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James Geddy, Jr.

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  • Born 1731
  • Young boy when father died
  • Apprenticed to silversmith
  • Father of 5 children
  • Successful businessman
  • Died 1807

Apprenticed to mother's boarder

James Geddy Jr. was born in 1731 and was only 13 when his father died. Although documentary evidence is extremely scant, James Geddy Jr. and his brother John apprenticed to become silversmiths, perhaps to Samuel Galt, who may have rented space from Mrs. Geddy.

Purchased family property from mother

In 1760, James Jr. purchased the family home from his mother and established his silversmith and jewelry business on the property (perhaps taking over the business from Samuel Galt). Two years later, Geddy tore down his parents' house and built the current two-story, L-shaped structure. The newly-designed building gave the Geddy family controlled circulation, full second-story bedchambers, and a means of separating public and private areas. The new home also provided a more stately and dignified image and offered more cultivated spaces, which allowed Geddy to be the public figure he wished to be.

Williamsburg's best-known silversmith

Indeed, James Geddy Jr. became Williamsburg's best-known colonial silversmith. The nameplate from Governor Botetourt's coffin is a sample of the work done in the Geddy shop. Pounded from a silver sheet, it was engraved by journeyman William Waddill, Geddy's brother-in-law.

Accepted into gentry class

James Geddy Jr. was not a self-effacing artisan. Rather, he was a member of a group of Virginians who, in the second half of the 18th century, found a lucrative niche in the Chesapeake economy, providing specialized products or services to the gentry and ultimately to one another.

Men like Geddy, Edward Charlton, and Anthony Hay parlayed their successes in trade into a cultivation of personal style to achieve political influence and a certain acceptance by, if not equality with, landowning gentry. Like Benjamin Powell, Geddy became a manager of slave and free labor and a landowner of some substance himself.

Domestic life

James Geddy Jr. married Elizabeth Waddill, and they had five children: Mary, Anne, William Waddill, James, and Elizabeth. Geddy continued to operate his silversmith and jewelry business in Williamsburg until he moved to Dinwiddie County in late 1777. Following the death of his first wife, he married Jane Bradley in 1804.

Historical records relating to James Geddy provide clues to an interesting and believable life:

  • Appointed to appraise the estate of Richard Vandin of York County at the age of 30.
  • Member of York County Grand Jury in May and November 1762 and May 1764.
  • Grand jury records indicate James Geddy had tax troubles; his failure to list a riding chair was dismissed in December 1763, upon the payment of the appropriate tax on the chair.
  • Petitioned court to collect what he considered to be rightfully his, although not always successful.
  • Infant of a slave owned by Geddy was baptized in Bruton Parish Church in 1766.
  • Performed work for several important citizens of the colony. In November 1766, Geddy mended two fans for George Washington and in the same year, did work for Colonel William Preston.
  • Placed advertisement in the Virginia Gazette June 4, 1772: "The Reasonableness of the Above Goods, he hopes will remove that Objection of his shop's being too high up in Town, as he proposes to sell any article exceeding twenty Shillings Sterling at the low advance of sixty-two and a Half per Cent. And the Walk may be thought rather an Amusement than a Fatigue."

Personal appearance important

Geddy was concerned about his appearance. Richard Charlton, barber and wigmaker, was Geddy's barber from 1769 to 1774. During this time, Geddy paid for a "Years Savg & dressg" on several occasions. He wore a wig and seems to have favored a brown bob hairpiece, for Charlton dressed it in 1772 and 1773. Geddy also paid Charlton in 1770 for a "pair of curls for Miss Nancy," his daughter.

Civic-minded man

Geddy must have been a reasonably public-minded and patriotic citizen. He was a member of the local governing body, the Common Council. Like most local craftsmen, he was a supporter of the Non-importation Agreement and was careful to identify himself with this movement.

The early years of the Revolution undoubtedly affected Geddy's business. Although we have no concrete evidence of why Geddy left Williamsburg in 1778, apparently the business possibilities in Petersburg were more attractive to him. James Geddy Jr. died in Dinwiddie County in 1807.

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