John D. Rockefeller style extra grade Wooten Desk with Outstanding Provenance

PRESENTING AN ABSOLUTELY STUNNING AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE John D. Rockefeller Style Extra Grade Wooten Desk with Outstanding Provenance.

There were less than two dozen of this model made between 1876 and 1878. Originally this desk was designed for John D. Rockefeller who requested a special design for his personal use. Wooton then manufactured a few of them mostly in oak; this one is in walnut and of etraordinary size.

From 1876 … with gold plated central plaque which states: “PRESENTED to The Rev.d Robert Blair M.A. as a token of Esteem from his people – Along with Pulpit Robes & a number of Valuable Books &c – At the – Congregational Soiree of St. Columba Church – GLASGOW – 25th Jan.y 1876.”

It has a second gold plated plaque on the inside of the hinged top which states: “WOOTEN DESK CO., 45 Gordon St., GLASGOW. PATENTED, MAY 1875.”

It has with it the original Proclamation of the State of Indiana under Seal confirming that Wooten Desks are declared Indiana Treasures.

It also has the official Indiana State Museum Certificate confirming and certifying that a previous owner “Pat Cobb’ is recorded as being the owner of a Wooten Desk (this desk).


In the Gallery we have excepts from the Smithsonian Instution publication concerning the history of “The King of Desks ….Wooten Patent Secretary” by Betty Lawson Walters.

Wooten Desks had different levels of quality or grade. (1) The Ordinary Grade Model (2) The Standard Grade Model (3) The Extra Grade Model and (4) The Superior Grade Model.

Whilst this desk is less elaborate than some of the RARE and HIGHLY VALUABLE Superior Grade Models made, it is undeniably, a RARER John D. Rockefeller style extra grade desk because of the incised carvings on the burled portions and the elaborate gallery. The pelmet is highly carved and decorative (without having carved griffins etc) in a rococo neoclassical style. Also the use of ‘Gold Enameled Hardware entire’ as described in Ms. Walter’s publication. Also the use of satinwood, holly and ebony trim is indicative. The use of GORGEOUS burl wood veneers all over is outstanding. Walnut, birds eye maple etc.

The sides of the front doors have gilt chasing throughout.

It opens to reveal open cubbies on the right side of the right front door and open cubbies with one central tabernacle on the left side.

The Secretary is fronted with gilt and ebony marquetry on birds eye maple with gold enameled lock, with 4 central drawers beneath and open cubbies either side.

The drop down secretary opens to reveal the original Moroccan green leather writing slope with gold banding. It has 6 drawers (3 on either side) and a number of ebony and gilt arched open cubbies.

The hinged top section lifts to reveal a further 7 open cubbies.

The Wooten Desk was made in Indiana by the Wooten Desk Co. but was retailed in Scotland by Francis and James Smith, 60 Berners Street, London and Gordon Street, Glasgow in Scotland where this one was sold and personalized as a gift to the Reverend Blair, who was obviously held in very high regard by his congregation to have received such a WONDERFUL gift in 1876.

An Indianapolis, Indiana, entrepreneur (who was later to become a Protestant preacher) called William S. Wooton obtained patents for his design and established a company in 1870. Production continued until about 1884. The Wooton desk is their better known secretary desk; the Wooton desk company also produced a so-called rotary desk, which is in fact a pedestal desk whose pedestals have segments which turn on themselves to expose more drawers and nooks.

The Wooton desk was introduced at the end of the 19th century, at a time when office work was changing in a drastic fashion with an increase in paperwork that led to the introduction of filing cabinets, among other things. The white-collar worker invaded the office in huge numbers. The new reservoir-based fountain pen and the typewriter were used to produce greater quantities of office documents than ever before. In this context desks which required users to fold and title each letter or document and place it in a pigeon hole, or small nook, were simply not efficient. It was faster to place an unfolded piece of paper in a folder and place the folder in a file cabinet or file drawer.

Wooton desks in good condition are sometimes sold in auctions for the same price as a top-of-the-line luxury automobile.


The Church of Scotland congregation of St Columba in Glasgow dates back to 1770. It was established to cater for the spiritual needs of the large number of Gaelic speakers from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland settling in Glasgow in search of employment. The church still has a service in Gaelic every Sunday, as well as weekly services in English.

The current church building in Glasgow’s St Vincent Street was opened on Saturday 17 September 1904,[1] and is built in the Gothic Revival style. It was designed by architects Tennant and Burke and is now protected as a category B listed building.[2] Because of its size and association with Gaeldom and the Gaelic language it is also popularly known as the Highland Cathedral.


John D. Rockefeller Style Extra Grade Wooten Desk with Outstanding Provenance.


Condition: Excellent original condition. One of 2 minor blemishes through age and use but nothing serious.

Dimensions: 67.5″ Tall, 37″ Wide and 28″ Deep – when closed.

67.5″ Tall, 71.5″ Wide and 28″ Deep – when fully open.


2 Comments on “John D. Rockefeller style extra grade Wooten Desk with Outstanding Provenance”

  1. As a student of Wooton desks for over forty years, this is an outstanding desk. However, it is not a superior grade. It is a John D. Rockefeller style extra grade desk because of the incised carvings on the burled portions and the elaborate gallery. Superior grade models have the feet covered by the doors. There were less than two dozen of them made between 1876 and 1878. Richard DuBrow of Bayside, New York bought the “terrestrial globe” model from a Masonic lodge in California. It had first appeared in an issue of The Magazine Antiques in 1942. It is truly a work of art when viewed from the front and back. I saw the desk three times in the mid-1980s when it was part of a traveling exhibition that lasted two years and at a local exhibit in Indianapolis. I also visited Richard and his wife Eileen at their apartment in Bayside. It was his back desk and the Marian Davies partner desk was his front desk. Quite impressive.

  2. Thank you for the info Charles. It is truly appreciated. I will amend the posting appropriately. I thought it was ‘Superior Grade’ because of the use of ebony and the gold enameled fittings, but I ‘bow’ to your superior knowledge. Do you know how many John D. Rockefeller style extra grade desk were made ? I am right in interpreting from your comments that less than 2 dozen of our model were made ? I would love to learn more.
    Rockwell Antiques Dallas

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