Cartoon courtesy of Caveman Love
We have come a long way from the origin of the primitive desk. It has been said that the earliest signs of an example that is close to a desk system, dates back to around 3100BC in Orkney, Scotland. This site shows the first signs of an organizational system of shelves and preparation areas.
Photo courtesy of BT Group
We can find other early examples of desks from the medieval period. Many of these desks were used specifically by scribes (also known as modern day accountants), writers, and letter keepers.
This figure of St Jerome, from a 12th century Bible, gives a meticulous picture of the tools of the scribe. Courtesy of Medievil Writing
These desks eventually evolved into what is known as the bureau during the 1700s. These desks began to incorporate drawers into the design. Eventually this progressed to what is known as the secretary desk, which had items incorporated into it such as a hutch. As time moved on, desks started to incorporate more items that made them more ornate with storage for inkpots and blotting sand.
Pennsylvania Slant Lid Desk, ca. 1770, courtesy of PBS
During the 18th and into the 19th century, the pedestal desk was introduced. This became popular with everyday workers and Presidents alike. One of the most famous desks that was produced during the 1880s is “The Resolute”. This desk was introduced into the White House as a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes. Can you imagine working at this executive desk every day?
“Resolute Desk”, picture courtesy of daniellesuniquestory
New production techniques introduced in the 20th centuries allowed for professional office furniture to be mass produced for the first time. This mass production was triggered by the growth of more and more white collar workers.
The growth of technology continued to create innovations for desks. The introduction of the typewriter, telephone, and the computer all required designers to incorporate new ideas into their desk designs.
Typewriter Desk from Northwestern Furniture Co, courtesy of Collectors Weekly
Today we have many different designs and options for our executive desks. From contemporary to traditional, to power accessories and standing desks, we have many different options to choose from for our modern day desks. What is next for the desks of the future? It is anyone’s guess. New technologies are sure to be created, and the redesigns of desks are likely to follow.