June Artifact of the Month

Lewis C. Buckner (c.1856-1924). Sevier County cabinetmaker, carpenter, and housebuilder.

Rebecca P'Simer | Curator of Collections
Authored By Rebecca P'Simer on July 19, 2023

June Artifact of the Month

Lewis Buckner is an example of a craftsman who continued to make beautiful individualized works even after mass production became commonplace.
Many examples of his work can be found in Sevier County, where he built homes from 1880 to 1921. He embellished his houses with Victorian design elements. Furniture, mantles, and cabinets made by Buckner remain prized family heirlooms.
When Buckner died in May 1924, his obituary read, “He was one of the best known colored citizens in this county and was famous for his fine work as a cabinet maker.”
Born into slavery in Strawberry Plains (Jefferson County,) Buckner learned his trade as a cabinetmaker’s apprentice after the Civil War. Although he had a shop in Sevier County, he preferred to travel with a foot-powered buck saw on his back and a bag of tools, lodging at structures while he built them.
Combining patterns derived from Victorian-era architectural books with his own creativity, Buckner added complex decorative woodwork to homes and furniture he built. No two pieces of his work are exactly alike.
You can read more about Lewis Buckner from our friends at the Tennessee State Museum. You can view the two pieces shown in our permanent exhibition Voices of the Land: the People of East Tennessee, or in our online database. Purchases of these pieces made possible by the State of Tennessee.

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