C1_DAS17.indd

Robert Stewart’s business continued to expand and evolve up until his death, in 1866, but it is unclear how much of his own hand is visible in extant pieces from the mid- 1830s onward. Utilizing the labor of, at times, dozens of apprentices, journeymen, and hired enslaved men and women, Stewart documented the bustling activity of his shop in his account books. Journeymen created everything from washstands to secretaries. Dosia and Bob, likely enslaved, collected moss for mattresses and upholstery. Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Sylvester made ticking for beds. Apprentices installed bedsteads and ran deliveries from the river to the downtown store. Workers from the shop made house calls, adding locks to furniture, a compulsion of a slave society. Some of Stewart’s thirteen sons even trained in the furniture business; Samuel made a sideboard, not yet located, which sold for $100, a high sum that suggests costly wood and stylish details. 6 Robert Stewart may have signed the receipts, but myriad hands produced the furniture from his firm. One journeyman in particular, Harper Hamerton, brought considerable skill to Natchez and to one of its most enviable residences. The furnishings of Melrose, home of cotton planter John T. McMurran, highlights the ways in which the richest- of-the-rich not only relied on Stewart to create their domestic statements of status and power but also looked elsewhere to do so. For example, Stewart simply “unboxed” Melrose’s striking, Gothic-revival dining chairs, likely made in

Fig. 3. Bookcases, Harper Hamerton (possibly with Robert Stewart), ca. 1848. Walnut, tulip-poplar, pine. Courtesy of Historic Natchez Foundation — 144 —

Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs