Aaron Burr Desk
Answer to Name This Famous Antique Game - January 2016
By Mike McLeod

This unique table/desk/chair combination is the work of Stephen Hedges who patented the design in 1854. However, this particular piece of furniture has acquired the name/title of an “Aaron Burr desk” due to an article in the New York Herald in 1911 stating that Burr owned one. However (again), the design was patented almost two decades after Burr’s death on September 14, 1836 so this is historically a little hazy. Aaron Burr’s notoriety for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel no doubt helped give this interesting piece of furniture a claim to fame.

Aaron Burr table that opened to form a desk and seat combo.
(Photos, courtesy of George Glazer Gallery, www.georgeglazer.com.)

This particular Burr desk is described by George Glazer Gallery of New York City (where it is featured at www.georgeglazer.com) as, “A metamorphic oval table, having four cabriole legs, ending in scrolled feet and casters. The top opens by hinges at the center, with one half serving as a desk (with inset drawer), the other half swiveling out on hinges to become a barrel back desk chair (facing the desk), upholstered in striped cut red velvet with brass nails…very similar in form to a walnut veneered example sold at Christies on October 3, 2007, stamped ‘Stephen Hedges New York. That example sold for $5,250, including buyer’s premium; another example sold at Christies in January 1998, for what is likely an auction record—$29,900, including buyer’s premium.”

Aaron Burr, Third Vice President of the United States.

Aaron Burr was an officer in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He is credited with saving an entire brigade from capture by ordering its retreat from advancing Redcoats. Ironically, among those saved in the brigade was Alexander Hamilton.

The famous duel was inspired by what Burr took as Hamilton’s slanderous words against his character that were published in a newspaper after he lost an election for governor of New York. Facing one another, Hamilton fired first and missed. Burr fired, hitting Hamilton above the right hip; the bullet passed through his liver and spine. Alexander Hamilton was taken to New York and died a few days later. Adding irony to the tragedy, the duel took place at the same place in New Jersey where Hamilton’s son had also died in a duel.

Burr was charged with several crimes for dueling, but the charges were all dropped later. Before the duel, Aaron Burr had served as Vice President under President Thomas Jefferson. After the duel, his life never got back on track, and he died on Sept. 14, 1836, two years after a stroke paralyzed him.

Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified the Aaron Burr table/desk.


Can you name this famous antique?
If not, check back in April for the answer.


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