intern working with mechanical arts and household accessories at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He holds a BA in History from Christopher Newport University and is working to fulfill his thesis requirement for a MA in History from James Madison University. He was a 2016 summer intern in Colonial Williamsburg’s cabinetmaking shop. In his current position, he has cataloged 250 eighteenth-century woodworking planes made by Francis Nicholson, John Nicholson, and Cesar Chelor. His current research interests are in trades and tools of early America.
The program summary centered on Cesar Chelor, the earliest documented African-American toolmaker, worked in New England as part of the first school of American plane makers. He learned his trade while enslaved to Francis Nicholson of Wrentham, Massachusetts, the first professional plane maker in the colonies. Upon his master’s death in 1753, Chelor was freed by the terms of Nicholson’s will, and opened his own shop where he manufactured planes which bear his name. The large quantity of his surviving planes, of which Colonial Williamsburg owns 75, shows that Cesar Chelor was both a prolific maker and a master craftsman.
This presentation discussed Chelor, his work, and the world he practiced his trade in.