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Caroline S. Lynch’s Writing Desk

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This 19th century brass inlaid portable writing desk, also known as a writing box or lap desk, belonged to Caroline Salles Lynch (1803-1864). Lynch likely received this desk as a teenager or young adult, before she married John Gwinn, III in 1823. John Gwinn went on to serve as captain of USS Constitution from 1848 until his death in 1849.

Easily transportable writing desks like these were used by middle and upper-class women in American society to write and safely store personal correspondence and household documents. This desk, decorated with an engraved name plate, opens to reveal a blue velvet-covered sloped writing surface on the lower portion, and compartments for weekly calling cards on the upper portion. Additional storage for papers is hidden underneath the writing surface. Ranged along the head of the writing surface are compartments for pens, two glass inkwells, wax seal stamps, and other writing implements. Lynch used this desk to compose and read correspondence with her family and friends in Philadelphia and beyond, and to keep in touch with her husband while he was away at sea.

Creator
Unknown

Date Created
c. 1820s

Medium
Wood, Glass, Metal, Cloth

Catalog Number
2309.2

Credit Line
USS Constitution Museum Collection.

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