Elijah Pierce was born the youngest son of a former slave on a Mississippi farm on March 5, 1892. He began carving at an early age when his father gave him his first pocketknife. By age seven, Elijah Pierce began carving little wooden farm animals. Throughout his life, he continued carving animals in earnest and many were sold or given away to people who admired his work or to people he felt could benefit from it. For Pierce, these individual animal carvings each had their own story. They represented the beasts of Genesis or creatures from the folktales of Pierce’s youth.
As time passed, Pierce found work as a barber and began to carve wood seriously. He eventually had his own barbershop on Long Street in Columbus, Ohio. The barbershop on Long Street was a hospitable gathering place. Customers would come not only for haircuts, but to discuss the news of the day. Pierce was quite engaged in the life of the local community and of the nation. His secular carvings show his love of baseball, boxing, comics and the movies. They also reflect his interest in national politics and his appreciation for American heroes who fought for justice and liberty. Through his carvings Pierce told his own life story and chronicled the African-American experience. He also carved stories with universal themes. He seldom distinguished the race of his figures - he thought of them as everyman.