Specialized tables with storage compartments were popular additions to elite homes during the last decade of the eighteenth century. "Work," a synonym for women's plain or fancy needlework, could be safely stored in the hinged compartment of the table while not in use or easily retrieved for polite employment during an after-dinner conversation. Martha Washington learned sewing skills at a young age and likely taught these to her daughter and granddaughters as a complement to their more formal training. Patsy, Eliza, and Nelly Custis, may have used work tables such as this one to fashionably conceal their embroidery projects.


Oval work table with hinged lid; conforming apron with elongated horizontal ovals of line inlay on each side, an inlaid diamond escutcheon, and banding to lower edge; four, square, tapered legs each with ovals of line inlay above a strip of banding to match the apron; stringing on their fronts and ebonized cuffs bordered with stringing on all sides; hinged lid lifts to reveal an undivided compartment formed of three layers of horizontal tulip poplar lamination; a single board forming the bottom is nailed into a rabbet on the lower edge of the rails.





Mahogany (primary), tulip poplar (secondary)


Overall: 29 13/16 in. x 21 3/8 in. x 14 9/16 in. (75.74 cm x 54.31 cm x 36.98 cm)
Other (height of apron): 4 in. (10.16 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles B. Ball, Jr., Vice Regent for Virginia, 1875

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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