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|Brief description||Cylinder fall desk, Matthews Brothers, Milwaukee, 1870-1880.|
|Alternate object name||Cylinder fall desk|
|Maker||Matthews Brothers, 1857-1893|
|Dimensions||66 1/2"H x 56"W x 31 1/2"D|
|Materials and techniques||Walnut and maple|
|Marks||Brass plaque under center top drawer: "Manufactured by/ Matthews Bros./ Milwaukee, Wis."|
|Original location||Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin|
|Location of use||Prairie du Chien, Crawford County, Wisconsin|
|Current location||Prairie du Chien, Crawford County, Wisconsin|
|Description||Cylinder fall desk with two drawers flanking the writing surface and three drawers above it, each with carved swags for pulls. Top drawers are surmounted by a gallery with pediment. Each drawer is joined with scalloped machine-cut joints known as "Knapp joints." Heavily worn green baize writing surface.|
Arriving in Milwaukee from Ohio in 1857, Eschines P. Matthews (1832-1913) and Alonzo R. Matthews (1835-1901) established the Matthews Brothers furniture company. In 1868, Quincy A. Matthews (1847-n.d.) came to Milwaukee to work for his elder brothers as a traveling salesman. By the 1880s, the firm was the largest and most successful furniture manufactory in Milwaukee, producing parlor, dining room, bedroom furniture, and interior woodwork for sale throughout the region. In 1881, their factory on Fourth Street employed seventy workers, while sixty-three more worked in the offices and showrooms and upholstering, finishing and packing departments on Water Street.
In 1892 the brothers erected the Matthews Block at Third Street and Grand Avenue, and by 1893 all three had left the furniture business in favor of real estate investments. The company continued under the name Matthews Manufacturing Company. In the early 1900s, the company received major commissions for furniture and woodwork designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After relocating to Port Washington Road at some time around World War I, the company ceased operations in 1935.
In 1870, Matthews Brothers became the first furniture manufactory to make use of the Knapp dovetailing machine, according to an advertisement archived in the Wisconsin Furniture Exhibit Research Files. This machine was patented by Charles B. Knapp of Waterloo, Wisconsin, in 1866. The scalloped drawer joints the Knapp dovetailer created were intended as an efficient substitute for the hand-cut dovetails that cabinetmakers had used since the seventeenth century.
|Sources||Frank Flower, History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1881), pp. 1518-1519; E. P. Matthews Obituary, Milwaukee Free Press, 1913; John Gregory, History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1931), pp. 88-90; Michael H. Knight, notes in Wisconsin Furniture Exhibit Research Files, 1979-1982, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives; Michael H. Knight, "The Knapp Dovetailing Machine" Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association (September 1984).|
|Related objects||Additional examples of Matthews Brothers furniture in the Villa Louis collections include two chests of drawers: http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/u?/wda,509 and http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/u?/wda,495|
|Owner||Villa Louis (Wisconsin Historical Society)|
|Rights||(c) 2007 by the Wisconsin Historical Society--Villa Louis Historic Site. Contact the owner for more information. http://villalouis.wisconsinhistory.org|
|Digital collection||Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database|
|Keywords||Furniture; Cylinder fall desk; Desk; Case furniture; Furnishings (artifacts); Furnishings and equipment|
|Object name||Desk: closed|
|Location of use||Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database|