Secretary/bookcase of Sir John A. Macdonald

CMC PCD 94-687-002

Ca. 1876; walnut with maple veneer; 250 x 126 x 72 cm. CMC D-5578

This is a desk fit for a prime minister -- Canada's first, Sir John A. Macdonald. A gift from supporters in 1876, the secretary/bookcase had an honoured place in the study at Earnscliffe, his Ottawa residence. Macdonald spent most of his mornings there, in what he called his "workshop", before leaving for the House of Commons. The words Dominion Secretory, carved on the drawers between the desk and the bookcase, are of course a play on the word secretary and Sir John A.'s tory politics.

A particularly interesting feature of the piece is the two stacks of drawers, hinged at the back, which can be opened to create a double-pedestal desk, or closed to give the effect of two panelled doors. The secretary's simple outline when closed, its rows of turned spindles, and its shallow carving are characteristic of a furniture style influenced by the English designer Charles Lock Eastlake that was popular in Canada in the 1870s and '80s.