James Stewart Ye Olde Hand Carved Signs & Appliqués

Since 1979, James Stewart has participated in Arts & Crafts shows throughout the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic portion of the United States. Some of the shows he has been a participant in...





Mystic Arts Festival




Westport Creative Arts Festival




Deerfield (Spring & Christmas) Samplers




Old Deerfield Village




Sugarloaf Arts & Crafts Festival




Peters Valley Arts Show




Waterloo Village Arts & Crafts Festival




Allentown Arts & Crafts Festival




Chautauqua Crafts Festival




American Village Arts & Crafts Festival




Clothesline Arts & Crafts Festival




Corn Hill Arts & Crafts Festival



Third Place

Hilton Apple Festival



Best of Show

Shaker Woods Festival



Best Costume

Columbus Arts Festival




Crosby Arts Festival




Mt. Gretna Arts Festival

Mt. Gretna



Three Rivers Arts & Crafts Festival



Best of Show

Waterford Fair - Homes Tour and Crafts Fair




Williamsburg Art Festival




Chaffee Art Center Arts in the Park




 Reenactment Events – French and Indian (Seven Years War) and American War for Independence (Revolutionary War)

Events – Period display & dress required…

Event                                                                                           Location          State         Award 

Hancock Shaker Village                                           




Fort Frederick 18Th C. Market Fair                          

Ft. Frederick         



Fort Ticonderoga – F&I Event     250th F&I Event                             




Old Fort Niagara – F&I Event and the ALRA-NY Skills Weekend




Fort Ontario – 250th F&I Event




Johnson Hall- 18Th C. Market Fair                           




Fort Johnston – Colonial Days                                 

Fort Johnston      



Genesee Country Village & Museum                      



First Place

Celtic Classic Festival (featured as the Scottish Carver)




Mercer Museum – Folk Festival                              




Mount Vernon 18Th C. Fair                                     

Mt. Vernon           




In the beginning, James first started on his creativity quest to make a wood barrel for his Pentel pencil in 1977. He made several of them for family and friends. In 1979, he was persuaded by a friend to attend the Rochester Museum and Science Center Holiday Bazaar. He was amazed at how many people saw and bought his works. Over the next seven years he expanded the items he created and offered to the public including the shows he attended.


In 1986, another friend enlightened him about a show in Syracuse, NY. This made James aware of events beyond Rochester and that began the quest to make more wood items and find more high quality shows. He enhanced his display and expanded his wood items to encompass a retractable pen along with the original pencil he made. He added more wood items and more exotic hard woods. Originally domestic hardwoods were used, but as he learned more about woods of the world he expanded to over 100 different species. He is still always looking for a new wood to add to the fine writing instruments he crafts. James has been a participant in many shows in the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and New York.

In 2000, a fellow artisan and friend asked him to attend a show in Tonawanda, NY. This caused James to start in another direction. A patron at that show asked him; if he could carve a Quarterboard for their boat dock after seeing the hand-carved cherry sign (10-foot long) across the front of his display. From that point on he added Quarterboards and Tavern Signs to his offerings. He started to acquire hand-carving tools and has added over 300 gouges to his collection to help in the various designs and contours that he has been asked to make.

In 2004, James took on a new direction with events he would attend. Again, it was the suggestion of another friend that brought him to Old Fort Niagara as a Sutler hand-carving signs and appliqués. James had to take on a whole new direction of moving himself back 250 years in time. His display had to reflect the 18th Century and his dress and manners had to also move back in time. Over these past years he has adapted many of the characteristics and life styles of his ancestors who settled in America after voyaging across the Atlantic from Scotland back in the 18th century. He has done a vast amount of research to add to his carvings offered. Some of the images include roosters, flying pigs, liberty and a silent woman. He is always looking to see what other images might be added to make his presentation, to give the feeling that the Publick has stepped back in time. These images have their roots in the colonial period of development of our nation. James has also designed a hand carved pineapple that depicts the warmth and friendship of that period. Items are hand carved at the events while describing some of the 18th & 19th century conditions of life and historical activities, while dressed in period clothing, using period tools to give a true feeling of authenticity.

In 2006, James took on a new flare to his presentation. He attended for the first time the Celtic Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He has added more images that reflect the Celtic world including Rampant Lions, Red Dragons and Shamrocks.

In 2010, James will have surpassed two milestones. The first is very obvious; James has been a participant in shows and events for over 30 years. The second is similar in nature; James will surpass attending over 300 events since he started way back in 1979. James is looking in the future to see where he might be able to go and present his interpretation of the 18th century. So come and see James working on his latest creation and offering you a contract for Indentured Servitude to his Master (Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esquire), or just relax and enjoy a riddle or story about life way back in time when our nation was first starting.


                Jas  Stewart

Performance Activities Outline


1.         Hand Carve Wood Items – Lion/Eagle/Pineapple/Scallop Shell/Flying Pig

2.       Riddles of the 18th & 19th Century

3.       Meet Ebenezer T. Rat and learn about Thomas Parkers endeavors as a Rat Destroyer.

4.       Show and guess what it is? - Example Hat Block/Seizer /Church Key/Mortar & Pestle/Spitoon/Hides/Antlers & Horns and there use/ Barrel Spicket/ Canal Horn/Wash basin.

5.       Bells of the 18th and 19th Centuries – Ring various bells to see if youth can identify what the bell was used for back then? (Cow Bell/ Servants/Dinner Bell/School Bell/Church Bell/Store-Door Bell/Ships-Firehouse Bell/Town Crier Bell) Explain a little more about the use of bells.

6.       Taverns in Colonial America – Examples of famous taverns -  Measures – Storage of liquid libations.

7.       Coins of the 18th and 19th Centuries – Used in the colonies until the US Mint was able to produce enough to meet demand in circulation. (Show samples of coins from the Colonial World and show list of English coinage and what it would buy) Pass around 1797 Cartwheel (twopence). Explain Parliaments ban on silver in America.

8.       Tools of the 18th and 19th Centuries – David R. Barton (Made at High Falls – Rochester, NY) (Show tools tell of the March 17th flood and the effect). Explain the import of Sheffield steel from England to Rochester.

9.       Indentured Servant Role – Pass out Indentured Servant Contracts for the youth/Explain Apprenticeship/What Master Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esq. will provide for the Indenture & how long the Indenture would be. Give Lades a copy of Indenture and Lassies a copy of Sarah Green’s Indenture and explain. Have the youth use embosser to seal contracts.

10.    Look at ”bill of Fare” from 18th C Taverns.

11.      Some Pieces of Knowledge from Benjamin Franklin and Adam Smith.

12.    Book of The Journal of John Harrower – Indentured Servant from Scotland – Read the 10th of July 1776 to them. Read 10 July 1776 to audience. Explain how to get a copy.

13.    Book of Journal & Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian- A Plantation Tutor of the Old Dominion 1773-1774 – Read to the audience an example of his life on 13th of October 1775.

14.    Book “A Midwife’s Tail” The Life of Martha Ballard Based on her diary 1785-1812  by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Read page 62.

15.    Look at the first grammar book “The Blue Back Speller” written by Noah Webster in 1788.

16.    Symbols and meanings of Appliqués - Explanation of significance of carvings and other items from the 18th and 19th Century.

17.     Scottish Joke

18.    Talk about 18th Century clothes and pass around workman’s coat. Discuss fabrics and social status.

19.    Q&A time

Demonstration Activities -


Take a step back in time to the 18Th C. Watch James hand carve wooden signboard appliqués during each of the events he attends. Some of the items Jas brings to carve are as follows: Pineapples, Fleur-de-Lis, Thistles, Shamrocks, Scallop Shells, Swans, Roosters, Horses, Flying Pigs, Lions, Eagles and Bulls. As Jas carves these items, he shares stories about the tools he is using, and the way they were used by the artisans in colonial days. Each appliqué has a particular use and meaning that people understood even without being able to read. Remember English was only one of many languages used in America in the 18Th C.


Jas normally demonstrates the art of carving and talk about life in the 18Th C. as an Indentured Servant. Part of his persona works with youth becoming an apprentice and possibly signing up to become an Indentured Servant. Jas gives out letters of bondage for the youth to consider being employed by his master Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esquire. Master Hayes is looking for an additional lad or lassie to help with all the work he has taken in. This helps the children connect with the way life was back it the 18Th C.

  Most of Jas carving tools date back to the mid 1800’s and were made by D.R. Barton of Rochester, New York. One of the tools even dates back to the 1750’s and was made in England and found it’s way to Rochester, New York in 2003. Jas talks about the way tools were manufactured and how to maintain the edge on each carving tool. He also talks about the history that made this nation a democracy. Below is a picture of James carving at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The other picture is of the display and peddler’s cart early one morning before the show started. On the next page the pictures show Jas carving at Genesee Country Village & Museum, Jas Sutler display at Old Fort Johnson and his demonstration at Historic High Falls in Rochester, NY.

 Jas talks about life in the 18Th C, gives a riddle for people to ponder and a Scottish joke of a lonely Scottish lad away at school. He gives a test of time with the meaning of bells used back in the 18Th C along with items he brings to reflect from the way the 18Th C was.


Persona -

James portrays a Scottish trader that has learned his trade of woodworking (Jointer, Cabinet Maker, Carver) after running away from being an indentured servant. His duties there were as a steward of a swine herd for five months before finding a way to escape his servitude. Prior to that Jas was indentured to Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esquire as a woodworker, but he was sold off when his master fell into hard times. In his journey from Scotland Jas has had to learn to read and write English from his native Gaelic tongue. He was born in Dunblane, in the beautiful Allan Water Valley in Perthshire, Scotland in 1719 on the 11th of October. His childhood was uneventful until one day when the British soldiers came into town and took all the young lads off to London. They were told that they were arrested for plotting treasonous acts against good King George. They had a choice to either go to America or hang in the morning. Thus they were shipped off to the Colonies in America as ballast to work on the tobacco plantations and what ever a master might want them to do. That is how Jas found himself in America as an indentured lad working for Col. Thomas Hayes Esq..

Jas served his master well for almost three of the four years of his bondage. His master decided to sell him off to another master to work with and live with the animals on his plantation. After escaping his indentured servitude, he made his way north to the eastern portion of Colony of New York where he settled in the Berkshire community of Kinderhook over looking the Kinderhook Creek. He was able to start a business of carpentry and joinery. During the summer of 1759, James traveled with his peddler’s wagon and horse towards the Colony of Massachusetts along the Albany-Boston Post Route eastward towards the towns of Stockbridge, Springfield, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Waltham, Watertown and finally Cambridge. Where he would make signs for the local taverns. Once he reached Cambridge after crossing many fords and using many ferries he turned northward towards Lexington to make a sign for the Munroe Tavern and then onto Concord to make a sign for the Colonel James Barrett’s Tavern. As he handcrafted the sign for the tavern he received food and lodging for himself and his horse. Each sign took several days to make. So in addition, he received £1  sterling 2 Shillings and 14 Pence per side once he had hung it from the yardarm in font of the inn. Each sign was unique to reflect the hospitality of the family to show their guests traveling along the stagecoach roads what they had to offer.

Signs have been an integral part of our society from the very early days of the settlement of America. The Provincial Colony of Massachusetts in 1647 decreed that every establishment “shall have some in offensive sign, obvious for the direction of strangers posted within three months of it’s licensing.” This way when strangers came looking for the new establishment they didn’t have to bother the neighbors looking for it.

Jas has carved many a sign for taverns and homesteads in the colonies and provinces. His sign creations depict images that are easily recognized by the visitors to the establishment. These signs have helped travelers locate the business or homestead they were in pursuant of. He carves many additional images as a result of patrons asking for new items to be reflected in their signs.

Jas enjoys educating people to the way life was back when our nation was first founded and emerging into new opportunities for all who choose to come and take part in it.  During his demonstrations he discuses how and where the hand tools were made that he uses to make his creations and why certain images were chosen.

This information reflects how to contact Jas if you were looking at the information back in the 18Th C. with some modern pieces added.

Sutler - Reenactor - Demonstrator - Artesian - Master Carver

Sutler – Trader – Carver                             Jas. Stewart (Craftsman/Artesian/Master Carver)

Representing the firm of:                              Woods Unlimited by James Stewart

Located at:                                                            18 Scenic Circle

In the Town of:                                                    Ogden

In the Village of:                                              Rochester (Originally Rochesterville)

In the County of:                                              Monroe (Formerly part of Ontario County)

In the Province (Colony/State) of:     New York (Formerly the western portion was part of the Province of Quebec & the Five/Six Iroquois Nations)

In the Country of:                                            Formerly know as the Colonies of America or the United Colonies – After 1787 - 

                                                                                    United States of America

Also known to the Postmaster as:        14624-1008

 He can be reached by electronic means –

Telephone:                                                          585-594-9663

Email:                                                                    james@woodsunltd.com

Website                                                               www.woodsunltd.com

Jas Carving/Demonstrating GCV&M Mumford, NY                                                                                                    Display at Old Fort Johnson, NY

Skit -

 Part of the dialog that happens as Jas Stewart works on carving-demonstrating 18Th C. woodworking...

 Has anyone seen my master? My master’s name is Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esquire. He is kind one. He provides for me with my daily dinner at noon and a place to sleep. What more could one ask for! He is looking to find a new young servant at the Market to help with all the carpentry we have taken in. Maybe one of you would workout for him. Are any of you not bonded? Well, I guess I should leave that to master once he returns.

You ask how did I get in my predicament? You see I was a young lad enjoying a daily visit to my local pub the “Black Bull Tavern” in Dunkeld, went these English solders grabbed Jas and his friend Angus out of the pub and shackled us together and hauled us off to London. We were placed on a ship to America and told that it was required to gain our freedom or we would hang in the morning for plotting a rebellion against our good King George. Once I got to this place called America after seven weeks at sea with many a storm and lack of food and drink. I was bought by Colonel Thomas Hayes, Esq. for the sum of 10 pounds sterling. Well some of us servants had to sign a contract that was longer than four years and are still living with the animals they tend. I work in my master’s Shoppe and am able to stay warm and dry. I only have one year and three months left until I can start work on my own and possibly marry Miss Molly once her contract is over with the Davidson’s in Indian Falls. She works over at their place tending the youngins and preparing meals so she would make a good wife for a soon to be freed artesian like myself.

Master Hayes has my savings held for me in trust. Yes, he has let me make items for our neighbors and they have paid me for them. He has 20 pounds sterling, 5 shillings and 6 pence in trust. This will help me with the sum due at the end of servitude, when I am setting up my business in Williamstown between here and Indian Falls. You see I have to leave here once I am freed, so I won’t interfere with my master’s patrons. I trust Master Hayes won’t sell me off before. He has threatened to do so when work has become slow, but now with him looking for a new servant, things must be looking better. I trust, Lord willin, that I will be able to see my plans unfold...

Have any of you got any questions about Jas life and work in the 18Th C.?

If not, do we have any volunteer to work as an apprentice to help Jas sharpen the carving gouges, before Master Hayes returns?

Here are some Indenture Servant Contracts if you would like to pursue them to become one. In bondage to Master Hayes...

What happened to Jas?

Jas continued to work for a short period of time for Master Hayes. Master Hayes fell into some hard times. As a result Jas found he was sold off to another master to be a swine herder. That is he had to live, eat and sleep with the swine. Consequently he ran away to the colony of New York to start his own business. See the Persona for more details about his life story.


Pictures from various Events Jas was a Participant in…


Layout of 18th Century Display


You may reach Woods Unlimited - by James Stewart to ask about having a custom made sign and pricing at:

The Woods Unlimited Web-site: http://www.woodsunltd.com
E-mail: james@woodsunltd.com
Voice: 585-594-Wood(9663)
US mail: 18 Scenic Circle, Rochester, New York, 14624-1008  

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