Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk FAQ
I receive many letters from folks the world over wanting to know more about the desk. Unfortunately I am just an amateur collector who happens to know how to make web pages, and I am not qualified to answer most of the questions posed.
Please consult this FAQ for an answer to your inquiry before contacting me for more information, and good luck in your research!
Where can I learn more about the desk?
Read the scanned booklet excerpts on this site.
Try a keyword search on Google or other search engine with the keywords "Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk", though there is not much else out there besides the website you are currently visiting.
Try a keyword search on eBay with the words "Chautauqua desk". Many sellers there offer little historical tidbits not found in other documentation.Write to the Historical Society of Porter County in Indiana for more historical documentation including xeroxes of period and contemporary articles on the subject. They request a small donation for their time and effort in making copies available to the public.
What is Chautauqua?
Jeffery Scott Maxwell maintains a thorough page on the subject at The Complete Chautauquan.
You can find out a little about how the desk got its name and became associated with the Chautauqua education movement here.
You can find nearly 8,000 scanned documents about Circuit Chautauqua at the Library of Congress website.
How much is my desk worth?
As an amateur collector, I am not qualified to estimate the value of your desk, but I you can start estimating the value yourself using the following clues.
My own desk was a gift, is in excellent condition compared to others I've seen, and was around $200 including original eraser, some questionable chalk sticks, and the Home Teacher booklet. I paid less than $10 for the smaller booklets, and around $15 for the larger Master Book I.
One method to estimate the value of your desk yourself is to see what prices other collectors are paying for similar desks on ebay.com. Type in Keywords "Chautauqua desk" into eBay once a week for several weeks straight and you'll see at least 2 or 3 desks for sale. However due to the wide range of years the desk was produced, the different scrolls it comes with, and the overall conditions the desks end up in, this price can range from $35 up to $300. Many of the desks I've seen on eBay are badly water damaged on the slate and map, or have torn or water damaged scrolls. Damaged desks typically sell for less than $80. It has been a long time since I have seen a desk in as good condition as mine on eBay.
Three desks on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow were appraised at $300 and up, and this seems a little high compared to the going rate on eBay. I do not know whether the desks appraised included the original accessories such as the booklets, eraser, chalk, etc. I have not seen the episode filmed in Indiannopolis, only read about it in the info the historical society sent me in a short article about the Roadshow's visit:
"One was appraised by a toy expert at $300, while a furniture expert pegged the value at $300-$500. O'Bannon was steered to a collectibles expert who told her $300." -- Indiana Business Magazine, September, 2001.
Is my desk authentic?
I am not qualified to tell if your desk is authentic, but do be aware there are reproductions out there. Completely by coincidence my father in law was involved in a business scheme in the 1960's that involved producing complete reproductions of the original desk. They manufactured and sold a few hundred. I do not know what the telling characteristics are of the newer, reissued desks, other than they would probably be in better condition.
How old is my desk?
Since the desk has removable "upgradeable" parts like the scrolls and the map this is difficult to say. Don't let the 1887 or 1913 copyright date on the scroll fool you into thinking you have a turn-of-the-century treasure. Go through the entire scroll and see if you can find a later copyright date on other portions of it. Also, examine the map on the back of the desk. The territories, statistics and current events listed there should give you a better idea of what decade the desk might be from. However... the map was a removable piece that you could get updated periodically, so there is a slight chance the wooden desk itself is older than the map nailed to the back of it.
My desk has a bluebird decal on it. Will this increase or decrease the value?
Every desk made of oak came with a bluebird decal affixed to the front. Other decals include the Hy-San logo inside a circle, or a paper sticker affixed to the wooden area beneath the scroll.
Where can I purchase the books Master Book I, Child Life, and The Home Teacher, or find extra scrolls for my desk?
Try a keyword search for their respective titles on eBay, or using the book buyer's and seller's resource Abebooks.com. Scrolls are occasionally put up for auction separately from desks on eBay. There are many scrolls with subtle variations.
Is the Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk related to the Chautauqua Desk shown in the Larkin Soap ads of the same era?
To the best of my knowledge, no.
Are you going to add anything more to this website?
Yes. One thing I would like to do in the future is host a gallery of pictures of different desks that fans have sent me, along with the fantastic prices they paid to acquire them. However I have no immediate plans to do so, since I just got done with a huge batch of updates and maintenance of my zillion other websites kind of gets in the way. ;-) Anybody who has written to me in the past will get an e-mail announcement after significant new content is added.
Can I send you my own research or photographs of other desks?
Absolutely! I will hold onto them until I receive enough to justify work on the gallery. Please tell me how much you paid for the desk, your geographic location, and where/how it was acquired.
My question isn't answered here, can I still write to you?
I am happy to field any questions I can answer off the top of my head about material presented on this website, but I do so with the disclaimer that I am neither an expert nor do I have a lot of free time to complete additional research for other collectors right now. Chances are I'll refer you to one of the resources above -- in particularar the Porter County Historical Society -- so you can seek the answer out on your own. Best of luck!
Do you have a relative that once owned and used a Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk as a child? I would LOVE to interview anyone who has first-hand experience with the desk. Do not hesitate to e-mail me if you know someone who might be interested in such an interview.
Questions? Consult our FAQ first.