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Photo: Courtesy Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Bequest of Mr. Charles L. Pendleton, 04.042; photo by Erik Gould
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Desk and bookcase

Object number



Maker, attributed to John Goddard, American, 1723–1785


101 45 1/2 27 in. (256.541 115.57 68.58 cm)



Current location

Rhode Island School of Design Museum


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


Mahogany (primary); cedar (interior of bookcase, back boards of bookcase, and linings of interior desk drawers); pine (pediment boards, back boards of desk, board under desk interior, backing of drawer dividers, linings of exterior drawers, brackets of rear feet, and original horizontal blocks of feet); maple (blocks on interior of lopers and bottom boards of desk); chestnut (vertical blocks of front feet)




“1” through “4,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-right interior desk drawers; “5” through “7,” in chalk, on interior backs of prospect drawers; “8” through “11,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-left interior desk drawers; “I” and “IX,” incised, on tops of interior shell drawers; “1” through “6,” in chalk, on interior backs of valance drawers; “I” through “VI,” incised on top fronts of valance drawers; possible letter, in graphite, on exterior bottom of top exterior desk drawer; “B,” in chalk, on interior back of middle exterior desk drawer; illegible chalk, on interior back of lower exterior desk drawer; “A” and “B,” in graphite, on tops of dividers under top and middle exterior desk drawers; “Bottom,” in graphite, on exterior bottom of desk


Charles L. Pendleton (1846–1904), Providence, Rhode Island; bequeathed to Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1904

Associated names

Charles L. Pendleton


The pediment ceiling consists of several boards shaped to align with both the single-piece pediment backboard and the crown molding atop the scrollboard in front. The boards are nailed with brads to the tops of the backboard and the bookcase sides, and to the top of the scrollboard. The central portion of the pediment is open, having a single-board floor and sidewalls, whose rear edges are visible within the cutout for the pediment backboard. A single-piece beaded crown molding is fixed by invisible means to the top of the bookcase sides and the tops of the scrollboard, and returns slightly upon itself at the pediment apex. Expanded versions of the crown moldings bottom portion follow the edges of three-quarter-round oculi, and meet at the pediment?s upper termini in miter joints. In the middle, the moldings support a plain, capped rectangular plinth into which is doweled a turned three-part stop-fluted ball finial with a corkscrew flame. At the outer corners of the pediment are matching plinths and finials. The scrollboard consists of several pieces; its double-layered plaques are attached to it by invisible means. The top rail of the bookcase section is mitered to the top of its stiles. At each corner is a vertical block above a turned capital, a stop-fluted quarter column face-nailed with brads, a turned base and a molded plinth above another vertical block. The bookcase back consists of multiple half-lapped vertical boards fixed with a variety of nails to the bookcase ceiling and to rabbets in the single-board case sides. Within the bookcase, boards applied to the ceiling and floor are routed to receive stiles and dividers with double-beaded front edges. Similar boards at the sides are routed to receive two fixed shelves apiece, and there are two fixed interior partitions, each mounted with brass door hardware. The fixed shelves of the center section have concave-blocked fronts. Each compartment contains a removable serpentine-fronted, vertical divider with a rounded front edge and a circular finger-pull. The bookcase?s bottom rail is mitered to its stiles. The bookcase doors consist of a single proper left leaf and two proper right bifolding leaves. The proper left door and the outer leaf of the bifold doors are constructed similarly?rails tenoned into stiles without wood pins enclose a two-part convex-blocked panel, the upper part being a convex-carved shell. The panel is held in place in part by an ogee molding at the door?s back, nailed through the frame and the panel with brads. The joints between the single-board desk top and the single-board case sides are obscured by a three-sided frame fronted by a single-piece nose-and-cove molding. The hinged lid consists of eight boards?two lateral vertical ends into which is tenoned a large two-piece horizontal section (the center of which is concave blocked and shell-carved) to which are attached two-piece flanking convex panels, the upper parts shell-carved. This lid has a thumb-molded edge and three pairs of brass hinges, and opens to an interior which centers a concave-blocked shell-carved prospect door flanked by double-beaded stiles. On either side are beaded, three-quarter spherically concave-blocked valance drawers over compartments separated by serpentine dividers, over convex-blocked drawers flanked by banks of concave-blocked drawers, the upper ones shell-carved, the whole on a molded base, behind a sliding well-cover within a molded frame. The small-drawers? scribe-lined fronts meet their slightly shorter, slightly arch-topped sides in dovetail joints with finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The valance-drawer fronts meet their sides in dovetail joints having half-pins above and below a finely cut, very narrow single pin. The concave-blocked drawer fronts are roughly convex-blocked on their inside faces. Some small-drawer bottoms are parallel to the fronts (the valance-drawer bottoms are all perpendicular), glued into rabbets in the elements above. The front rail of the writing surface meets the case sides in half-blind dovetail joints, as do the drawer dividers and the bottom rail below. The unfinished underside of the sliding well-cover is visible within the case, fitting into channels in the front and lateral rails of the writing surface. These lateral rails are ?L-shaped,? their narrow back ends supported by a transverse batten nailed to the backboards. The lopers are small, their faces are plain, and they are enclosed in the front of the case by upright pine blocks which align with the depth of the drawer dividers. Beside each pine block, underneath the loper, is a mahogany block. Replaced loper supports are fixed to the lower-case sides with screws. The loper stops are unfinished cylindrical dowels. The upper-drawer supports are half-lapped to the upper drawer dividers. The medial-drawer supports, screwed to the case sides, are rabbeted in front, fitting under the drawer divider. The lower-drawer supports, also screwed to the case sides, butt against the bottom rail. Nail heads in the upper face of this rail indicate connections with blocking below and/or the narrow board in the front of the case bottom. The desk?s case-back consists of four half-lapped boards fixed with a variety of nails into rabbets in the lower-case top and sides, and to some elements of the desk interior. The two-board case bottom meets the lower-case sides in dovetail joints of widely varying configuration. Within the case, the horizontal cockbeading is integral, and the vertical cockbeading is fixed to the case sides with brads. The upper long-drawer front?s upper corners are notched to accommodate the lopers; its lower corners are rabbeted to accommodate the runners fixed to the bottom of its drawer sides. These arch-topped sides, slightly shy of the drawer fronts, fit into vertical channels in the drawer front. A chamfered block is glued to the inside face behind the central concave-blocked panel. The multi-board drawer bottom, perpendicular to the front, is nailed with brads into a rabbet in the front, and directly to the bottom of the drawer back, whose flat top has a chamfered edge. The lower block-fronted drawer fronts meet their scribe-marked drawer sides in dovetail joints having finely cut pins of slightly varying configuration and spacing, with half-pins above and below. The multi-board bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are chamfered at the sides, where they fit into rabbets in applied runners. Wood plaques are fixed to the inside of each drawer front?s concave center. A single-piece base molding is applied by invisible means to the bottom rail and case sides. The feet consist of chamfered blocks (some replaced) mitered at each corner, and small, shaped vertical blocks, the whole faced with thick, single-piece ogee brackets at each side of the front feet (the forward faces are convex-blocked and scroll-carved), and the outer faces of the back feet. A quarter-round molding?straight at the sides, blocked at the front?is applied with brads to the case sides and bottom rail between the brackets. The back-facing brackets of the rear feet are simple straight-profiled ogee boards set into notches in the side-facing ogee brackets, where rear-facing edges project beyond the plane of the case back. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, October 24, 2012; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


This example is one of nine Rhode Island blockfront desk and bookcases onamented with six shells.

See also


Brock Jobe, "The Lisle Desk-and-Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon," American Furniture (2001): 131–132, 144–145, fig. 15–17, 42–43, 45.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 316–317, no. 57, fig. 8.11, 8.11a–c.
Hedy B. Landman, "The Pendleton House at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design," Antiques 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 936, ill.
Christopher P. Monkhouse and Thomas S. Michie, American Furniture in Pendleton House (Providence: Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 1986), 97–99, no. 40, ill.
Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926), vol. 1, pp. 250–253, fig. 274.
Luke Vincent Lockwood, The Pendleton Collection (Providence: Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 1904), 232-236, pl.56, 57, ill.
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), 294n3, 300, 301nn1–2, 313n1, fig. 5.
William C. Ketchum Jr., American Cabinetmakers: Marked American Furniture, 1640-1940 (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 137.