The Chaupauqua Industrial Art Desk


Publications & Ads

This section includes a charming advertisement from 1916, a brief history of the Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk, photographs of children using the desk, suggestions for its use and care, and instructions for various artistic techniques.

Explore Inside the Desk

This section is an interactive tour of the desk's features and educational content. The next best thing to seeing one in person!

Outside of Desk

This section shows a world map with national resources, accomplishments and statistics from the era of the Great War.


Questions? Please consult our FAQ.


This gallery features Chautauqua Desks that illustrate different incarnations of this desk and related printed matter.

View great photos of the desks and a shipping box.

Read stories from desk owners and their descendents.

Help owners find out more about their desks.

Learn more about this fascinating piece of homeschooling paraphernalia.

This website includes scans and photographs of the Chautauqua Industrial Art Desk desk circa 1919, and excerpts of a booklet for mothers often sold along with it. The primary purpose of the art desk, first invented in the late 1800's, was industrial art education in the home by parents, not only to prepare children for vocations in the arts but also to promote self-expression and the spirit of play -- so often indistinguishable from a child's "work" and yet so crucial in developing a child's imagination and facility in the arts.

Drawing enthusiastically upon the pedagogy of Froebel, Stoner, Beard, Lowell, Emerson, Montessori and Hall, this teaching tool seeks to develop not only the child, but also the mother's artistic ability:

"It is expected that the mother will develop many original ideas and uses for these materials. Unless the mother does so, the child will soon become conscious that he has outdone the mother in inventive ingenuity and in power to put things to good use." *

The images on this website are provided as a service to the art education community to further research and understand the state of art education early in the 20th century.

All effort has been made by the author of this website to withhold personal comment on pedagogy and presentation in the hope that students and educators may formulate their own attitudes and opinions toward such a method of art education. Any reader familiar with my own predilection toward technology and the vocational arts may already sense my enthusiasm and delight over this curious artifact despite its problematic approach.

Educators interested in the topic of home schooling and the history of Learning Centers may also find this website equally intriguing.

Enjoy your exploration of this unique learning tool, and do not hesitate to e-mail me feedback or scans of additional source material. I am particularly interested in identifying precisely when this desk may have been issued, as the WWI information on the map seems to be years beyond the 1913 copyright date on The Home Teacher booklet and desk scroll.

-- Alison King, Digital Art Educator, January 2002

- - - WANTED! - - -

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.

*Excerpted from The Home Teacher. Copyright 1903, 1913 Powers, Myers and Company