Accession #: 1938.2
Item: Desk with bookcase
Walking through Wilton visitors might notice the countless pieces of period furniture on display throughout the house. Due to our wonderful collection, the most frequent question asked during tours is always “Is it a Randolph piece?” Visitors might be surprised that Wilton only boasts one original piece of furniture belonging to the Randolphs, and that is Peyton Randolph’s Secretary Desk currently on display in the Study. His great-granddaughter, and the last Randolph of Wilton, Catherine Randolph Mayo, bequeathed the piece to her son Robert Randolph Mayo. Robert’s wife, Betty, sold it to her nephew, John Brander, where it left the Randolph family line. He in turn sold it to his brother, Thomas Brander. The Dames purchased it from him around , where it later became a centerpiece for the Study.
The desk was made sometime around 1770-80 in New York and it is attributed to Samuel Prince. Some of the fine craftsmanship includes: scrolled and dentil carved pediments; adjustable shelves and a slant front lid; and four graduated molded doors. It was made in the Chippendale style and is constructed out of Mahogany. The desk has some Poplar and White Pine in it as well. Secretary desks were first used in the 17th century and mark the beginning of permanent storage spaces over portable traveling pieces, such as traveling desks. (See example below)
Peyton could have possibly used this desk in the very same room it is today. From the 1815 inventory of Wilton it is very likely this desk resided in this very room. Peyton Randolph would have written his correspondences from this desk as well as taken care of the business aspect of running Wilton. When the Marquis de Lafayette stayed in the house for ten days during the Revolutionary War he could have used this very desk as well.
Home Decorator's Collection. "'History of the Secretary Desk.'" Home Decorator's
Collection, Decorating Ideas. Accessed July 1, 2011. Last modified 2011.
Wilton House Furnishing Committee. "Report from the Furnishing Committee." Letter to
the Item file, October 27, 1939 Wilton House Loan File Item #1938.2.
Wilton House Museum. "Item file # 1938.2." Wilton House Museum to Researchers of
the Collection, 1938 Collection file. http://www.buffaloah.com/f/glos/desk/deskstyles.html