Antiques & Collectibles: Spinet desk is furniture with a dual purpose

Such dual-purpose mahogany spinet desks with decoration, made during the first quarter of the 20th century, presently bring $225 to $350 when in excellent condition.

Question: I hope you can tell me about the desk shown in my photo, including its worth. Purchased in New Hope, Pa., 30 years ago, it no longer is compatible with my decor and I may sell it. - D.M., Egg Harbor Township

Answer: Your spinet desk, so named because it resembles a small, early harpsichord, is a dual-purpose table that becomes a desk when its top - attached to a hinged fake drawer front that closes downward like a piano keyboard cover - is flipped up. Revealed is a hidden interior space fitted with drawers, compartments and a pullout writing shelf.

Ornate, cumbersome rosewood examples with bulbous legs, popular from the 1830s to the 1880s, were replaced from 1900 through the 1920s with smaller mahogany models featuring less bulky legs. During the 1930s, simple walnut designs were offered until demand for the desks dwindled and disappeared by the early 1940s.

Values of spinet desks are based on age, size, wood, design, condition and rarity. Your piece, which appears to be mahogany, has interesting applied decoration and ribbon veneer trim that appear on Colonial Revival furniture. Its machine-turned, baluster type legs are found on examples manufactured during the first quarter of the 20th century. Such pieces presently bring $225 to $350, when they are in excellent condition.

Question: I have an old, framed 7-inch wide, 9-inch high print that shows Uncle Sam sitting at a table eating Cream of Wheat from a huge bowl. It is signed "Galen J. Perrett." Information is appreciated. - H.M., Villas

Answer: During the financial Panic of 1893, Tom Amidon, head miller at the failing Diamond Milling Co. flour mill in North Dakota, convinced the mill's owners to produce a breakfast porridge mix he had been developing at home. An immediate success, "Cream of Wheat" hot breakfast cereal was nationally advertised for years using the talents of many famous American illustrators including E.V. Brewer, Joseph Leyendecker, Jessie Willcox Smith, N.C. Wyeth and Glen Perrett (1875-1949).

Born in Chicago, artist and illustrator Perrett, lived for many years in Rockport, Mass., and was especially known for his dramatic seascapes as well as illustrations provided for Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven." In 1917, Perrett painted the 30- by 24-inch "Preparedness" oil on canvas, your print's original art. It features Uncle Sam eating breakfast beneath a bald eagle perched on a stars-and-stripes shield, his famous top hat resting on his chair. His gentle, knowing smile seems to forecast the end of World War I within a year.

Last year, the signed original "Preparedness" fetched $2,200 at auction and prints such as yours are selling for $35 to $70, based on condition and frame.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist whose consulting firm, Treasures Unlimited, is based in southern New Jersey. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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