image of object
From: Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America , vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926) 246-248, fig. 270
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker Unknown
Maker formerly attributed John Carlile, Sr., 1727 - 1796; worked 1751-1796


Height: 41 in. (104.14 cm) Width: 39 1/2 in. (100.33 cm)



Current location

The Rhode Island Historical Society


Made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Mahogany (primary); cherry (bookcase lining and shelves); pine (all other secondary wood)




“V” or “X,” in chalk, on exterior back of third exterior drawer from top; “X,” in chalk, on the exterior back of lower drawer; “B,” in chalk, on interior bottom board of desk; “3 [?],” in chalk, on top of drawer divider under third exterior drawer from top; “X,” in chalk, on most exterior backs and some exterior sides of interior drawers; “2” through “6,” in graphite, on interior front, sides, and back of lower interior drawers [no visible marks on proper-right drawer]; “1” through “6,” in graphite, on compartment bottoms of lower interior drawers




Joseph Brown (1733–1785), Providence, Rhode Island. Brown and Ives, Providence, by 1927. Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, by 1965

Associated names

Joseph Brown
Brown and Ives families


This example is the only Rhode Island blockfront desk and bookcases onamented with nine shells. It is often discussed in the context of the examples with six shells (RIF230, RIF381, RIF1228, RIF1229, RIF1230, RIF1232, RIF1233, RIF1235, and RIF3601).


Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 246–248, fig. 270.
Malcolm A. Norton, "Three Block-Front Secretaries," Antiques 11, no. 3 (March 1927): 192–194, fig. 3, 5.
Joseph Downs, "The Furniture of Goddard and Townsend," Antiques 52, no. 6 (December 1947): 431, fig. 12.
Mabel M. Swan, "A Blockfront Secretary Presumably Made for Joseph Brown," Rhode Island History 7, no. 4 (October 1948): 120–25, ill.
Eleanore Bradford Monahon, "Catalog of The Rhode Island Historical Society Furniture Collection," Rhode Island History 18, no. 4 (October 1959): 126–27, no. 59, cover ill., ill.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 106–107, no. 67, ill.
Wendy A. Cooper, In Praise of America: American Decorative Arts, 1650–1830, Fifty Years of Discovery since the 1929 Girl Scouts Loan Exhibition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 168–69, pl. 29.
Wendy A. Cooper, "In Praise of America," Antiques 117, no. 3 (March 1980): 609, pl. VII.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 63, 334, 335, pl. 2, fig. 1.55, 8. 21, 8.2.
Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, "A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments," American Furniture (1999): 162, 186, fig. 1, 21.
John T. Kirk, American Furniture: Understanding Styles, Construction, and Quality (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000), 133–134, fig. 157.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 313n4.