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Photo: Courtesy Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, 1952.1.3 (RHiX32543)
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Slant-front desk

Object number



Maker, attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


41 1/2 37 3/4 20 1/8 in. (105.41 95.885 51.118 cm)



Current location

The Rhode Island Historical Society


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


Mahogany (primary); mahogany (interior drawer linings and vertical block of proper-right front foot); chestnut (back boards, bottom of lower exterior drawer, drawer dividers, bottom board, and horizontal blocks of proper-right front and rear feet); yellow poplar (linings of upper three exterior drawers, vertical brace at interior case back, horizontal support for well, blocks at case front[?], and horizontal blocks of proper-left front and rear feet); pine (bracket of proper-left rear foot)




“A” and “B,” in graphite, on exterior backs of proper-right upper and middle drawer [from top to bottom]; “B[?],” in graphite, on exterior back of middle prospect drawer; illegible graphite, on exterior bottom of middle prospect drawer; illegible graphite, on exterior back of drawer to proper-right of prospect; traces of illegible graphite, on exterior back of proper-left upper drawer; “A” through “F,” in graphite, on interior bottoms and exterior backs of valance drawers [extra “E” on exterior back of drawer “E”]; “A” through “D,” in graphite, on exterior back of exterior drawers [from top to bottom]; illegible graphite, on exterior back of upper exterior drawer; “B” and “C,” in graphite, on bottom surfaces of drawer dividers under second and third drawers; illegible graphite, on exterior case bottom


Moses Brown (1738–1836), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to his grandaughter Avis Lockwood Harris (1802–1892), Providence, Rhode Island; by descent to Adeline T. Harris (1831–1906), Providence, Rhode Island; by gift to Franklin R. Cushman (1870–1952), Providence, Rhode Island, 1904; by gift of Franklin R. Cushman and Julia D. Cushman, Providence, Rhode Island, to the Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, 1950

Associated names

Moses Brown
Julia D. Cushman
Franklin R. Cushman
Avis Lockwood Harris
Adeline T. Harris


The single-board top meets the single-board sides in a dovetail joint, having small, finely cut, narrow-marked pins, with half-pins in front. The sides meet the single-board case bottom in a dovetail joint, having small, thick-necked pins; some tails are reinforced with brads. There are two small nails in the front of the case bottom just behind the base molding. The case back consists of three horizontal half-lapped boards fixed with screws, brads and rosehead nails into rabbets in the top and sides, and directly to the case bottom. The hinged, thumb-molded lid consists of a large horizontal board tenoned into two flanking narrow vertical boards. The joints between the boards are visible at the bottom of the lid when it is closed. It opens to an interior which centers a concave-blocked, shell-carved prospect door which opens to three concave-blocked small drawers, and is flanked by beaded stiles. On either side are three beaded, valanced and quarter-spherically concave-blocked small drawers over open compartments with scrolling dividers above convex-blocked drawers, in turn flanked by banks of concave-blocked drawers, the upper ones shell-carved. The interior has a molded base. Before it sits a sliding well cover in a thumb-molded frame. The interior drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arched-top sides in dovetail joints, having very finely cut, narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The tops of the drawer backs are flat with slightly chamfered back edges. The convex-block-fronted small drawers are constructed slightly differently, with thicker-necked and less finely cut pins. Each single-board drawer bottom, perpendicular to the front, is glued into rabbets in the front, sides, and back. Within the case is a longitudinal batten which serves as support for the transverse boards of the writing surface and as a stop for the lopers. It is supported by (replaced) tip bars below the loper supports and by a medial vertical batten, to which it is half-lapped. The vertical interior batten is nailed with brads from outside the case back. The drawer supports are replaced. There are large horizontal chamfered glue blocks in the joint between the case bottom and the bottom rail. The top rail, the upright dividers beside the lopers and the drawer dividers meet their respective neighboring elements in half-blind dovetail joints. The bottom rail is set into grooves in the case sides, and the base molding is fixed to the bottom of the case with wood-filled fasteners. The lipped, thumb-molded large-drawer fronts meet their slightly shorter, arched-top sides in dovetail joints having finely cut, narrow necked pins, with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The full width, single-board drawer bottoms are parallel to the front, where they fit in grooves. The joints between the drawer bottoms and drawer sides are covered by later, full-depth, glued-on runners. The bottom face of one drawer bottom bears the shadow and nail holes of a former transverse batten. In the backs of the drawer bottoms are brads fixing them to the drawer backs above. The front feet consist of shaped and mitered longitudinal glue blocks fixed with screw pockets to the case bottom, to which are fixed shaped vertical blocks, the whole faced with mahogany ogee brackets. The rear feet are constructed similarly except for the rear brackets, which are simple straight-profiled ogee boards, the proper right one of later date. The rear-facing edge of the rear feet?s side-facing bracket had an ogee profile; the neighboring vertical block is carved to align. Examined by P.E. Kane and J.N. Johnson, June 23, 2014; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd.


Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 171, fig. 3.94, 3.94a.
Joseph K. Ott, The John Brown House Loan Exhibition of Rhode Island Furniture, exh. cat. (Providence: The Rhode Island Historical Society, 1965), 116–17, no. 72, ill.
Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., "Catalog of The Rhode Island Historical Society Furniture Collection," Rhode Island History 15, no. 1 (January 1956): 28–29, no. 6, 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), 58n20.