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Silas Talbot’s Writing Desk

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This portable writing desk belonged to Silas Talbot (1751-1813), who served as USS Constitution‘s second captain from 1799 to 1801 during the Quasi-War with France. Talbot may have used this desk to compose some of his voluminous correspondence with the Secretary of the Navy and the officers under his command.

Easily transportable from ship to shore and back again, portable writing desks like these were more than just writing surfaces. They were personal organizers that allowed officers to keep important documents and correspondence in a safe place. When the desk is opened, a sliding door in the left side provides additional storage space. The green baize-covered writing surface, bordered by strips of ebony, lifts to revel additional storage for papers. Ranged along the head of the writing surface are five compartments for pens, inkwell, wafers (for sealing letters), sand (to help dry wet ink), and other writing implements. A silver capped glass inkbottle is all the remains of these tools.

Date Created
1751-1813

Medium
Wood, Brass, felt, ivory/bone

Dimensions
[H]7 in. [W]10 23/32 in. [D]19 5/16 in.

Catalog Number
914.1a,b

Credit Line
USS Constitution Museum Collection. Mrs. Rosalie B. Talbot Gift.

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