What is this?
A writing desk belonging to Capt. Silas Talbot
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
Silas Talbot (1751-1813), captain of Constitution during the Quasi War with France (1798-1800), possibly used this desk on board the ship to compose much of his voluminous correspondence with the Secretary of the Navy and the officers under his command in the Caribbean. Easily transportable from ship to shore and back again, portable writing desks like these were more than just writing surfaces. They were personal organizers, and allowed officers to keep important documents and correspondence in a safe place.
The lap desk or “slope” stands 19 ¼ inches wide, 10 ¾ inches deep and 7 inches high when closed. It is 22 ½ inches deep when open. The case, composed of 1/8-inch thick mahogany veneers is reinforced with brass bands. Inlet brass bail handles on each end provide easy handholds for transporting the case. A steel lock, with brass escutcheon plate secures the top. A brass plate with scalloped corners ornaments the center of the lid. A sliding door in the left side provides additional storage space. Inside, a green baize-covered writing surface, bordered by strips of ebony, folds up to revel additional storage for paper or documents. Ranged along the head of the writing surface are five compartments for pens, inkwell, wafers, sand, and other writing implements. A silver capped glass inkbottle is all the remains of these tools.