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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Have desk, will travel

When we picture mobile now, we picture something  small and light like this.


But a hundred years ago mobile meant something different than it did today. The concept of a mobile desk was just one that could be moved, not necessarily one you could easily carry with you.  It serves some of the same purpose as a tablet does, holding information one wants access to in an organizaed fashion with space for writing your own additions to all that data. 

photo of Lyndhurst interior  by Ariella Brown
This is the desk that Jay Gould used at Lyndhurst and when commuting from there to his office on his yacht.  Though the railroad did pass right by Gould's summer home, it was built by Vanderbilt, and he vowed never to use it.  But he didn't suffer too much, sailing in on a yacht took only 45 minutes, an enviable commute by today's standards. However, he didn't travel too light if he took the desk-- and like an attendant or two  pull it for him--along for the trip.

That formidable piece of furniture is a Wooton Desk, which is known for having many compartments as well as casters, which makes it mobile as in designed to be moved. As the Wikipedia article explains, "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."

 According to the tour guide at Lyndhurst where the desk still stands, this particular one has over 100 compartments, which likely includes some secret ones. Instead of password protection or biometric identification, you'd rely on physical keys and hidden levers for securing your confidential documents from prying eyes. One plus for the desk, it is still usable over a century later. It's very unlikely that will be the case for today's tablets and smartphones.

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