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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker Unknown



Current location

Private Collection


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


Mahogany (primary); chestnut (backboards, bottom board, exterior drawer linings, some blocks for the feet, rear brackets, backing for drawer dividers); mahogany (drawer lining for interior drawers and valance drawers); white pine (some feet blacks and bottoms of some interior drawers)




"A" through "K," in graphite, on interior bottoms and exterior backs of interior drawers starting at top of tier on proper right and proceeding from left to right, top to bottom, through prospect drawers and tier at proper left; "A" through "F," in graphite, on interior bottoms and exterior backs of each valance drawer; "JONES WAREHOUSES / PROVIDENCE, R. I.," imprinted in black, and "RI6225," stamped in black, on a paper label with red band at top and saw-tooth ends glued to backboards; "Ostby," in blue chalk, twice on interior of backboards

Associated names

Israel Sack, Inc.


Half-blind dovetails fasten the top to the one-piece case sides with a half pin at the front and a half tail at the rear and twelve full dovetails between them. The three-piece horizontal backboards are half-lapped to one another and nailed to rabbets in the top and case sides and to the back edge of the bottom board; nails are visible on the backboards to fasten the walls of the prospect cabinet in place and for the vertical brace that reinforces the backboards. The slant front is fastened to the writing surface with two hinges; the tenons are exposed on both ends of the battens on the slant front. The lopers are half height and the muntins next to them are dovetailed to the top rail and fitted in a groove in the drawer divider below. Half-blind dovetails fasten the top rail and the drawer dividers to the case sides; the drawer dividers are backed with chestnut. The bottom rail fits in a groove in the case sides; the joint of the rail and the case bottom is reinforced on the interior with three long glue blocks, the center one is replaced. The drawer supports are all replaced. On the exterior drawers half-blind dovetails attach the drawer fronts to the sides with a half pin at the top and the bottom; a groove is cut in the bottom key to accommodate the drawer bottom. The grain of the drawer bottoms runs from front to back; each bottom is two or three separate boards. The bottoms are fitted to a groove in the drawer front, to the underside of the drawer sides and are nailed to the underside of the back; running strips are added to the edges of the sides. On the interior drawers half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the drawer sides with a half pin at the top and bottom; the bottom pin has a rabbet for the drawer bottom. The bottoms are glued to rabbets in all four sides. The bottom of the desk is dovetailed to the case sides. Vertical blocks that rest against the case bottom reinforce the joints of the feet and horizontal blocks abut them. The brackets for the rear legs have a serpentine outline on their inner edges and fit into grooves in the sides of the rear feet. The sides of the rear feet overhang the back, but have no vertical blocks on the rear surface. Examined by P. E. Kane, March 12, 2004.


This desk has features associated with the John Townsend workshop tradition. These include the carving of the shell on the prospect door where a continuous raised line separates the flutes from the interior part of the shell and the ends of flutes terminate in volutes. Another John Townsend tradition is the use of a letter system for identifying the parts of the exterior, interior, and valance drawers as well as the placement of those letters on the exterior backs, and in the case of the small drawers additionaly on the interior bottoms. In other respects the desk does not follow John Townsend shop practice. These features include the use of a vertical brace to reinforce the backboards and vertical blocks on the feet that rest against the case as opposed to resting on the horizontal blocks.