Much of the furniture you see in this exhibit, including the desk and bookcase by John Alden Denny of Leicester, was made from cherry. Available locally and relatively inexpensively, cherry was often the wood of choice for rural inland cabinetmakers. An attractive hardwood that could be easily worked with chisels and planes, cherry's warm, reddish color made it desirable and fashionable. Maple was also plentiful and versatile. Both cherry and maple could be stained to simulate mahogany, which was more costly and thus had more status. Imported from the West Indies, mahognay was more accessible to cabinetmakers in seaports but inland makers used it for more expensive, stylish pieces.
|Desk and Bookcase |
c. 1812. John Alden Denny (1791-c. 1865), Leicester, Massachusetts. Cherry, pine and chestnut secondary woods, quadrant brass hinges; original steel lock in secretary drawer; replaced brass hardware. Inscription on interior drawers reads: "This secretary was built about the year 1812 by John Alden Denny for Joseph Dennu" signed "Jos. A. Denny April 4, 1843." Descended in the Denny family. OSV collection 5.25.14.
Like many early desk and bookcases, this example has a secret compartment for storing valuables. Only the owner knew the trick to opening the compartment. On Denny's desk the interior central drawer unit must be removed to reveal a second set of hidden drawers on the back.