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Thomas Jefferson returned to his own “dear Monticello” after he completed his second term as President in 1809. With considerably diminished financial resources, he turned to the skilled slave joiners who had helped build the plantation to construct many of the furnishings for Monticello.
Campeachy chairs were favorites for Jefferson, and it took him many letters and more than ten years to get a Campeachy chair sent from New Orleans. In Jefferson’s time it was known as a “lolling chair” or “hammock chair”; Jefferson called it a “Campeachy hammock.” The mahogany for the original chairs came from the Mexican province of Campeche, hence the curious name.
The first chair that Jefferson ordered was lost in a shipwreck. When he finally received a chair in 1819, he had several copies made by enslaved plantation joiner John Hemings. The chair has a distinctive X-shaped base, curvy arms and elegant top rail. Jefferson found the design very comfortable for reading and relaxing. Granddaughter Virginia wrote to her sister that a drawing of Monticello would soon reach her and that she “may even fancy… that you see Grand-papa’s dear figure seated in one of the campeachy chairs drawn before the door for the sake of the pleasant evening air.”