image of object
From: Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, "A Different Rhode Island Block and Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments, " American Furniture 1999, 182, fig. 17
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker, formerly attributed to Grindall Rawson, 1719–1803
Alternate name(s): Grindal Rawson
Maker Unknown


100 36 1/2 23 in. (254.001 92.71 58.42 cm)



Current location

Private Collection


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


Cherry (primary); cherry (top and front bottom board of central compartment, board under desk interior, and dividers of desk interior); pine (bottoms of interior desk drawers, some backs and sides of interior desk drawers, sides and bottoms of drawers of central compartment, bottom board of desk, backing of top of bookcase interior, and sides, back, and rear bottom board of central compartment); yellow poplar (some backs and sides of interior desk drawers, sides and backs of exterior desk drawers, and backing of bookcase dividers); chestnut (bottoms of exterior desk drawers and backboards of bookcase and desk)




“I,” in graphite, on exterior sides and backs of some interior desk drawers; “I,” in graphite, on interior front, back, and sides of top drawer of central compartment drawer; “II,” in graphite, on interior sides and back of middle drawer to central compartment; “1” through “4,” in graphite, on most interior front, back, and sides of upper interior desk drawers; “I” though “II,” in graphite, on interior sides and backs of lower interior desk drawers (graphite “2” on interior back of same drawer marked “II”); “1” through “8,” in graphite, on interior front, back, and sides of valance drawers; “4/B” through “7/B,” in graphite, on exterior backs of exterior desk drawers (from top to bottom); illegible graphite [probably number followed by “S”], on exterior sides of exterior drawers; mathematical figures, in chalk, on proper-left interior desk side


Amos Atwell (died 1807), Providence, Rhode Island; sold by his estate to Joseph Rawson, Sr. (1760–1835), Providence, Rhode Island; probably by descent in the Rawson family; sold to Henry J. Steere (1830–1889), Providence, Rhode Island; sold by his estate to Lyman Bullock Goff (1841–1927), Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Associated names

Amos Atwell
Joseph Rawson, Sr.
Henry J. Steere
Lyman Bullock Goff


The bookcase roof consists of lateral boards shaped to align with the pediment backboard and the crown molding atop the scrollboard in front. The roof boards are nailed with brads to the tops of the backboards and the bookcase sides, and to the top of the scrollboard. A single-piece beaded crown molding, ending in circular stylized rosettes, is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the tops of the single-board case sides and the upper-board of the two-piece scrollboard. This upper portion is fixed with wood-filled fasteners. A capped, scallop-sided central pedestal supports a three-part finial consisting of a turned ball and urn and a carved corkscrew flame. Flanking finials consisting of partially fluted balls and corkscrew flames are supported by plain rectangular capped plinths. The larger, lower portion of the scrollboard is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the front edges of the case sides and the bookcase?s two-board ceiling, which fits into grooves in the bookcase?s sides. Lapped over the tops of the incurvate portions of this ceiling board are two recessed segmental tympana. The valances and dividers in the upper row of shelves follow these inward curves; the double-bead-fronted shelves (set into grooves in the bookcase walls) and dividers (set into v-shaped grooves in the shelves) do not. The arched doors are full overlay, with rails tenoned and double-wood-pinned through their stiles; the panels are flat within, and fielded without. The bookcase floor is set into grooves in the sidewalls, and the bottom rail, which contains two candleslides with thumbmolded fronts, is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the bottom of the bookcase sides. The bookcase sits behind a nose-and-cove molding which conceals the joints between the lower-case top and its two-board sides. Fixed to the case with three pairs of brass hinges, the lid consist of five pieces- vertical rails are mitered above and below to a large horizontal board into which is carved a central concave shell and panel and to which are fixed with face tails, wood-filled fasteners and other means, flanking convex shells and panels. The interior centers a concave-blocked, shell-carved prospect door flanked by fluted pilasters. Behind the door are three graduated small drawers. This prospect section is a removable "box"; the pilasters are document drawers accessible from behind. The box is held in place by a "touch-latch" lock on its underside. Its sides meet its top and bottom boards in dovetail joints with pins of varying configuration. The backboard is nailed with brads to the back edges of the top and bottom boards. The sides of the "secret" vertical drawers are nailed with brads into rabbets in their fronts and backs, and directly to their bottoms. On either side of the prospect section are banks of concave-blocked valance drawers over serpentine dividers and concave and convex small drawers over similarly blocked longer drawers. The kerf-marked fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly arched-topped sides in dovetail joints having thick-necked pins with half-pins above. The drawer bottoms are perpendicular to their fronts and nailed with brads into rabbets in the elements above; the valance-drawer bottoms are nailed directly to those elements. The outside corners of their drawer backs are chamfered. The interior sits upon a conformingly arrayed cove-molded base fixed to the raised floor of the interior with wood-filled fasteners. At the prospect section this molded base meets the floor of the interior in a single large box joint. In the case below, the top rail/writing surface and the drawer dividers below are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. The bottom rail sits in grooves in the case sides, and the moldings below it are fixed to the case sides and case bottom with wood-filled fasteners. The upright dividers beside the thumb-molded lopers are set into grooves in the neighboring horizontal elements and faced to simulate convex ends of the upper drawer front. Within the case, the replaced drawer supports are fixed with counter-sunk screws to the two-board lower-case sides and the lower-case back consists of horizontal half-lapped boards. The four graduated, thumb-molded, single-piece, block-fronted, kerf-marked drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arch-topped sides in dovetail joints having large half-pins with slightly chamfered tops above and large, finely cut, narrow-necked pins below. The arches of the drawer-side tops taper to a chamfer at the back, where the ends of the drawer-back tops are chamfered to match them. Each drawer bottom, parallel to the front, consists of a large board in front and a narrow board in back. The chamfered front and sides fit into grooves in the vertical elements; the fronts and backs are also nailed with brads. The full-height drawer sides are accompanied by later runners. The feet consist of large shaped vertical blocks accompanied by shaped horizontal blocks to which are fixed ogee brackets. The front-facing brackets of the forward feet are convex-blocked, and the outside edges of the rear feet?s side-facing brackets are flush with the case back. Each back-facing bracket of the rear feet is a simple, straight-profiled triangular bracket with a slightly incurvate hypotenuse. Examined by P.E. Kane, and J.N. Johnson, April 21, 2015; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


The shape of the rear brackets on the feet and the configuration of the dovetails are like those on RIF6633.

See also


Eleanore Bradford Monahon, "The Rawson Family of Cabinetmakers in Providence, Rhode Island," Antiques 118, no. 1 (July 1980): 135, pl. 3, fig. 2.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 104–5, no. 66, Detail on p.167, fig. 66, ill.
Eleanore Bradford Monahon, "Providence Cabinetmakers of the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries," Antiques 87, no. 5 (May 1965): 573–574, fig. fig. 1.
Wendy A. Cooper and Tara L. Gleason, "A Different Rhode Island Block-and-Shell Story: Providence Provenances and Pitch-Pediments," American Furniture (1999): 181–182, 188, 191–195, fig. 17, 36, 39–42.
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), 63n98, 320n6, 455n4.