school desk

prairie_loveOctober 22, 2009

Hi all,

My first time to this forum and I hope you all can help me out. We are trying to get rd of several items, some of which we believe may have some value. I just don't know how to go about finding out if they are worth anything and if so, how much? Here's an example. Maybe you all can tell me what to do.

We have these two old desks (pictures below). I really don't know much about them, but they do have the "A.H. Andrews & Co.) on them. When I look up that company I find this information from the Encyclopedia of Chicago:

"This furniture company was founded in 1865 by Alfred H. Andrews, a Connecticut native who moved to Chicago in 1857. By the end of the 1860s, Andrews employed about 70 men, who made about $150,000 worth of furniture each year. By the beginning of the 1880s, A. H. Andrews & Co. had become the largest firm in the city's robust furniture industry, employing about 500 people and manufacturing about $600,000 worth of school and office furniture each year. During the 1880s, the company opened branches in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Andrews & Co. started to produce metal furniture in the early 1890s, but it entered bankruptcy and went into decline soon thereafter."

Given that this company apparently went bankrupt about 1900, I would assume that these desks are at least 100 years old. Wouldn't that give them some value? But how do I find what the value is and how do I market them? I have done many searches on google and not found much except ONE site with a similar desk (more ornate) for $160 (

I just don't know how to proceed. And I have more items, many glass, to deal with as well (but that will wait for a further post).

Thanks for any help.

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Well...I think they are cute as hell...I have 3 that have been sitting in my basement storage room for over 30 years! LOL!
I see them with healthy prices at shops, but when one comes up for auction, they seem to go in the neighborhood of $35.
Your best bet is to find someone who wants to have a place for their kids to play school.
If you find a buyer, let me know as my 3 are the ones with the fancy iron work!
Post pictures of your glass....I'm pretty good with the glass.
Linda c

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 12:33AM
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One I sat at at Prairie Queen #2 country school was more ornate & top a little bigger, I'm surprised there is no inkwell. (Kid dipped my long pigtail in the ink & mom cut about a foot off my hair.I think she cut so much so he couldn't do it again. I was not a happy camper! Actually I used that type desk in town after I started getting bused in & Junior high had them also. When I was young the motto was if it works use it, if it breaks fix it, can't be fixed use parts on something else, burn the rest !

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 2:29AM
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I have used that style of desk! Many years ago, I sat in one at a country grade school in Illinois. Those desks came in serveral sizes. Typically, several of these desks were fastened to two strips of wood forming a row of desks. The wood strips were 3/4 to 1 inch thick. An entire row of desks could be scooted about to facilitate floor sweeping and re-arrangements.

A set of desks for a country school may have included a 'recitation' seat. This seat could seat about 5 students and was positioned at the front of the class room. The teacher used this seat to bring forward a particular class for review and instruction. The recititaion seats are more rare than a student's desk because typically, there was only one per school room, and some schools may not have had any.

Typical wood for the desks was oak with pine for the strips. Declining stock of good oak lumber would be enough to put a company out of business. The other factor was the decline in one-room country grade schools.

Once a school was equipped with desks, these lasted for years, so after most of the schools were built, sales of desks declined rapidly.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 7:27AM
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LOL! Thanks for sharing the stories, love it!

I also am surprised there are no ink wells, but I think these must be the "cheap" version as they are not the ornate iron. They do have the holes in the feet for attaching to the wood strip. These apparently had been taken off.

Linda, I have also seen these various places and the only online site I could see asked $169 - I couldn't believe that! I am betting you're right, if I can get a buyer at all it'll be for $25 or so.

I'll put them on craigslist and see if there are any takers.

I will post pictures of my glass and some other things - silver, china, etc. I am working my way through it all and have to clean it up a bit. So the pictures will come slowly.

Thank you all! (glad to have found a new forum to play around on, but with some familiar faces too!)


    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 9:42AM
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Those were not only used in one room country schools.
In the town where I live the "Old High School" AKA the Junior high had a huge study hall which was full of those wood and metal desks. About 1965 they sold them for $1 each. I bought 3!
My kids used them to "play school" in the basement play room and they also served for craft activities.
Prairie Love, how big are those desks? As I recall the really small ones made for first graders didn't have inkwells......and the small ones are more desirable as people sometimes use one for an end table and often at the back door as a "sit down and put your boots on" bench.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 9:46AM
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I don't have anything to add to what others have said except to say that I own an old one room school house that was in use from around 1862 to 1939. It was converted to a residence in the mid-40's. There are a few school house reminders that remain including some kid's carvings on an interior and exterior wall, and marks in the pine floor where those desks were fastened.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 9:55PM
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I just sold a set on CL, three desks with 2 seats. They were still attached to the wood strips, and the third desk did not have the seat. There were no inkwells, but there were pencil (or pen) grooves in the desk tops. I sold mine for $75. The iron was fancier than yours, but not really ornate.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 5:47PM
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We're looking for old school desks of this style and vintage to use in a restored schoolhouse in Illinois--please contact me if you have some for sale...

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 9:06AM
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I would contact you but don't know how....It would please me no end to have my desks used in a restoration.
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:07AM
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In my hometown in Ohio the current Jr. High School, which was the previous High School was built in 1910. During the construction of that building my Grandfather got up every morning and did his chores at the farm, then hitched 4 draft horses to a large box wagon and went to the sandbank where he hand loaded 2 tons of sand and hauled it 9 miles to the construction site, hand unloaded the wagon, then drove the wagon home in time to do evening chores in the barn for the outrageous sum of $9 a load including the cost of the sand, transportation and labor.

The building is 4 stories high and has 32 classrooms with 36 of those desks in each classroom, all still in use today with the exception of two classrooms where they took the seats out, removed the divider wall and opened it up as a study hall. They purchased modern one arm desk chairs for the study hall, but kept all the old desks for spare parts to maintain the original seating.

In the mid 80's I moved to Massachusetts and took a job as a maintenance tech in a local municipal school system. In that school system we had one high school, a middle school and 5 elementary schools. The middle school and one elementary school still had those old desks until 1988, when we finally took them out.

In both the school in my hometown and the schools were I worked the desks were all firmly bolted to the floor.

From my personal experience there were a number of different styles and configurations.

Fundamentally those seats were made in three sizes, small for grades 1-3, medium for grades 4-6 and a standard or full size for grades 7-12.

Most of the desks had the fold down seat on the front, which provided seating for the desk in front of it, but they also made some that had no fold down seat. The desk without a seat was installed at the head of the row because it would not have a desk in front of it.

While the normal seat has two cast iron frames, there was a variation where they used three frames and attached two desks side by side to make a double row of seating, one frame on each side and a common frame in the center of the two adjoining desks.

Each classroom was typically arranged with 4 rows of 9 seats front to back to make a total of 36 desks per classroom.

Generally they all had a wooden desktop made of Maple or Oak and an open shelf underneath for books and storage, although there were some full size desks that had a hinged top and a fully enclosed book storage under the desktop.

All three sizes have the 4" wide flat section at the top of the writing area with a groove to hold a pencil but generally only the full size desks had the hole for an inkwell. (The reasoning was that students did not begin writing with ink pens until they reached Jr. High.)

Although they had long since removed the ink wells, none the less we still had hundreds of the ink wells in stock in the maintenance stock room and we would give them to the art teacher as needed so the students could use them to hold india ink when they were using speedball pens to do pen & ink drawings, but i suspect even the old speedball pens have long since given way to fine point felt tip pens.

(I majored in art in J.H. & H.S. and I still keep a few of the inkwells and some crow quill and speedball pens which i use as a hobby).

I can fondly remember my school days sitting in those old seats and at the end of the period, when the bell rang and you were dismissed, you were required to stand, then raise your seat before leaving the classroom. Anyone failing to raise the seat would receive 3 nights detention.

On a side note, in the early 60's Mattel toy company came out with what they called "Greenie Stickem Caps" which were caps for our cap pistols. The cap pistols had plastic bullets and the caps were precut circular caps with a pressure sensitive adhesive backing that you applied to the head of the bullet before loading in your cap pistol. We used to take those caps to school and stick them on the frame of the fold down seats so when a student flipped the seat down it would explode the cap and scare everybody. Probably if a student did that today they would be arrested as a terrorist.....LOL.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 1:23PM
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