Chalk inscriptions on the back of the bookcase portion of this Philadelphia-made desk and bookcase provides a snapshot of its manufacture: “Made in 1815/Making 2/Stuf 4.87/Lock & hinges 1.75/Handles .25/ 2/ & 3 $4.87/Repaird 1831.” The desk was made for a woman, Rachel Gratz Moses, and descended to her son Horace through her sister Rebecca Gratz, who raised him. The idea of a woman needing, and owning, a bookcase and writing desk speaks to the new value placed on female education and literacy in the 19th century.
Unknown maker, desk and bookcase. Philadelphia, 1815. 2008.1. Gift of the McNeil Americana Foundation.