Saturday, April 20, 2013
My grandfather, born in 1864, was a doctor starting in the late 1880's. He had some formal training but did a lot of learning accompanying another doctor on his rounds in Ulster County New York.
Patients sometimes paid what they could in cash. Sometimes they paid in food and very occasionally in furniture. It may be apocryphal but the desk in my living room supposedly came to him by way of what must have been a very grateful patient.
I can never find the exact period of this desk in any antique catalogues but it is some kind of mahogany planter's desk with one large drawer in front and two smaller drawers on either side. It has long elegant legs and two doors which open on either side of the top section. One of them has twelve compartments or pigeonholes perfect for monthly statements or business papers. The other side has vertical slots for files or letters. In the middle at the top are two more little drawers. The flat desk opened at one time but now is nailed shut.
As a child I remember this desk sitting in the library of my grandparent's home with the picture of my great-grandfather who was wounded at Gettysburg on one side and a brass candlestick at the other. After my grandparents' death, the desk came to my father. Along with the picture and the candlestick and a little Tiffany clock which was one of my parents' wedding gifts, the desk moved to various houses.
My mother kept the household accounts and little brown envelopes with cash for rent and food and other necessities could fit in the twelve cubbyholes, correspondence and bills on the other side.
As an only child, all things came down to me and the desk now sits in state in my living room with the brass candlestick and Tiffany clock. Only my great-grandfather is not there but he is close by on the wall in a gold frame.