A brass edged, mahogany Writing Desk made by Dobson of 166 Strand. This slope was made with strength in mind and the use of brass to re-inforce and protect the joints and edges is extensive. Aside from every outside edge set in brass strip, when opened it can be seen that the four corners also have brass corners to strengthen the joints. As is customary, the box has an area to the top with dividers for inkwells, a lidded compartment and pen tray etc. There are also 2 brass lined fittings which originally would have each held a candle sconce. The box has a replaced lectern bar and there is an arm that can be set to support the top of the box at one of 10 angles to rest a book. Underneath the top of the baized writing area, the well has 2 dividers. When the one to the left is removed part of the board below can be lifted to reveal a secret well which again has a sprung facia hiding 2 small drawers.
The box also has a plain drawer to the side which can be opened once its locking pin is lifted. The main lock is marked Thompson GR Patent, Bir.m. Dobson has fixed 2 labels to the undersides of the writing surface. The shaped brass plate to the top of the box echoes the escutcheon shape and is engraved Capt. Donald Macpherson, H.M. 67th Regt. Of Foot. Macpherson became an Ensign in the 75th Regiment in 1803, switching to the 67th to become a Lieutenant in 1808. 10 years later he rose to the rank of Captain. He sold his commission to Henry Foley, who had been on half pay, on the 16th April 1829. After this date we can find no more mention of Macpherson in the army lists so it is likely he retired. Given Macpherson's rank and the Dobson's address, the box was purchased between 1818 and 1826.
Closed size is given.
William Dobson was a maker and retailer who had a number of different addresses on the Strand in London throughout his 50 years in business.
The various trade directories describe him as a hardware man, writing desk and copying machine maker as well as a cutler and perfumer. We have a flyer in our private archive (which dates from the address to between 1805 and 1825). It shows that he offered a vast and varied inventory of items for sale. These range from Inlaid Tunbridge Wares, Tea Chests & Caddies, Ebony Inkstands, Pocket Shaving Cases and Leather Snuff Boxes to Excellent Warranted Razors, Silver Blade Knives and Curious Sporting Instruments. All these things are listed on the main label they used, the design of which seems to have changed little aside from the address number. The flyer pictured here gives an even longer list of items and notes that Dobson is the patentee of the Zephyr, a machine for circulating the air and chasing away flies etc. A useful piece of equipment for those travelling to the colonies, perhaps. Of particular interest to us is the listing for 'mahogany camp desks for writing, dressing, and shaving, completely fitted up for travelling, strongly bound with brass, and patent locks'. He also sold a variety of other items 'well calculated for portable and travelling conveniences'.
Although furniture does not appear to be listed on his sales flyers, the Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture (1700 - 1840) illustrates a tulipwood Sofa table with Dobson's label. William Dobson is first recorded at 165 Strand in 1796, moving to 166 in 1805; by 1820 he also had premises at 16 and 38 Strand; in 1826 he moved to 106 Strand, where he remained until 1847. It is unsure if he retained any of his other premises during this period. Sun Fire Office insurance also note, in 1808, another address for Dobson at 4 and 5 George Place, Paradise Row, Chelsea which was presumably his home. Although Dobson could not be considered a maker of campaign furniture, he did make and sell a number of items that would have been purchased by both the military, travellers and the administrators of the empire. McPherson's Portable Writing Desk and a number of items on the sales flyer in this catalogue illustrate this. Given the high number and variety of items Dobson sold it is highly likely that he stocked a number of lines by other makers. This is borne out by the listing of Reeve's Colour Cases. However, the Dobson's boxes that we have seen have always been fine quality and he must have been a businessman with a good reputation to last for 50 years on the Strand in London.