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 Desk, Fall-Front Plantation 
Desk, Fall-Front Plantation
by Unidentified 
Mahogany, wool, early 19th Century
Overall measurement
      Height: 58.7 inches  (149.2 cm)
      Width:  36 inches  (91.4 cm)
      Depth: 21 inches  (53.3 cm)
Inscription (on unfinished back panel): [indecipherable] / Brooklyn / NY
Cat. no. 65.00029.000

This combination writing table and bookcase, known as a plantation desk, belonged to Capitol fresco artist Constantino Brumidi. Although it is unknown how or where Brumidi acquired his desk, it was likely used at his home studio in Washington, D.C. Produced as early as the 1790s, the Plantation desk draws its name from its widespread use on Southern plantations between 1820 and 1850, and was frequently used by attorneys, overseers, postmasters, and railroads clerks.

The two-panel front on the bookcase of this desk resembles a pair of standard doors, but is actually a bottom-hinged fall board. The fall board conceals a number of drawers, file slots, and pigeonholes, and when opened provides a conveniently slanted, cloth-covered writing surface. A hinged-lid compartment on the top of the case provides additional storage. While the piece bears no maker’s marks, the city “Brooklyn / NY” is inscribed on the unfinished back panel and suggests a connection to New York—the city to which Constantino Brumidi emigrated in 1852.


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