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The Metamorphic Desk by Tania Batley
There is a unique piece of American patent furniture in the collection of Morris-Jumel Mansion. It is a metamorphic desk located in Mary Bowen’s bedchamber on the second floor of the Mansion. This unusual piece of furniture holds a patent dated April 4 1854. The patent is for a “new and useful piece of furniture intended to serve as a table alone or as chair and table combined.” Click here to see the complete article by MJM Curator Tania Batley.

The strikingly designed desk holds a unique place in the history of American patent furniture. Essentially the desk is a table divided into two parts, one part table and chair and the other a smaller table. The desk can be closed to appear as an elegant oval-shaped table or opened to reveal a chair. The desk interior has a drawer for quills and ink. To date only twenty-six of these desks are known to exist. The desks have been mistakenly referred to as Aaron Burr desks.

Part of the aura of mystery about this rare piece of American furniture is the identity of the patent holder Stephen Hedges. Research has found only one listing for a Stephen Hedges in New York City in 1854 to 1855 and he then disappears from the directory listings in later years.

Metamorphic Desk

New York as Capital
After the Revolutionary War it was determined that New York City would become the first capital of the new United States. This led President George Washington, his cabinet and Congress to reside in the city that played such a key role in the war. The essay entitled “Establishing the New Nation: New York in the 1790s” explores the importance of New York City as the capital and how the political climate was influenced by both the physical location and the artwork being created at the time. The essay is authored by Dr. Allison M Stagg.

Dr. Stagg received her Ph.D. in art history from University College, University of London in 2010. She is currently revising her Ph.D. dissertation, “The Art of Wit: Political Caricature published in the United States” for publication. She has held research fellowships at The New York Public Library, The New-York Historical Society, and Colonial Williamsburg, and has lectured in the United States and in England on early American print culture.

Click here to view the essay in the ‘Establishing the New Nation’ exhibit brochure.
Kid’s Commentary
Nine-year old Olivia from Westchester County is a fan of the Morris-Jumel Mansion and its interesting history. Olivia took the time to do research and prepare a brochure about the mansion and what visitors will see and learn. Click here to see her thoughts on the Mansion.