Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Rare Antique Desk Turns Up

Yesterday I was digging through archives trying to find an old video clip of the "Antiques Roadshow" program that featured the desk made by one of my namesake ancestors. Despite having no luck finding the video I did turn up something else at a website called Southampton Antiques.

It's a rare Secretary Desk made by Henry H. Wiggers of Cincinnati, Ohio.
The description reads as follows:

Description: Rare walnut Victorian secretary signed "Pat Feb 6, (18)77 H.H. Wiggers, Kearney & Wiggers Manufacturers, Cin'ti, O." This desk is in all original condition. It has two raised burled panels with a round signature brass medallion beneath the double step gallery. The two sides of the desk swing open with double brass hinges on either side and metal rods that mechanically pull the writing surface out when the desk is opened. The interior of the desk has four drawers in the middle and cubbies on the sides. The drawer fronts and tops of the cubbies are beautifully appointed with birdseye maple fronts. The desk has the original maroon fabric on the writing surface. The fabric is stained and could easily be replaced with a piece of leather. On such an original historically important piece we elected to keep it original and let the buyer decide on this. The desk sits on four columns with clover leaf cutouts in the base. It has a finished back. The following information was obtained from the Smithsonian Institute. "On 6 February 1877, Henry H. Wiggers of Cincinnati patented another variety of the Wooton-type desk. The patent specification for this desk or secre- tary stipulated that it was provided with a pair of hinged covers coupled to a sliding member in such a manner that the advancement of said slide causes the cornered style of the Fallows desk (illustrated in "Wisconsin Magazine of History" Vol. 35, No. 4 [Summer, 1952, p. 276), which is labeled "Moore's cabinet desk, Indianapolis, Indiana, Patented Jan. 8, 1878. (This desk) patented by Henry H. Wiggers of Cincinnati, Ohio, 6 February 1877, now in the Heinz House, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan. was listed as the Wooton Desk Manufacturing Com- pany." In fact, the 1870-1885 period was a most dynamic period in American furniture design. Moore, Wooten, Wiggins and others inundated the US Patent office with a number of innovative and interesting designs. We have never had this particular desk before. We believe it to be an important example of Victorian furniture design. Circa: 1877 Dimensions: 58"H x 33.5"W (closed) x 23"D

Henry H. Wiggers founded the Wiggers Furniture Co. in Cincinnati in 1865. According to the patent it was approximately 12 years later that he was in a partnership with Kearney in this venture of making patented desks.

While poking around Google I also came across a digital copy of "Trade News Publishing" from 1910, which had the same Wiggers Furniture Co. listed as a key player in the (then) growing automobile manufacturing sector. That struck me as rather odd until I learned that wood was an integral component in the making of early cars. At that time wood frames were being reinforced with steel to make something called "armoured wood" for attaching metal body panels. (In the years that followed wood was phased out in favour of aluminum and all steel construction).

This era was clearly the Golden Age of American car manufacturing, and I especially love knowing that others in my extended family were open minded enough to be exploring new opportunities in emerging markets.


  1. What a beautiful and unique desk! Thanks for all the info--I came to search Wiggers and Kearney, 1874 which is on the old family cradle.

  2. Hi Sarah - I'm glad to hear the cradle is still going strong. Do you have any pictures you'd be willing to share? It might make for an interesting blog post.

  3. Sarah and John -
    I have a similar or perhaps the same cradle and certainly would like more info. I would post a pic but don't know how to do so here ... help?

  4. I spent many, many years in antique restoration and furniture building. Recently I found myself musing on a new building project and for some odd reason decided to look into building a modern version of the Wooton Patent Desk. I'm begining the design process now. I know of one fellow who actually has begun construction of a reproduction desk. Beautiful things, those old Wooton's.

  5. Gary: the Wooton inspired piece sounds like a challenging undertaking. Best wishes for success with it, and keep me posted on your progress!