Monday, November 9, 2009

The Cutler Desk Company

In 1850 the US Patent Office issued a patent for the first American made roll top desk to Abner Cutler of Buffalo, NY. The roll top had existed in Europe prior to Mr. Cutler, but not in quite the same form. The Cylinder desk was probably the earliest version of a roll top, having come into use in France in the 1700s. This type of desk suffered from warping because the roll top was made from a single piece of wood. The Tambour desk, which closes across instead of down, could also be considered an early form of the roll top even though only the back of the work surface was covered when the top was closed. With the advent of the roll top, these other desks became largely obsolete. The Cutler Desk Company, along with many other similar companies, made the roll top into a staple of the Victorian office. Cutler's company lasted until around 1919, by which time the roll top had begun to lose its appeal. The styles were changing. Cutler's beautiful and stately desks seemed massive and ponderous when compared with the sleek lines of Art Nouveau and the early Art Deco designs of the period.

Cutler's company will always be known as the grandfather of the roll top desk. Some of his earlier works in mahogany and oak are breathtaking. The finer desks have been known to sell at auction in the $10,000 range.

I recently had the great fortune to come across one of these desks. It is on display at our booth at the Hoover Antique Gallery. I believe this one dates to the late 1800s. It is made entirely of oak. It is massive in size and in good condition overall. There is some damage to the handles of the drawers. It has two secret compartments and the original wooden filing system built into one of the bottom drawers. The asking price is $1850, but reasonable offers will always be considered.


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