Collections › MESDA Collection › Desk


Bond, Lewis
Place Made:
Greenville North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –sycamore –cypress –poplar
HOA 46-5/16″; WOA 38-15/16; DOA 18-5/16
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Fall-front walnut desk: Has four graduated drawers decorated with sycamore string inlay, all with lightwood keyhole surrounds and locks; desk section has eight arched letter compartments of the same size and one large central one, all beneath six small drawers, the outer four being wider than the center two, all drawers are decorated with string inlay and have brass pulls, light wood was also used to set off the letter compartment arches; the fallboard is decorated with string inlay; case sits on French front feet with plain back feet; rounded apron between feet at front and sides.

CONSTRUCTION: In his book THE FURNITURE OF COASTAL NORTH CAROLINA, John Bivins writes, “The drawer construction is standard; the drawer blades of the desk are mortised to the case sides. The light-wood imposts that Bond used to set off the letter-compartment arches of this desk are the sort of detail that might have been used to the northwest of Tarboro in the Roanoke Basin school, but nothing else about Bond’s work shows any such stylistic link.” (p.376) The upper drawer of the case is mortised through top drawer rail, but not through writing surface; runners, which are set into ploughed joint, are mortised into rail and mortised into stretcher at rear.

MAKER: The 1815 label on this desk suggests that its maker Lewis Bond (c. 1794–1858) first set up shop in Greenville (Pitt County), North Carolina, but census records prove that by 1820 he had moved to Tarboro (Edgecombe County), North Carolina. In the 1820 Census of Manufactures, he was listed as a “Cabinetmaker” with over 1800 feet of wood in stock, including mahogany, walnut, birch, maple, and pine. He listed his production as sideboards, desks, bureaus, and various other articles, and he employed one man and one boy at the time. The Census also records that his shop was only two years old, indicating that he had moved from Greenville in 1818. Starting in 1821 he took a variety of apprentices, including William Randolph (1821), James Redmon (c. 1824), Robert W. Gwaltney, and Henry Snode Little (1835). In 1827 he advertised in the TARBORO FREE PRESS that he was a “native citizen” of the state who could make a wide variety of furniture forms of walnut and cherry, plain or ornamented. His account books for 1830-1838 survived in the family (although their present location is unknown), and they further prove that he was making a wide variety of furniture forms, providing coffins, and doing furniture repairs. His 1858 estate inventory suggests that he had stopped making furniture some time before his death. His thirty-year-old son Francis Bond was also identified as a cabinetmaker in the 1850 census.

According to the donor, this desk was acquired in 1881 by her great-grandfather, Benjamin Hearn, from the estate of his brother-in-law, Arthur Forbes (1806-1881). Forbes lived along the Tar River northwest of Greenville in Pitt County, North Carolina, and his probate inventory lists “1 Desk” acquired by Hearn for $3.00. The desk’s original owner was probably Forbes’s father, Arthur Forbes (d. 1823), a prominent Pitt County planter and political figure. After service in the American Revolution, Forbes was appointed to represent Pitt County at the 1788 Constitutional Convention, to oversee the construction of new public buildings in the courthouse town of Greenville, and to the Board of Trustees of Pitt Academy.
Credit Line:
Gift of Nina Belle Redditt in memory of her grandmother, Isabelle A. Hearn Harris.