Next Month: ‘Henry Boyd’s Freedom Bed’

I am so happy to announce our latest book “Henry Boyd’s Freedom Bed” by Whitney L.B. Miller. This illustrated children’s book is about the life of Henry Boyd, one of the unsung furniture geniuses of the 19th century.

The book traces Boyd’s life from his birth on a Kentucky plantation, where he was enslaved, to the deadly Kanawha salt works in what is now West Virginia. After Boyd purchased his freedom, he moved to Cincinnati and – after much tribulation – set up his own furniture business that employed both white and Black woodworkers.

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Boyd specialized in building beds. And perhaps his greatest contribution to the craft was the invention of an ingenious way to join the bed rails to the headboard and footboard. It involved using a traditional threaded screw at one end of the rail and a reverse-threaded screw at the other end. 

The design was so successful it was widely known as “The Boyd Bed” and others began copying it. The invention was eventually patented.

Boyd’s woodworking cleverness also served him well during his work on the Underground Railroad.

Author Whitney L.B. Miller in front of a recreation of Boyd’s storefront at the Cincinnati History Museum.

This book has been years in the making, beginning with extensive original historical research. Boyd’s story was brought to life by Miller, who wrote and illustrated the tale. Miller is a local television reporter, woodworker and maker, and her lightly fictionalized account of Boyd is suitable for children ages 3-8 (though even adults will learn something).

In addition to Miller’s lovely telling of Boyd’s life, “Henry Boyd’s Freedom Bed” also features an extensive historical timeline of Boyd’s life. The timeline was created by researcher Suzanne Ellison, and it dispels many of the myths about Boyd that have been circulating in newspaper accounts for more than a century.

Henry Boyd’s Freedom Bed” will be available for purchase in early November. In addition to the book itself, there will be a deluxe edition available (more details on this coming soon). You can sign up to be notified of the book’s release here.

This book, though slim, was a monumental effort for so many people. Miller developed a new illustration style for the book, and taking a person’s entire life and boiling it down into a story for children was no small feat. Ellison’s research on Boyd can be described as nothing less than relentless. We have shared it freely with local museums, and it was the foundation upon which the Cincinnati History Museum created its exhibit on Boyd (now a permanent exhibit). And then there was our own Kara Gebhart Uhl, who helped Miller with the mechanics and storyboarding to create the book.

This book is the first to examine Boyd’s life, but we hope it’s not the last.

— Christopher Schwarz


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