Desk and Bookcase

Collection Type

  • Furniture






Secretary desk and bookcase. Mahogany with white pine secondary wood. Slant-lid desk surmounted by bookcase with mirrored door and scrolled pediment with pilasters and dentiled moldings. Mirrors are framed by cyma-curved serpentine. Divides into three sections: bonnet, bookcase and desk. Rests on ogee bracket feet.


Descriptive Terms

secretaries (furniture)
desks and bookcases
mahogany (wood)
brass (alloy)
Norway spruce (wood)


When Boston, Massachusetts, was occupied by British troops during the Revolution, merchant William Foster and his family moved to their farm in Brighton, Massachusetts, for safety. Before leaving, Foster wrote his name in chalk on several places on this desk. When he returned after the British abandoned Boston in 1776, he found his desk and bookcase had been taken to the Old Province House, which had been used as a headquarters by British officers. Foster was able to prove that the desk belonged to him by pointing to his chalk inscriptions on the drawers. The desk's massive size, elegant blockfront design, extensive use of mahogany, large plates of mirror glass, and imported brasses, made this an expensive piece. Small wonder that Foster went out of his way to insure its retrieval by chalking his name on the backs of its drawers. The desk's lion's paw feet were added by a later generation replacing the original ogee bracket feet. This desk and bookcase is now on display at the Otis House in Boston, Massachusetts.


Chalked signature in seven places: ""William Foster""




95 1/2 x 49 x 27 1/2 (HxWxD) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles F. Batchelder, Jr.

Accession Number


Reference Notes

Jobe, Brock and Myrna Kaye. New England Furniture: The Colonial Era. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1984.


Massachusetts (United States)
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)