In March 1797, Washington disposed of the desk he had used throughout his presidency and bought this stately secretary-bookcase from Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Aitken for his Study at Mount Vernon. His choice, purchased for the princely sum of $145, would have fit well in a fashionable English household. The Cabinet-Makers' London Book of Prices (1793) illustrated a similar example along with a library bookcase featuring the identical muntin design in its glazed doors. The bookcase stored a few of the nearly 900 volumes in Washington's library, while the desk's tambour or roll-top lid enclosed small drawers and pigeonholes that held loose papers and desk accessories.
Tambour secretary and bookcase made in two sections. Upper section with overhanging, molded, string-inlaid cornice above glazed bookcase doors with veneered and string-inlaid mullions; two moveable shelves with string-inlaid front edges inside. Lower section with tambour desk lid opens to reveal a fitted prospect with six short drawers above three long drawers over nine pigeonholes with ogee-shaped valances and an adjustable writing slide supported by a ratchet mechanism. Bottom case with five crossbanded drawers, one long flanked by two short over two short, a central arch or kneehole, and four, square, tapered and string-inlaid legs with inlaid geometric shapes on the stiles and spade or therm feet. Elliptic-shaped ivory escutcheons on the bookcase doors, desk lid, and top central bottom case drawer. Two small brass pulls on desk lid, brass ring pulls on prospect drawers, and brass ring pulls with stamped backplates on bottom case drawers.
Alternate names for this form include: desk and bookcase, tambour secretary, tambour desk.
Mahogany, mahogany veneer, light and dark wood inlays (primary), tulip poplar, yellow pine, oak (secondary)
Overall: 95 1/2 in. x 38 1/8 in. x 28 in. (242.57 cm x 96.84 cm x 71.12 cm)
Purchased with funds donated by Alice M. Longfellow, Vice Regent for Massachusetts, 1905
Oval plate stamped "24" attached to the proper right bottom drawer support. Doors incised "L" and "R" on their top edges.
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