President’s Day: Jefferson’s Lap Desk

When the Smithsonian featured a collection of important presidential items at their National Museum of American History, they regarded one single item in their extensive collection as deserving a place of special honor: Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk. It is the very desk upon which the Declaration of Independence was drafted — and Vermont Guild of Furniture Makers member Pete Michelinie has made a beautiful replica.

Jefferson designed the desk himself and then had a woodworker build it for him and continued to use it while traveling for nearly fifty years. In 1776, Jefferson famously used his desk to draft the Declaration of Independence, from which the United States was founded.

The desk is simple, but powerful in design. It has three separate arrangements.

The first arrangement is its “box” form is for travelling. The box features a drawer that stores the items needed for writing, including a quill pen, ink and paper, crafted with miniature details, such as tiny dovetail joinery to allow for the box’s small size.

In the second arrangement the top of the box angles up to several desired angles for reading books or papers.

The final arrangement has the reading surface unfold open to provide a cushioned writing surface for quill writing.

Given its history, the beautiful and highly function replica is the perfect piece to admire for President’s Day.


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