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Cool Things - Wooton Desk

Wooton desk

"A place for everything and everything in its place" was the tag line for "The King of Desks," the remarkable office furniture created by William Wooton.

Wooton had been engaged in furniture manufacturing since 1859 before opening his own desk company in 1870. His 1874 patent for a cabinet office secretary marked the birth of an enduring symbol of Victorian business.

Wooton desks are best known for their high number of compartments, allowing records and office supplies to be neatly stored in one place. The most familiar desks had doors that opened to either side, revealing interior pigeon-holes and compartments. The main body of the desk had a drop-down writing surface and even more pigeon-holes and compartments. Executives had all that was needed to maintain business and personal affairs within easy reach.

The Wooton Cabinet Office Secretary satisfied the Victorian love of order. It came in four grades—Ordinary, Standard, Extra, and Superior—the ornamentation increasing with each higher grade. John D. Rockefeller, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Pulitzer, and (perhaps) England's Queen Victoria owned one.

Wooton desk with doors open

The Standard Grade desk pictured here was the most popular. It could be purchased for between $135 and $165. 

William Wooton's company closed in 1893, with the rights to the patent desk sold the following year, but Wooton himself may have been out of the business as early as 1880. The Wooton style desk lived on a few more years, the last being produced in 1897. William Wooton moved around quite a bit during his lifetime, and is known to have resided in Wichita, Kansas, for a time.

This Wooton desk is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.  Purchased in 1881 for use by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in his Capitol office, it was transferred to the Society in 1925.

Entry: Cool Things - Wooton Desk

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1998

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.