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Fragment of a portable writing desk

Probably Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Possibly Jacob Super (1773-1820)


6-3/8 in x 22-1/8 in x 11-1/4 in


Mahogany; chestnut

Credit Line

Historic Odessa Foundation, gift of Anthony Higgins and Mrs. W. Ashton (Julia Higgins) Roberts

Accession Number


Condition Notes

See "Comments"


The writing desk fragment descended to the donors with an oral tradition of ownership by William Corbit (1746-1818).


This fragment from a portable writing desk is made of mahogany veneer on chestnut.  It has an enclosed drawer beneath the bottom board of the shallow, rectangular box.  Channels cut into the sidewalls show where the fitted interior once abutted the sides.  Brass hinge evidence on the lower sidewall indicates where the upper half of the portable desk once attached.  Remnants of leather strap hinges indicate the one-time presence of an internal writing surface that could be raised to access a well underneath.

In a memo from John A.H. Sweeney of Winterthur to Nancy G. Evans, Winterthur registrar, dated June 14. 1972, he cited a manuscript recently found among papers associated with this desk that its then owners Anthony Higgins and his sister Julia wished to be sent to the Delaware Historical Society.  The manuscript read, 

"Mr. / Bot of Jacob Super / A Mahogany Portable Desk $9.00 / Recd. payment / Jacob Super"

Jacob Super (1773-1820) was a cabinetmaker working in Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia.  The desk fragment might have been made by him.  The presence of chesnut is consistent with fabrication in Philadelphia but does not eliminate origin elsewhere.