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

Object number



Maker Edmund Townsend, American, 1736/7–1811


32 1/2 × 36 × 19 1/2 in. (82.55 × 91.44 × 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 rectangular oblong two-board top is molded at its front and side edges and square at its back edge, where it slightly overhangs the case below. It is fixed to a subtop of two longitudinal battens dovetailed to the tops of the two-boards case sides. The beaded cove molding under the top is fixed to the case by invisible means in front and by face-nailed brads and wood-filled fasteners at the sides. Its back edge is flush with the back edge of the case top. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead and other nails to the back edges of the rear batten beneath the top board, to the rabbets in the two-board case sides, to the back edge of the case bottom and to the back edges of the partitions within the case. The base molding is toe-nailed in its back edges to the case sides and further attached by wood-filled fasteners to the case front. Within the case, drawer supports are fixed to the sides with rosehead nails. The top rail, drawer dividers and bottom rails all meet their case sides and intermediate walls in half-blind dovetail joints. The horizontal cockbeading is integral with each drawer divider, including the cockbeading at the bottom of the upper drawer divider spanning the recessed section. Vertical cockbeading is applied to the case sides with glue and brads. The frieze-drawer front is attached to its drawer bottom by two pairs of the wrought-iron hinges, each leaf thrice-screwed, which allow it to serve as the outer portion of a writing-desk-top. The underside of the drawer front is rabbeted to allow it, when fully open, to fit into a corresponding rabbet in the drawer bottom. The front portions of the frieze-drawer sides are scalloped-top mahogany, fixed to the front portion of the drawer bottom with dovetail joints having finely cut pins of varying configuration. The flanking convex-carved shells of the blockfronted frieze drawer are applied; the concave center shell is carved from the solid. When closed, the frieze-drawer front is held to its drawer sides by brass hook-and-eye latches. The frieze drawer?s interior is fitted with open compartments separated by vertical dividers above alternately convex- and concave-blocked small drawers on an ogee-molded base. The disk drawers have single-board bottoms and round-topped sides and backs. The convex-blocked graduated drawer-fronts? inside faces mirror their outside faces, and meet their nearly flush, arch-topped drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer sides are scribe-lined; the drawer fronts are slightly kerf-marked. The flat, single-board drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are full-width, nailed with brads into the rabbets in front and directly to the drawer sides and flat-topped drawer backs. The banks of drawers flank a recessed cupboard with a cockbeaded surround enclosing a rectangular door whose molded stiles and rails enclose an arched, molded panel. The door?s stiles are rabbeted to receive the arched top rail. Within the cupboard are two fixed shelves with rounded front edges. The single-board case bottom meets the case sides in dovetail joints with large, thick-necked pins. A plain quarter-round portion of skirt beneath the cupboard door has a shaped block behind it fixed to the case bottom with rosehead nails. The feet consist of shaped vertical blocks, fixed directly to the case bottom, flanked by horizontal blocks (some missing, some replaced, some reinforced with rosehead nails), the whole faced with blocked and scroll-carved ogee brackets. The rear-facing brackets of the back feet are simple straight-profiled serpentine brackets. Examined by P.E. Kane, March 11, 2004; examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, August 12, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


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


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.
Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), vol. 1, nos. 626, 628, ill.
Malcolm A. Norton, "Two Unusual Block Front Pieces," Antiques 7, no. 3 (March 1925): 127, fig. 1.
"Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement," Antiques 100, no. 6 (December 1971): 808.
American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Highland House Publishers, 1957–89), vol. 3, pp. 784, 792–93, no. P3444.
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.