Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Dresser and Desk


Aunt Fanny\'s chest
Aunt Fanny's chest  

Gov. Winthrop Desk
Gov. Winthrop Desk  
Hi I found you while researching my two pieces of furniture. The first is a dresser from my husbands family The dresser is called Aunt Fanny's Chest! It belonged to an Aunt born in the Boston Area in the late 1700's and  the dresser came from her Mother. We know that doesn't mean that it is original but we just would like to have a better thought if it may be from that time period.I am attaching some photos ...The second piece is a Governor Winthrop desk. I just purchased it at a thrift store for a ridiculously low price, I would like to know a bit about how old it may be and possibly where it was made. It has quite a bit of scratches actually looks like a cat scratched the door! one of the hinges was broken and has been glued poorly it all works well but the glue is showing. I would like to fix these problems but I don't want to devalue it.All 4 feet are ball and claw in scratchy condition.Every drawer and the door locks The front is serpentine the drawers inside are in pretty perfect condition there are 4 secret pull outs the two on the ends are fake small drawers the inside secondary wood and case is oak.When I saw it I was thinking it was probably from the 1920 or 1930 time period  but I am not any kind of expert and have no training and would appreciate your input!I do love old furniture and would love to train if you could give me any idea where I could find a good book or class on the subject!

Beth - First some history. The story goes that the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century, John Winthrop, had a desk like this. Winthrop was born in England in 1588 and died in the Colony in 1649. This was at least 50 years before the drop front desk appeared in England and about 100 years before Thomas Chippendale gave it the famous form that commonly bears the Governor’s name. In other words Gov. Winthrop did not have a desk like this. So who is responsible for the name given to the form of the drop front desk? The Winthrop Furniture Company of Boston has that honor. They introduced a new model of the desk in 1924 and called it the “Gov. Winthrop”, a clever play on words that has polluted the trade vocabulary for over eighty years.

Your drop front desk is made of mahogany veneer and secondary woods. The overall style is Chippendale with ball and claw feet and batwing pulls with pierced plate. This fairly fancy configuration of serpentine front, pierced pulls and claw feet was most commonly seen in the early 1950s.

The piece is factory made and without a label there is no way to tell where it was made. Here is a very similar desk that sold at auction for $150.

You don't have to worry about devaluing the piece with repairs or touch ups. The rule of thumb in most 20th century furniture is that well done repair, refinish and restoration will improve both the appearance and current market value.

I can't tell you much about the dresser without seeing some more photos, especially drawer joinery, drawer bottoms from inside and from underneath and a shot of the back of the chest. You can send clear photos to me as .jpg files at Please send the photos directly to me as .jpg files. DO NOT put them in an online photo album. Be sure to include a copy of your original inquiry so I can match them up.

Naturally I recommend my book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" found on my website at The site also includes a comprehensive reading list.

Thanks for writing. I look forward to seeing the photos of the dresser.

Fred Taylor  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Fred Taylor


I will attempt to answer questions about American antique furniture, including construction details, style, period, manufacturers, care, repair and storage. I do not have any background in appliances, musical instruments, sewing machines, trunks, lighting, clocks or children's and baby furniture and will not respond to questions about those items.


I ran an antique furniture restoration business for twenty years. I am a nationally syndicated columnist on the subject of antique furniture for such publications as Antique Week and New England Antiques Journal. I have produced one video on the subject of furniture identification and my book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is now available.I have also published articles in Antique Trader, Chicago Art Deco Society, Northeast Magazine, Victorian Decorating and Lifestyles, Professional Refinishing, Antiques and Art Around Florida and Antique Shoppe. You can visit my website at

BSBA Finance, University of Florida, MBA Finance, University of Florida

©2017 All rights reserved.