Imagining furniture covered in patent leather? I think I did the first time I heard the term “Patent Furniture,” which refers to a surfeit of ingenious (and sometimes kooky) versions of everyday furniture types popular between 1850-1900. Often patents for furniture involved pieces that could be converted from one use to another, like beds that folded up into cabinets, or rocking chairs mounted on platforms.
Perhaps the most notable of the patent furniture types is the Wooten desk. In 19th century America, ownership of a Wooten desk projected the image of a progressive, up-to-date, successful businessman. Indeed, some of the most powerful men of the day owned them: John D. Rockefeller, President Ulysses S. Grant, and Joseph Pulitzer, among others.
According to a period advertisement, the Wooten desk offered:
One hundred and ten compartments, all under one lock and key. A place for everything and everything in its place. Order Reigns Supreme, Confusion Avoided. Time Saved. Vexation Spared. With this Desk one absolutely has no excuse for slovenly habits in the disposal of numerous papers, and a person of method may here realise that pleasure and comfort which is only to be attained in the verification of the maxim, ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place...