Chautauqua Industrial Arts Desk – Cardinal Model, manufactured in 1923 by Louis E. Meyers & Co. Donated to the Wicoff House by the children of the late Mr. & Mrs. George Luther.

This art desk served as “a plan to promote the culture of work and play among children in the home.” The folding wooden lap desk opened into an L-shaped chalkboard surface and contains a scroll with illustrations and facts, art instruction, blueprints, flags, bookkeeping, machinery and more.

The desks were first used as tools for educating Sunday school teachers, supporting ideals of the popular Chautauqua movement that grew out of the town in NY in the late 1800’s, which brought about a shift towards education and culture in the U.S. The desks were seen as vital tools for developing self-expression, imagination and creativity among youth.

They were later manufactured by Louis E. Myers & Co and sold door-to-door. The company tried to expand their operation in the late ’20s and early ’30s. However, due to the stock market crash and the Depression, the once-successful company folded. The last desk was made in 1929 and the factory closed a year later.

Learn more about early educational tools used in Plainsboro at our new Temporary Exhibit: “The School That Started a Town: A History of Plainsboro Schools!” The exhibit opens on Sunday January 29th with an opening event at 12pm!