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Photo: Courtesy Newport Historical Society, R.I., inv. no. 83.1.8; photo by Rhode Island Furniture Archive
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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker Unknown


41 1/2 39 1/2 21 in. (105.41 100.33 53.34 cm)



Current location

Newport Historical Society


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (bottoms of interior desk drawers [except valance drawers]); cedar (sides and back of interior desk drawers and bottoms of valance drawers); pine (linings of exterior drawers, blocks on bottoms of exterior drawers, case back and bottom boards, vertical brace at back of case, drawer divider backings, and drawer supports); cherry (backings of lopers)




Interior drawers: “A,” in graphite, on interior back and proper-left side of proper-right upper drawer; “B,” in graphite, on interior back and proper-right exterior side of proper-right middle drawer; illegible graphite, on exterior proper-left side of proper-right middle drawer; “C,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-right lower drawer; illegible inscription [G?], in graphite, on proper-left exterior side of upper prospect drawer; “H,” in graphite, on exterior back and exterior sides [partially illegible] of middle prospect door; “I,” on exterior back of lower prospect drawer; illegible script [S?], in graphite on exterior proper-right on lower prospect drawer; illegible letter, in graphite, on exterior proper-left side of lower prospect door; “D,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left upper drawer; illegible inscription, in graphite, on exterior proper-left side of proper-left middle drawer; illegible graphite, on exterior proper-right side of proper-left middle drawer; “E[?],” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left middle drawer; “F,” in graphite, on interior back of proper-left lower drawer; “A” through “F,” in graphite, on exterior backs and interior fronts of valance drawers [from proper-right to proper-left]. Exterior drawers: wavy line, in graphite, on exterior bottoms of top and bottom drawers


Col. John Topham (1742–1793), Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to his great-great-great grandson Leroy Allen Rutherford (1885–1974), Newport, Rhode Island, and Cos Cob, Connecticut; by descent to his wife Mrs. Leroy Allen Rutherford (probably born 1898), Cos Cob, Connecticut; by bequest from their estate to the Newport Historical Society, Rhode Island, 1983

Associated names

John Topham
Leroy Allen Rutherford
Mrs. Leroy Allen Rutherford


The single-board top is half-blind dovetailed to the single-board case sides. Within the row of closely spaced pins are two large and two small round wood pins. The hinged lid is assembled in the "breadboard" manner, having two narrow vertical boards tenoned to a large horizontal board; the edges are thumb-molded. The joints between the boards are concealed. The interior includes a flat prospect door flanked by beaded vertical dividers and opening to three concave-blocked small drawers, flanked by three open compartments separated by straight upright dividers below beaded, valanced, quarter-spherically, blocked small drawers, and flanked by two straight-fronted small drawers, with a longer drawer below, the whole raised on a molded base. The kerf-marked small-drawer fronts meet their slightly rounded-topped, scribe-lined flush drawer sides in dovetail joints, having large, finely cut pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The drawer bottoms, perpendicular to the fronts, are glued into rabbets in the elements above. The wider small-drawer bottoms are slightly chamfered at the sides, fitting into grooves in the drawer sides, which joint is reinforced by multiple runner/glueblocks. The bottoms are nailed with brads to the backs above. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with rosehead and other nails to rabbets in the case top and sides, and to horizontal and vertical elements within the case. The top rail and drawer dividers are blind-dovetailed to the case sides. The full-height loper vertical dividers and the bottom rail are set into grooves in their neighboring elements. Behind the bottom rail are four rectangular horizontal glue blocks. Within the case, loper guides sit atop full-depth top-drawer supports, which are fixed, along with other drawer supports below, with rosehead nails to the case sides. The graduated, lipped, thumb-molded and kerf-marked drawer-fronts meet their scribe-lined, slightly rounded-topped sides, of which they are slightly proud, in dovetail joints, having numerous finely cut narrow pins with half-pins above and below. The single-board drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are chamfered at the front and sides, where they fit into grooves. The side joints are reinforced by multiple horizontal glue blocks. The drawer bottoms are nailed up into the drawer backs with brads. The case?s base molding is attached to its base board with wood-filled fasteners. The front feet consist of rectangular vertical blocks attached directly to the case bottom and flanked by chamfered horizontal blocks, the whole faced with ogee bracket feet. The rear feet are configured similarly, except for the back faces, which are straight scrolling brackets. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, March 25, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


Adams Taylor, "A Writer's Dozen: Desks from the Collection of the Newport Historical Society," Newport History 83, no. 270 (Spring 2014): 56, ill.