I lay’s new business as proprietor of the Raleigh Tavern was an important move and reflects the tendency of successful eighteenth-century artisans to step into the realm of the business and mercantile community. An interesting analysis of I lay’s new venture and of its dependence upon his previous success has been made by Mills Brown in 1959 when he was historian at Colonial Williamsburg, in a research report entitled Cabinetmaking in the Eighteenth Century:
That Hay abandoned his craft and turned to tavernkeeping as a livelihood might be interpreted to mean that he had not done well in the former occupation—but, in fact, quite the opposite seems to have been the case. Buying the Raleigh and readying it for business involved financial obligations in the neighborhood of £4,000—the Raleigh and some additional land, apparently pasture, cost£2,000; the furnishings, to judge from the appraisal of I lay’s estate, another £1,000; and the Negro help, close to £1,000 more.
Hay did not lay out this £4,000 in cash, of course; at the time of his death he still ow ed William Trebcll, from whom he had purchased the Raleigh, more than £2,000. He had other debts, also, some of which were probably contracted while he was furnishing and stocking the Raleigh. No doubt I lay did hope to do better with the Raleigh than he had as a cabinetmaker—but this is not the point. The significant fact that emerges from his purchase of the Raleigh is this; after sixteen or more years as a Williamsburg cabinetmaker, and with no other assets than those he had developed during that period—no hidden assets appeared in his will or in the settlement of his estate—Hay’s financial standing w as good enough to permit him to undertake obligations in the vicinity of £4,()()()—no small sum then, or now.15
Brown’s analysis seems essentially sound, although the statement that I lay “abandoned his craft” appears far too strong in the light of the facts supplied by the documents. After 1 lay’s death in 1770, his estate w as offered for sale in accordance with his w ill. Two of the items advertised in the Virginia Gazette at that point deserve attention: “a very good Dw ellinghousc on the back Street, where Mr. 1 lay formerly lived, w ith a large Cabinet Maker’s Shop and ‘Limber Yard” and “nineteen Negroes belonging to the said Estate, among them a very good Cabinet Maker.”,e 1 lay’s continued ownership of the shop, timber yard, and black cabinetmaker even after his purchase of the Raleigh Tavern suggests that he was still involved in the trade as a business venture. These circumstances strongly indicate that he probably rented the shop to Benjamin Bucktrout, leasing the black cabinetmaker along w ith the shop, and evidence is strong that Edmund Dickinson (possibly an apprentice at that time) also went w ith it. Apparently I lay maintained control of the timber yard and its accompanying business during his ownership of the Raleigh and continued to purchase and import wood for his shop and possibly for sale to other local craftsmen as well.
The financial and social potential of the Raleigh Tavern might have been a major inducement to Hay’s move from the active cabinetmaking craft, but another possibility exists. After a long illness, Hay died of cancer of the lip and face on the 4th of December, 1770.
WILLIAMSBURG, Dec. 13
On the 4th instant died, of that painful and lingering disorder a cancer, Mr. ANTHONY HAY, master of the Raleigh tavern in this city. He underwent several severe operations, in his lip and face, for the disorder, at home; and at length went (unhappily too late) to Prince Edward, where he was some time under the care of Mrs. Woodson, famous for the cures she has made. I lis death is a heavy loss to his large family, to whom he was a tender husband and kind parent; and he is regretted by his acquaintances, as being a good citizen and honest man.17
Having long suffered with this cancer, it is possible that I lay’s “painful and lingering disorder” forced him from the irritating, dusty atmosphere of the cabinetmaking trade. If this were the case, then his continued ow nership of the property and the announcement that he was turning both his business and patronage over to Bucktrout are seen in logical perspective. In this respect, I lay’s last advertisement is certainly in an unusual form, one not seen among