This name has been bothering me. Patrick Desk. Why would anyone call this piece of furniture a Patrick Desk? Who the hell is Patrick? I might have the answer. All research on this slant-front desk calls it just that. . . a slant-front desk, or a Governor Winthrop desk. Was Governor Winthrop’s first name Patrick? No it was not. It was John.
So, digging deeper, it was my daughter who stumbled onto a story from the mid 17th century about Goody Garlick. Wife of Joshua Garlick, Goody was, by all accounts, a mean, nasty gossip who got through her day talking about people behind their back. Garlick worked in the Gardiner family home in Massachusetts, and when the lady of the house became ill, she began screaming as if possessed. When they asked the woman what was wrong, she complained of being pricked with pins from the double-tongued woman, Goody Garlick. Was she a witch?
It was Governor John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer, who heard Garlick’s case. He reviewed the evidence against her, and declared it insufficient. It was during proceedings such as Garlick’s where Winthrop would travel to the accused’s place of residence to hold inquiries–in front of her peers, and it is here where the origin of the Patrick Desk has its roots. The initial version of the desk consisted of the slant-front top which could be placed on top of folding, collapsible legs, easily transported to remote locations. Though relatively portable, the desk was still heavy.
Winthrop cinched the desk onto the back of his favorite draught horse, “Patrick,” a sturdy mount, capable of carrying such a load, as well as a rider. When a case such as Garlick’s arose, Winthrop could be heard saying, “Time to get ol’ Patrick ready.” Many believed Patrick to be the desk that he used to sign official court records, or stays of execution for those accused of witchcraft. And that is one explanation of how a mahogany, serpentine-drawered, ball-and-claw foot, fold down, slant-front desk could come to be called a “Patrick Desk.”
Or is it? When I informed my uncle—owner of the Wagon Wheel Antique Shop in Ellicott City—of my quest for the truth, he knew exactly the origins. When I picked this up, he referred to it as the Patrick Desk. The key in the desk top’s lock said, “Patrick Desk.” I mentioned that I was working on the Patrick Desk, and he said, “That’s great.” So I said, “You know, I can’t find any indications of why this thing would be called a Patrick Desk.”
“That’s easy,” he said. “I bought it from the Patrick family.”
Really Uncle Ed? Seriously folks. . . All the rest of this article is total BS, but thanks for hanging with me until the big reveal.