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Label

This imposing desk and ledger-case may have served as the center of operations in the office of plantation manager or merchant. Its interior is arranged as a compact and efficient workspace with pigeonholes and drawers for filing and storage, a fold-out writing surface, and vertical partitions in the lower case that could house oversized financial ledgers or letter books containing copies of correspondence. Distinctive stylistic and structural features, including the five massive claw-and-ball feet, link it to the work of Robert Walker. It descended in the Jett family of the Northern Neck of Virginia and was likely owned by Thomas Jett (d.1785), a merchant and an associate of Walker’s.

Description

Design:
Secretary-bookcase made in two parts. The upper case is crowned with a small cyma cap mold, a row of refined dentils, a large cove molding, and a tiny ovolo-and-cove bed molding, all above two astragal-panel doors. The lower case has an ogee-and-ovolo waist molding above two panel doors and five compressed claw-and-ball feet with volute-carved knee brackets. Each door has a brass keyhole escutcheon at the center of its inside edge.

The interior of the upper case has two removable shelves (dadoes are cut in the sides to support up to eight shelves) flanked by five pigeonholes on each side, all above a bank of twenty-four small drawers (three rows of seven each and a lower row of three), enclosed with a fallboard. Two lopers or supports are built-in inside the case below the fallboard, with two long drawers between them. The fallboard has a pierced brass keyhole escutcheon. All of the drawers have a single brass knob pull. The lower case has openings for two drawers at top (missing) and twelve vertical compartments below. All of the drawers have a single brass knob pull. Within each case, the front faces of the interior framing, shelves, and partitions are beaded on both edges. In the upper case, a bead is also run along the recessed, inner edge of the walls of the open shelving above the fallboard.

Case Construction:
The upper case is dovetailed together. The cornice is attached to blocks on the top of the case. The doors are each formed from panels inserted in a mortise-and-tenon frame, double-pegged at its upper joints, single-pegged at its lower joints, and attached to the inside of the case with H-hinges. Surface bolts are screwed to the inside of the proper right door at top and bottom, and are intended to slide into holes gouged out of the center top and bottom of the case. A bead is nailed on to the outside center edge of the proper left door. The pigeonhole valances are glued to the top of their respective compartments and supported from behind with a wedge-shaped horizontal glue block at center and vertical glue blocks on each side. All of the shelves or dustboards are full-depth and set into dadoes in the respective parts of the interior carcass. Two wedge-shaped drawer stops are glued to the back bottom of each drawer compartment. The fallboard is formed from two horizontal boards tongue-and-groove joined to vertical boards or battens. It is hinged (replacements) to the bottom of the enclosed drawer compartment. An interior wooden catch or peg prevents each loper from withdrawing completely.

The lower case is dovetailed together. The doors are each formed from panels inserted in a mortise-and-tenon frame, single-pegged at each joint, and are attached to the inside of the case with H-hinges. The upper dustboard is inserted into full-depth dadoes on the side of the case. The drawer divider or partition is inserted into dadoes at the center of the dustboard and the top of case. The lower vertical dividers or partitions are inserted into dadoes in the underside of the dustboard and a board fitted on top of the case bottom. The feet are tenoned into large blocks which are in turn nailed to the underside of the case. The base molding is glued to the front edges of the glue strips and foot blocks on the bottom of the case.

The back of each case is formed from rabbet-joined, side-to-side grain boards.

Drawer Construction:
All the drawers exhibit dovetailed construction. The drawer bottoms have side-to-side grain orientation, fronts and sides nailed into rabbets, and a flush back edge, glued in place.

Date

1750-1760


People


Geography


Material/Technique

Yellow pine, paint, brass


Dimensions

Overall (H x W x D): 92 1/8 in. x 49 3/4 in. x 16 3/4 in. (234 cm x 126.37 cm x 42.55 cm)


Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Stuart Robertson, 1969


Object Number

M-1890


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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