Hidden compartments in furniture have a long history. Although not exclusive to secretaries, the secretary and desk forms seem to be the most common. But you don’t have to take my word for it - just ask Mark Firley at The Furniture Record.
The discussion of hidden compartments even appears in Edgar Allen Poe’s THE PURLOINED LETTER from 1845:
Prefect: “...I presume you know that, to a properly trained police agent, such a thing as a secret drawer is impossible. Any man is a dolt who permits a 'secret' drawer to escape him in a search of this kind. The thing is so plain. There is a certain amount of bulk --of space --to be accounted for in every cabinet... After the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions we probed with the fine long needles you have seen me employ. From the tables we removed the tops."
Dupin: "Why so?”
Prefect: "Sometimes the top of a table, or other similarly arranged piece of furniture, is removed by the person wishing to conceal an article; then the leg is excavated, the article deposited within the cavity, and the top replaced. The bottoms and tops of bedposts are employed in the same way."
Prefect: “...We examined the rungs of every chair in the hotel, and, indeed, the jointings of every description of furniture, by the aid of a most powerful microscope. Had there been any traces of recent disturbance we should not have failed to detect it instantly. A single grain of gimlet-dust, for example, would have been as obvious as an apple. Any disorder in the glueing --any unusual gaping in the joints --would have sufficed to insure detection."
Conversation between C. Auguste Dupin and the Prefect of the Parisian police
THE PURLOINED LETTER (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/POE/purloine.html)
by Edgar Allan Poe
While we won’t be offering a project-based class to build an 18th century secretary with multiple secret compartments this year, you can dabble in secret compartment building in our Shaker-Style Candle Box class on July 12 and 13. Of course you’ll also learn how to cut rabbets and dadoes, chamfer a sliding panel, cut dovetails and more with Charles Murray. We can't promise the Prefect won't find your secret hiding place though.
Online registration is here.
- Nate Tharp