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Desk and Bookcase

Minitree, Jacob Andrew ||Giles, John __Brasses by
Place Made:
Charles County Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –poplar –yellow pine
HOA: 101 1/4; WOA: 44; DOA: 22 1/2
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Desk and bookcase; the upper section comprising a cabinet of small concave and straight front drawers and compartments; enclosed by two arched and beveled looking glass doors ornamented by stars cut into the upper part of the looking glass; surmounted by a broken arch pediment; the top section is superimposed upon a desk containing a stepped-up interior with well in base of writing surface; the desk enclosed by a slant-lid fall board which is supported by two square pull-outs; mounted over four graduated lipped edge drawers with part of a set of brasses; the whole supported by straight bracket feet.

In 2013 this desk and bookcase underwent significant study to better understand its original appearance and origins. A close analysis of its quirky construction suggests that it began in the workshop as a conventional London-style early eighteenth-century flat-top desk and bookcase. At some point, well into its construction, the plan changed and the bookcase was re-worked to have a pitched pediment. Though the current pediment is conjectural, its form is based on London, Philadelphia, and architectural pediments of the period.

MAKER: Jacob Andrew Minitree, the craftsmen likely responsible for this desk and bookcase, was born about 1705 in Williamsburg, Virginia. His father, David Minitree (d. 1712), was a Huguenot refugee and a blacksmith who is documented as working on the Virginia Capitol building in 1710. Jacob was likely apprenticed to the builder-joiner Lewis Delony. Delony is recorded working at Bruton Parish Church and Lunenburg County courthouse where he made “a press for the safekeeping and preservation of the law books, papers, and records.” About 1730 Minitree left the Williamsburg area for Charles County, Maryland. Perhaps his removal to Maryland coincided with the arrival of British-trained cabinetmaker Peter Scott.

When Minitree died in 1761 his inventory and will reference a curious number of looking glasses, tools for cutting looking glasses, and hardware for desks and bookcases. Minitree was also geographically close to Samuel Hanson, who was likely the first owner of this piece.

This desk and bookcase descended in the Barber family of St. Mary’s and Charles County, Maryland. An 1801 receipt for Luke P. Barber (1777-1858) was found inside the desk at the time of its acquisition by Frank L. Horton. It was probably first owned by Barber’s great-grandfather, Samuel Hanson (1684-1740), who served in the lower house of the Maryland legislature and was clerk of court in Charles County.
Credit Line:
Purchase Fund