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Escritoire

1707 (dated)
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
OH: 66 1/2"; OW: 44 1/2"; OD: 19 5/8"
Black walnut, white cedar, yellow pine, and white pine
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958-468
Appearance: Two sections; upper section: ovolo molded cornice above bolection molding on three sides with bolection molding at front forming the front of a drawer: hinged writing surface in the form of a single, large, fielded panel on the exterior and a leather (replaced) writing surface on the interior folds into upper section on one extended original iron support at each side and two original iron hinges at base: interior has two sets of four equal sized pigeon holes across top separated by a molded divider; when the boxes forming these two pigeon hole units are removed, a long drawer behind them across the back of the case can be accessed by pulling the central divider forward; centered beneath the pigeon holes is a prospect door hinged on the proper left: at each side of the door a bank of three drawers; below the central door one wide drawer above an open storage area flanked by a bank of two narrow drawers at each side; behind prospect door is a shelf near the bottom; behind the backboard of the prospect section are three small walnut drawers over a till with a wooden hinged lid at the level of the shelf; small drawers retain their original cotton (?) green and white twill tape pulls; small drawers can be accessed by removing the drawers on the proper left of the prospect section and sliding the prospect backboard to the proper left; lower section: stepped molding at three sides form an inaccessible cavity below the upper section; two small drawers over two long graduated drawers; drawer dividers and front of case sides have bead molding; ovolo base molding on three sides; four original flattened ball feet, the back feet slightly larger than the front.

Construction: Lower case: top and bottom are dovetailed to sides; yellow pine half depth dust boards with walnut bead molding miter joined to bead molding nailed to front of case sides is dadoed into the case sides; vertical drawer divider in dado in case top and top dust board; base molding is nailed to edges of case bottom, sides, and three boards glued to underside of case bottom along front and sides; bun feet are tenoned into same boards and case bottom board; top dust board has slots and square holes for accessing wooden spring locks (now missing) on bottoms of small drawers (only one drawer shows evidence of having had a spring lock); two part mid molding nailed to front and sides; vertical backboards nailed into rabbets in sides and to edges of top and bottom; modern battens are nailed over the cracks/joints between the backboards.

Large drawer construction: standard dovetail construction; flat bottom boards with front to back grain orientation are nailed to rabbet along front and edges of sides and back; runners (replaced) glued on at sides of bottom; vertical blocks (modern) nailed to back of drawers at sides to act as drawer stops.

Upper Case: bottom dadoed to case sides; sides extend past case bottom; top nailed to top of case sides; lower top below bolection drawer dadoed and tenoned through case sides; top rail probably nailed to case sides; cornice molding and bolection molding nailed to top rail and sides; molding below bolection molding nailed to case sides and drawer blade below bolection drawer; wooden strip nailed inside proper left case side above bolection drawer to prevent tipping; case sides rabbeted along front edge to receive bolection drawer and writing surface; bead nailed to front of case sides; desk interior formed by dividers dadoed into case sides, bottom board, and underside of lower top; dividers mitered at joints; till inside secret compartment behind prospect has integral round wooden tenons at either end of top that tenon into sides of prospect section; till lid supported when closed by blocks nailed to sides of prospect section below lid.

Small desk interior drawer construction: drawers have standard dovetail construction; flat drawer bottoms nailed into rabbets in front and edges of sides and backs; some drawers have added (most likely not original) runners on sides and one along the front.

Secret drawers are entirely of walnut with standard dovetail construction and side to side drawer bottoms nailed to rabbet in front and underside of sides and back; cotton (?) green and white tape pulls in center of each drawer front.

Bolection drawer: sides joined to front with sliding half dovetail and to back with standard dovetails; multi-board, front to back oriented grain drawer bottom nailed to rabbet in front and to edges of sides and back; rectangular blocks joined to back of bolection molded drawer front at ends; bolection molding added to ends of front.

Pigeon hole units comprised of dovetailed box with dividers dadoed to bottom and nailed to top.

Drawer behind pigeon hole units has dovetail construction with bottom board nailed to underside of all sides; divider double tenoned to center front of drawer with wedged tenons; divider mitered on bottom edge to slide in groove in dust board

Fall front writing surface has mortise and tenon joined rails and stiles, mitered on front surface only, with raised panel in dadoes of rails and stiles; inside of panel recessed permitting inset leather covered writing surface.

backboards nailed to rabbet in sides, to edge of bottom board and along back of lower top below bolection drawer, and from top into top of backboards.

Label:The earliest dated piece of Philadelphia furniture still in existence, this escritoire demonstrates the Anglo-Dutch influence on American furniture styles of the early eighteenth century. Representative of the early baroque style with its ball feet and wide cornice moldings, this piece could easily be confused with English examples of the same period if it were not for the use of two American secondary woods, white pine and white cedar. Evans produced furniture for leading Philadelphia mercantile families, including a £7 "Chest of Drawers" he made for William Penn's daughter Laetitia in 1701.
Provenance:Inherited by the last private owner, Mrs. Robert Wilberforce, from her father, Schyler N. Warren; the Reverend Ebenezer Grant was Mrs. Wilberforce's great-great uncle and pastor of the Presbyterian church in Bedford from 1804 until his death in 1812. The desk apparently was given by the Reverend Grant to Mrs. Wilberforce's great-grandmother, Mrs. Abraham Schulyer Nielson, through whose descendents it passed to Mrs. Wilberforce. Earlier owners of the desk are unknown.
Mark(s):Stamped inside long desk drawer on bottom, "Edward Evans/ 1707" and off to the side, "Y".
Inscription(s):Matching upside down chalk numbers 1-4 in inner corners of drawers (most in large drawers have worn away).

Chalk, graphite, and scribed numerals on bottoms of small drawers and corresponding numbers on tops of drawer dividers.

Chalk numbers (sums?) and "T" or "J" written inside back of one of the secret drawers behind the prospect section. Numbers were written before the wood was cut for the drawer.

Chalk on backboards of lower case "CW/ Wil........../ 2 ps" (possibly Wilberforce?)
Chalk on backboards of upper case "Wil........./ 2 ps"