Desk Attributed to Allen and Brother, ca. 1885
My mother gave it to me and it was her great-grandfather's. I know it's a Philadelphia piece. My great-grandfather lived in Camden and sometimes Philadelphia. Probably he bought it in the 1870s. I think the desk was built by Allen Brothers cabinetmaker, but I don't know the artist that worked for Allen Brothers.
The desk is clearly from the Philadelphia school of furniture making from that 1850s to turn-of-the-century period. Allen & Brothers was a very prominent cabinetmaker, which is different than a manufacturer. A cabinetmaker would be making custom-made furniture. There are about three of these desks that we know of to date. We did look up the artist of the central tile and could not find anything else about it outside of the fact that we assume that he's a German based on his name. These are all ceramic tiles, English or French, and I think what's interesting about Allen & Brother is that they were really producing fashionable furniture of that time period, which sometimes today we refer to as Aesthetic Movement, or art furniture. So in this case we incorporate a lot of the themes that are going on in the day, for instance, architecture, literature and theatre. This piece is attributed to Allen & Brothers, and there's two things that make us think that outside of its overall design and stance. But the primary reason is the locks are marked "Shannon, Philadelphia." One of the versions also retains its original key, which incorporates an "A" in the escutcheon.
Which is probably the thing that tips it over the scale in terms of giving a firmer attribution to Allen & Brothers because there were other cabinetmakers working in Philadelphia at the time period. This probably dates to 1880 to 1885. In terms of value, you really have to make it an attribution. We just don't know enough about it.
But it would be a very difficult thing to replace, so I think for insurance purposes, we would estimate it at $7,000.
Wow, thank you.
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