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Chelor, Cesar  

Cynthia Staples

lived in Wrentham, Massachusetts, near the Rhode Island border. His birthplace and birthdate are unknown, as are the names of his parents. Tax records suggest that by 1736, a young, perhaps teenaged, Chelor was enslaved by Wrentham woodworker Francis Nicholson. Nicholson is considered the earliest documented American planemaker.

The plane was an especially important tool at this time designed to hold a sharpened blade to accomplish precise woodworking tasks. During Chelor’s life, planes were handmade from wood. The plane could be pushed or pulled to smooth, shape, and straighten the surface of wood. A carpenter required a great variety of planes, each with a specialized function. Different planes were needed for making window frames and doors or for producing architectural moldings. Nicholson was known for his innovative plane designs.

Nicholson s Wrentham woodshop operated during a historic period when there was enormous population growth in New England Demand for ...


Jones, James Monroe “Gunsmith”  

Verity J. Harding

gunsmith and engraver, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the eldest son of Allen Jones, a slave and a blacksmith, and Temperance Jones, a slave. He was one of eight children, a daughter and seven sons, born into a long line of slavery. His paternal grandfather, Charles Jones, was born in Africa around 1770 and brought to America to be sold into slavery some years later. Although born a slave, Gunsmith Jones was freed in 1829 when his father purchased liberty for his entire family Allen Jones was a skilled blacksmith who labored intensely for himself and his family while simultaneously performing his slave duties to earn the vast sum of money necessary to buy his family s freedom After saving the extraordinary amount of $2 000 he was cheated out of the money by his master and left with nothing With admirable determination he ...