An American late 19th century walnut, burr walnut and ebonised Wooton desk
Lot 280
An American late 19th century walnut, burr walnut and ebonised Wooton desk
Sold for £10,625 (US$ 16,676) inc. premium

Lot Details
An American late 19th century walnut, burr walnut and ebonised Wooton desk An American late 19th century walnut, burr walnut and ebonised Wooton desk
An American late 19th century walnut, burr walnut and ebonised Wooton desk
the top with a carved three-quarter gallery headed by finials above a hinged frieze revealing pigeon holes, the pair of panelled cylinder top doors revealing a partially bird eye maple veneered interior with an arrangement of pigeon holes, a writing flap and small drawers, in sized with linear decoration, the front with a pair of gilt brass mounts, one engraved 'letters' and sprung flap, the other, blind with script ' Manufactured by the Wooton desk Co. Indianapolis, Ind. Pat. Oct. 6. 1874.' the doors centred by an elaborate gilt brass handle and back plate with conforming buttress hinges to the side, on fluted splayed front feet, 98cm wide, 77cm deep, 178cm high (38.5" wide, 30" deep, 70" high).

Footnotes

  • " One hundred and ten compartments all under one lock and key. A place for everything and everything in its place. Order reigns supreme, Confusion avoided. Time saved. Vexation spared. Nothing in its line can exceed it in usefulness or beauty"

    It was in this manner that the desk was described in the Graphic Newspaper of 17th May 1884, by the London Dealers, Richards, Terry and Company who represented Wooton's Cabinet Office Secretary's Desk Company of Indianapolis.

    Founded by William S Wooton in 1870. The firm operated from Indianapolis and is recorded in its first year as a company making 'school furniture, office desks and church furniture'. The Company grew with commissions to supply many institutions around the Mid West and after winning top prize at the Indiana State Fair, Wooton and Company registered some of their school furniture designs with the United Sates Patent Office. The Company believed in the synonym of utility, durability and elegance and strove to become the leader in its line of office furniture and became a symbol of the of the growing success of companies in the industrial age.

    It was on the 6th October 1874 that the Wooton desk now officially called the ' Wooton Patent Cabinet Office Secretary' came into being. A patent was granted for the desk no. 155,604. Once granted the Company moved with rapid pace to produce the desk. Advertisements from the Indianapolis Journal, proclaimed: " Cabinet Office Secretary, the most complete desk for filing documents ever made." ('King of Desks' Betty Lawson Walters. Studies in History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution p3) The effect of such advertisements and the quality of its furniture saw the Companies huge expansion from just four employees including William Wooton in 1874 to a factory of one hundred and fifty by 1876. The demand for the desk steadily grew to not only buyers from the United States but also Europe. Notable clients of 'Wooton's Cabinet Office Secretary' included; Queen Victoria, President Ulysses S. Grant and business men such as, John D Rockerfella and Joseph Scribner.

    Many of the desks were produced in 1876, which was a major year for the company's desk production. There were four grades of Wooton desk produced under the patent; these included; ordinary, standard, extra and superior. And each grade could be ordered in three sizes. It is of note that the three finer grades were all fitted with a new patent bank lock, and spring letter plate and box.

    The grade offered here is that of the 'Extra Grade'. Complete with patent bank lock and letter plate which is to be found on all finer Wooton desks. With Veneered front panels and 'Berlin bronze hardware' the Extra grade desk offered added incised detailing to the side panels and drawer fronts as well as expertly carved cornice with interior of Maple and Spanish cedar wood.
    Three examples of the Wooton patent desk are held in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute.
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