DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: I am forwarding a picture of a slant top desk. Can you tell me its approximate age and value?
DEAR P.R.: We usually like a lot more information in a letter, but the two pictures are worth at least a couple of hundred words.
The first thing we notice is this piece of furniture is what we would call a "lady's desk." Its diminutive size and rather spindly cabriole legs plus the mirror suggest a place where milady of the house could sit and write notes or letters to friends and relatives and check her appearance in the mirror.
We do not have a photograph of the inside compartment, but we suppose it has pigeonholes for holding correspondence, perhaps a shelf to store stationery, a drawer for stamps and other accoutrements and maybe a place to hold a ledger of some sort. The drawer underneath was probably there to store other useful items that did not need to be at hand immediately.
P.R. called this a slant top desk, but it is also called a drop front desk, a slant front desk and occasionally a fall front desk. We really have no strong preference, but "slant front" seems to be the most descriptive and the most often used.
The second thing we notice is the wonderful grain in the oak that was used to make the piece. "Tiger stripe" oak might be used to describe it, but the pattern is so bold and so randomly scattered that it transcends most tiger stripe pieces and becomes a bold pattern all its own. And this is the glory of this otherwise rather plain desk. You might call it "tiger stripe with a vengeance."
The label found on the desk indicates it was made by the Herzog Art Furniture Co., which was also designated on the labels as the Herzog Table Co., both of Saginaw, Mich. The part of the label we can read says they primarily made music cabinets, parlor and library tables, plus another item or category that we could not decipher.
Also on the label is the indication that Herzog initially shipped this to A.C. Robinson and Son in Punxsutawney, Pa., of "Groundhog Day" fame.
There is not a great deal known about the Herzog Art Furniture Co., except that it was founded by John Herzog circa 1900 or a little before and merged with the Sonora Phonograph Co. in 1923. The desk in today's question was made around 1910 and is a style of Herzog furniture that seems to turn up quite often.
Oak furniture is a bit out of fashion at the current moment, but the beautiful grain on this example is a plus. For retail purposes, this piece should be valued in the $300 to $350 range.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a focused, high-resolution photo of the subject with your inquiry.