The Tinsmith's Apprentice
Author and sculptor Lawrence Reid Bechtel began the journey of writing The Tinsmith’s Apprentice through the creation of two bronze portrait sculptures: the first of Thomas Jefferson and the second of Isaac Granger, who had grown up as a slave at Monticello, Jefferson’s plantation.
Isaac Granger’s story plays out over three novels, envisioned by Bechtel as separate chapters of his life. Bechtel explains how he first found Granger, or perhaps, how Granger found him:
“I first encountered Isaac Granger Jefferson in a little book I purchased in the Monticello gift shop: Jefferson at Monticello: Recollections of a Monticello Slave and of a Monticello Overseer, edited by James A. Bear, Jr. On the cover of this book, in an oval frame, was the compelling picture of this 'Monticello Slave': a broad-shouldered, very dark Negro wearing a loose, open shirt and shop apron. Inside the book --besides an expanded view of this picture, a daguerreotype taken in the 1840’s, some twenty years after Jefferson’s death— were twenty-four pages of this enslaved man’s recollections, in his own voice, 'dictated to Charles Campbell by Isaac.' I studied the daguerreotype minutely, and pored over those few pages, which were filled with illuminating details about life at Monticello and vibrant glimpses of Jefferson himself, as for example that he '. . . bowed to everybody he meet. Talk wid his arms folded.' Such glimpses were gold for Jefferson scholars, which was why Isaac’s recollections were so valued, but for me what really stood out was a little story from Isaac’s own life, a digression really, of his having accompanied Jefferson to Philadelphia, at about age fifteen, where he was 'bound prentice to one Bringhouse, a tinner'.”
- Lawrence Reid Bechtel