Sarah Orne Jewett House

Grandfather’s Desk

A large wooden secretary desk with glass doors on the top half, brass finials and handles.Aside from its importance as the desk at which Sarah Orne Jewett wrote her stories and novels, this is a particularly well-documented piece of furniture. When the bookcase is removed, the top of the lower case reveals a branded maker’s mark: “JOSEPH MURPHY.”  Murphy was a local cabinetmaker whose account book survives at the Portsmouth Athenaeum. In June 1829, he charged Jewett’s grandfather $60 for this “Large mahogany secretary.” The accounts suggest that in addition to building furniture, Murphy may also have built Jewett’s store in 1817, a few doors down from his own shop. Many years later, Sarah’s sister Mary recalled that Murphy “…was a cabinet maker of much skill, to which many pieces of old furniture to be found in our houses can attest…”