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The History of the Wooton Desk

William S. Wooton defined the style of the Victorian office. Antiquarian Traders is proud to be one of the only suppliers in the nation that offer perfectly restored Wooton desks.

The History of the Wooton Desk

These elaborate desks were designed and patented by William S. Wooton, born in 1835, the eighth of thirteen children. In 1870 he formed the Wooton Desk Company after winning a $5 first prize for a school house desk at the Indiana State Fair for which he applied and was granted a U.S. patent in 1868 (#83,896). His most important patent #155,604 was granted on October 6, 1874 for "Wooton's Patent Cabinet Office Secretary". This ingenuity lead to full scale production in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1874 and continued through 1891, although Wooton retired and became a preacher in 1884. He died in 1907 at the age of 72.

Wooton's patents merged fine hand craftsmanship with the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution. The design of the desks provided an ingenious solution to the businessman's increasing problem of organization to keep up with the rapid expansion and growing complexity of business during this historical period. Wooton’s list of recorded customers demonstrates his accurate assessment of the businessman's needs and the historical importance these desks played in the formation of American commerce. Presidents Grant, Garfield, Harrison, Queen Victoria, John D. Rockefeller, Joseph Scribner and Jay Gould were but a few of the luminaries who depended upon these desks to organize their daily routine.

Even today, the Smithsonian Institution still utilizes its patent secretary, purchased new in 1876–one hundred and twenty-four years of continuous use. Probably the most recognized piece of the Victorian Era, the Wooton desk is the centerpiece of any 19th century American furniture exhibition. Most museums have “The Desk of the Age" in their collection. A 94 page book, published in 1983 by the Indiana State and Oakland Museums, is devoted solely to the history of the Wooton Desk Company and the evolution of 19th Century office.


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