This imposing, architecturally inspired desk shares a number of characteristics with other desks with Salem family histories. The sharp, square corners of the blocking, and the shell carving centered on the skirt are details in keeping with these other Salem desks. They are illustrated in Heckscher, American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1985) cat. no. 181; Venable, American Furniture in the Bybee Collection (Austin, 1989) cat. no. 28; Jobe, ed., Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (Boston 1972) page 129, and a fourth example sold in these rooms 16 January 1998, lot 252.
Thus, while Boston and Newport were the primary centers for production of block-front furniture in the eighteenth century, neighboring Salem also produced distinctive variations of this popular form. The block-front form was very expensive to produce, as a result of the additional mahogany needed, as well as the additional labor. Their expense was at least double that of their plain-front counterparts, and elaborate desks such as this example were widely recognized as an index of status. They were largely purchased by Salem's prosperous merchants and other wealthy, style-conscious members of society.