Desks ................................ Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary.

Wooten Desks

The Wooten desk is the crowning achievement of Victorian patent furniture. Designed to be, in effect, a working office, the piece was made almost exclusively to special order. Consequently. no two desks are ever exactly alike.


Desk features:

Usually classified as either Victorian or Renaissance Revival style.

Excerpts from
Eileen & Richard Dubrow, American Furniture of the 19th Century
Shiffer Publishing, 2000

Born: May 12,1835, in Preble County, Ohio
Died: August 26, 1907, in Denver, Colorado

Business address:

  • Before 1870 - George A. Grant and Company - Richmond, Indiana
  • 1870 - Wooten Desk Company - Indianapolis, Indiana

Mr. Wooton came to Indianapolis in 1870 from Richmond, Indiana. Hehad been a partner in George A. Grant and Company a manufacturer of school, office and court furniture. The establishment of the Wooton Desk Company in Indianapolis was recorded in the 1870 census as a manufacturer of school, office, and church desks and furniture.

The business man, with more than one business to run or an ever expanding business, needed more than his "beaver hat band" to keep track of all his papers. He needed a place for record keeping and record writing. He needed these all in one place, and he needed this to be a secure place. In addition, he wanted some place elegant in order to show his new found status. The Wooton Patent Secretary, "The King of Desks," met all these requirements.

Wooten Secretary

On October 6, 1874 the United States Patent Office issued the patent on what was officially called "Wooton's Patent Cabinet Office Secretary." The patent Secretary was shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Fair in 1876.

The Wooton Desk is based upon Renaissance Revival styling. It is massive, elaborate and rectangular rather than flowing furniture. It uses projecting panels, contrasting woods, gilding, incised lines and turned ornaments.

The basic of the desk enabled a person using it to reach 110 compartments without moving his chair. The barrels of the desk swing open, the writing shelf folds up, and there is ledger space that can be reached from a seated position.

The desk locks with a single key and on the outside of the left hand door there is a mail slot that can be used for people to leave money or messages when thedesk is locked.

The Patent Secretaries made by the company came in four grades: Ordinary, Standard, Extra Grade, and Superior. Each grade could be ordered in three sizes. Prices for the desks ranged from $90 to $750.

Wooten Rotary Desk

The rotary desk was patented in 1876 and also displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial. The desks were commended for compactness, convenience, and utility.

The Rotary desks came in twelve styles, including a single or double pier pedestal, with a flat or slanted writing surface. Rotary desks were made in two grades; Standard and Extra Grade. The prices ranged from $30 to $225.

In the 1876 Indianapolis directory the "Wooton Desk Company" advertised its product as "The King of Desks". The Furniture Gazette for August 38, 1875 states, "The Wooton Desk Company has dealers selling its desks in En-gland, Scotland, Canada, Europe, South America and the Far East."

Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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