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Miniature Roll-top Desk

1900-1925
Origin: America, Pennsylvania (probably)
OH: 11"; OW: 13 1/3": OD: 7 1/4"
Cedar, brass and iron
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1992.2000.2
"Tramp Art" miniature desk with ogee shaped roll top above two tiers of a slide over three drawer. Desk entirely ornamented with applied chip carved pieces outlining shapes and elements like drawer fronts. Sides of desk at base have a chip-carved heart within a square chip-carved border.
Label:"Tramp Art" is the popular name given to objects made from cigar-box wood or other woods that is layered and chip carved to create a variety of decorative effects. The association of these objects with drifters is largely fanciful because tramp art can be fragile and quite large, making it unlikely that such pieces were made by persons without permanent homes. Tramp art was customarily made by amateur woodworkers as gifts, possibly to supplement their income, or for their own use and enjoyment.

Tramp art was made in America primarily between 1875 and 1935--the years coinciding with the popularity of cigar smoking, but the craft was practiced beyond that period. The V-notched, zig-zag patterns identifying tramp art is an ancient decorative device, but it seems to have been popularized in America by German and Scandinavian immigrants. The range of functional and decorative objects decorated with the technique is enormous. Picture and mirror frames and small storage boxes exist in great numbers; but devotional objects and full-size and miniature furniture also survive. This is one of three roll-top desks possibly by the same maker that are recorded.