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Photo: Courtesy Newport Historical Society, R.I., inv. no. 59.1.7; photo by Rhode Island Furniture Archive
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Desk with secretary drawer


Object number

RIF5968

Maker

Maker Unknown

Dimensions

39 41 1/2 20 in. (99.06 105.41 50.8 cm)

Date

1785–1805

Current location

Newport Historical Society

Geography

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

Medium

Cherry (primary); pine (secondary)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

Interior drawers “1” through “3,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-right drawers [upper to lower]; “4,” in chalk, on interior back of central drawer over pigeon holes; “5” through “7,” in chalk, on interior backs of proper-left drawers [upper to lower]; “III,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “1;” “II,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “2;” “I,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “3;” “V,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “5;” “VI,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “6;” “VII,” incised on top of drawer back of drawer marked “7.” Exterior drawers: “B,” in chalk, on interior back of top drawer; “C,” in chalk, on interior back of middle drawer; “D,” in chalk, on interior back of lower drawer

Style

Hepplewhite, Federal

Provenance

Ruth B. Franklin (1905–1988), Coventry, Rhode Island, and Tucson, Arizona ; given to the Newport Historical Society, Rhode Island, 1959

Associated names

Ruth B. Franklin

Construction

The rectangular oblong top has molded front and side edges and a square back edge. The method of its attachment to the single-board sides is not visible. The case back consists of two half-lapped horizontal boards nailed with brads into rabbets in the case sides and into blocking under the top. The upper drawer front is faced to simulate a conventional drawer, but pulls out to reveal a hinged writing surface dropping down by means of quarter round brass arms, which, when the desk is closed, retract into the serpentine-top desk-compartment sides. The writing surface/drawer front is secured to the desk-compartment sides by brass touch-latches. The interior contains two banks of three small drawers centering a longer drawer over four valanced open compartments separated by scrolling uprights. The drawer dividers are full-depth; the flanking ones are set directly into grooves in the desk-compartment sides. The fitted interior rests upon a small molded base. The interior drawer fronts have short kerf marks and meet their slightly arched-top sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer sides are full-height and slightly shy of the drawer-front tops. The single-board drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are chamfered at the front and sides, where they fit into grooves in the elements above, and are nailed with brads to the drawer backs. The back edge of the drawer-back tops is chamfered. Shrinkage has caused the drawer bottoms to part company with the drawer fronts. The three graduated drawers below have solid fronts with cockbeaded surrounds applied with brads. Their kerf marks are more prominent than those on the interior drawers, and they meet their arched-top sides, which have short scribe lines, in dovetail joints with finely cut pins and half-pins above and below. Exterior drawer construction details are similar to those in the desk interior. Within the case, drawer dividers and top and bottom rails meet the case sides in joints concealed by strips of veneer on the stiles. Full-depth drawer supports aligning with the dividers are fixed to the case sides with rosehead nails. The case sides are dovetailed to the single-board case bottom. The joints are obscured by a frame, attached to the front and sides of the base board. The front of this frame comprises the base molding. The feet consist of shaped vertical blocks attached to the underside of the three-sided frame, flanked by horizontal blocks similarly attached, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The rear feet are similar, except for the rear faces, which are simple straight angled brackets, nailed with brads to the blocking within. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, March 25, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.