COLLECTION: Furniture

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Desk and Bookcase

ca. 1775
Origin: America, Virginia, Williamsburg (possibly)
OH: 85"; OW: 44 1/4"; OD: 23 1/8"
Black walnut and yellow pine
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1930-13
Desk and bookcase, flat top with molding in Gothic arch design and (replaced) pitched pediment with central finial. Doors are glazed with panels arranged in octagon and square patterns. Inside are three adjustable shelves over a single row of four drawers with brass knobs. Original brackets for drapery rod are on either side of interior at top. Desk has molded top edge to receive bookcase section. Behind the fall front there are three pigeon holes on each side over two shallow drawer (one drawer missing on each side) flanking a square central prospect door with a hidden drawer behind. Below fall front are four drawers, graduated in size, on a molded base with ogee bracket feet.
Provenance:According to the source, the piece was owned by President John Tyler (1790-1862; in office 1841-1845). It was reportedly sold by him with his home near Ordinary, Gloucester Place, Gloucester County, Virginia, to John Hughes. From Hughes estate it was purchased by T. A. Jackson Oliver, whose wife sold it to Mrs. L. O. Bullock, who sold it to Colonial Williamsburg. The inscription on the underside of the bookcase section (William Wilkins) may confirm Tyler's ownership. Wilkins, 1779-1865, was appointed Secretary of War by Tyler in 1844. The Pennsylvania native served his state as representative to Congress and Senate (DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, XX). However, his connection to the desk is unclear. Also, William Wilkins may not be the above mentioned man, as Virginia records include several men by this name through the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Mark(s):Underside of bookcase is incised "William Wilkins" and "William" twice, as well as several other miscellaneous letters.
Inscription(s):Top of desk marked "14", plus several undecipherable letters and words. Back of desk has several undecipherable words. Inside bookcase in left drawer in ink is "E peccs" and in second drawer is "Black Mustard".