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Photo: Courtesy private collection; photo by Thomas R. DuBrock
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Bureau table

Object number



Maker Edmund Townsend, 1736/7 - 1811


32 1/2 x 36 x 19 1/2 in. (82.55 x 91.44 x 49.53 cm)



Current location

Private collection


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


Manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) (primary); yellow poplar (drawer linings and bottom board)


"Made / By Edmund Townsend / In Newp[or]t Rhode Island 1764," in graphite, on underside of case


"48.68.4" painted on back; "1" through "3," in graphite, at center on interior backs and at front corners on interior sides of proper-right small drawers, from top to bottom; "4" through "6," in graphite, at center on interior backs and at front corners on interior sides of proper-left small drawers, from top to bottom; "1" through "5," in graphite, at center on interior backs and at front corners on interior sides of interior drawers




John Deshon (1727–1794), New London, Connecticut, 1764; by descent to his daughter Mrs. Samuel Wheat (née Sarah Deshon (1752–unknown), Norwich, Connecticut; by descent to her daughter Mrs. Archibald Mercer (née Harriet Wheat, 1782–1854), New London, Connecticut; by descent to her grandson Frederick W. Mercer (1866–1949), New London, Connecticut; given to the Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, Connecticut, 1948; sold to Israel Sack, Inc., New York, 1971; sold to Mrs. Northam Warren, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1972; sold to Israel Sack, Inc., New York; sold to private collection, ca. 1984

Associated names

John Deshon
Frederick W. Mercer


The true top is attached to a subtop consisting of two longitudinal strips dovetailed to the case sides. The convex shells on the wide drawer are applied. The drawer runners are nailed to the sides of the case. The feet are braced with three blocks shaped to follow the contours of the bracket and beveled on their inner edges, with the central vertical block applied against the case bottom and the horizontal blocks butted to it. The back bracket on the rear feet has an ogee shape and is butted against the side bracket. On each drawer, the sides are finely dovetailed to the front and back; the bottoms are nailed to the underside of the sides. The boards on the bottoms of the drawers run front to back. The top edges of the drawer sides are rounded and are flush with the drawer fronts, while the top edge of the back is flat.


Few Rhode Island bureau tables have a desk interior. For other examples see RIF3972, RIF 682, and RIF690.


Malcolm A. Norton, "Two Unusual Block Front Pieces," Antiques 7, no. 3 (March 1925): 127, fig. 1.
Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), vol. 1, nos. 626, 628, ill.
American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–1989), vol. 3, pp. 784, 792–793, no. P3444.
"Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 100, no. 6 (December 1971): 808.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 32, 140, 263, 280, pl. 15, figs. 1.14, 3.67, 6.11, 7.7.
David B. Warren, "Living with Antiques: A Houston Collection," Antiques 149, no. 5 (May 1996): 730, pl. 10, ill.
Christie's, New York, Important American Furniture, Folk Art, Silver, Prints, and Decoys, sale cat. (January 18–19, 2007), 317, fig. 1.
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), 2, 40, 42, 277–280, 282, 286, 290n3, 452, no. 51, fig. 1, 2, 4, 17.