Years and years ago, hubby, the kids and I visited a family member near Wautoma, Wisconsin. We stopped for lunch and next to the restaurant was an antique store. Naturally, we had to stop in after our meal. We were immediately drawn to a gorgeous antique desk. Beautiful wood, lots of compartments and a classy brass nameplate. It turns out that this fabulous piece of furniture was from the 1920s and had once belonged to a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. We admired it a great deal and asked the shop’s proprietor if he knew any of its provenance. He shrugged and said it belonged to a local family, passed down after the Assemblyman’s death. They would have liked to keep it but, unfortunately, needed the money more than a fancy heirloom. We were saddened to hear the story, but did understand.
It was a joy to see it, touch the wood and wish that we could afford to buy it and give it a good home. But alas, the price tag was $1,500. This equated to a year’s rent back then. We did return about a year later, and it was sold.
Fast Forward to February, 2010. We stopped to shop at one of our favorite antique malls, Roscoe Antiques, in South Beloit, Illinois. Directly in front of us stood a magnificent desk, even more fantastic than the one we’d viewed years back. This is a multi-dealer mall, but as luck would have it, the owner was on the premises, working in his booth. He came forward and asked if we had any questions. And we did! He shared with us that this was called a Wooton Desk, from the 1880s or thereabouts. He had purchased it in central Illinois but was not able to learn anything about the desk’s history. It is an astounding piece of furniture and had all the “bells and whistles” you could want in an office in that time-frame. Lots of cubbies, sliding drawers, various sized openings, probably secret compartments for special treasures (wish we had the time to check them out!) We asked if we could take some pictures and he was glad to allow that. He told us he would love to keep it and agreed it was truly special. But he had paid a hefty price for it and his intention was to sell it.
When we returned home, I “Googled” Wooton and found out that the design patents were granted to William S. Wooton in 1870. He was an Indianapolis, Indiana entrepreneur and his production ran from 1870 to 1884. It was called a “secretary desk” and was intended to organize all records and keep documents in pigeon holes. While there was a certain amount of “snob appeal” in owning such a grand and complex piece of furniture, it was obsolete after only a short time. File cabinets, typewriter desks and stands and the like took over.
I know the ad for “apps for this and apps for that” are what people are looking for, but who wouldn’t love to have a grand piece of furniture like this in their home or office?