Octagonal Filing Table

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Artist/Maker: Unknown[1]

Created: 1790-1800

Origin/Purchase: Mid-Atlantic

Materials: mahogany; poplar

Dimensions: H: 71.1 D of top: 78.7 (28 x 31 in.)

Location: Library (Book Room)

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Ellen and Joseph Coolidge; by descent to Thomas Jefferson Coolidge; by gift to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1912; by loan to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1929

Accession Number: 1936-3

Historical Notes: This octagonal filing table, with eight drawers marked with the letters of the alphabet, stood in the Book Room at Monticello and was highly prized by the family. After Jefferson's death both Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Randolph Coolidge vied for it. From Boston, Joseph Coolidge wrote Randolph, who was administrating the sale, that he would pay as a stranger for "the octagon table with drawers for Ellen which stands in his library."[2] Concerned that he would not be able to obtain it, Coolidge restated his case to Nicholas Trist, who would be present at the sale on January 15, 1827:

"I want you to understand that Ellen is very anxious to have, for her own use, something wh. he habitually used in his chamber; and I can recollect nothing which will answr so well as the octagon table upon which I used to read, and where his papers were kept..."[3]

Yet Jefferson Randolph wanted it, too. Virginia Trist told her sister Ellen that her brother "has long set his heart on having it, and he said it was the only thing in the house he would bid against Joseph for...his intention was...to give it to Mama to keep during her life time..."[4] The conflict was decided by Martha Randolph, who decided to give the table to Ellen Coolidge.

The table, with four square and four triangular drawers, is supported by a tripod base with snake feet. The form of the table is modeled after the English rent table.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 252.
  2. Joseph Coolidge to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, December 16, 1826. Edgehill-Randolph Papers, University of Virginia.
  3. Joseph Coolidge to Nicholas P. Trist, January 5, 1827. Nicholas P. Trist Papers. Library of Congress. Transcript of manuscript available online from the Family Letters Digital Archive, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
  4. Virginia Randolph Trist to Ellen Randolph Coolidge, February 11, 1827. Jefferson-Coolidge Family Collection, University of Virginia.

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