History of the Desk

by School Furnishings |March 18, 2014 |0 Comments | School Furnishings Blog | , , , , , , ,

Long glorified as the place to dip girls’ pigtails into the ink, a place to doodle, and a place to get a solid education, the humble desk has a rather interesting history.

Before the 1880s

Most kids didn’t go to school. If they did get a formal education, they received it at home on adult-sized desks, in schools on lecture tables or plain benches with no desk at all.

1880: The Fashion Desk

John Loughlin in Ohio invented the first school desk which became very popular. They attached to one another and were usually big enough to sit two or three children. Notice the ubiquitous inkwell. Apparently, the name was a result of a media campaign surrounding his invention. The United States enacted public school laws around this time which contributed to Loughlin’s success.


Photo credit: Ed Tech Magazine

Photo credit: Ed Tech Magazine


1920s: The Next Generation

As education evolved from writing on slate from primers to writing papers and owning textbooks, a need for a place for students to stash their things grew. Likewise, school desks evolved from fancy benches to personal desks with either raise-able lids or cubby holes underneath the tops.

This style continued well into the 1960s when manufacturers began to prefer steel and chrome to more expensive wood and iron designs (Notice the pretty teal color in the 1960s American Desk). Photo credits: Ed Tech Magazine

1970s: The Modern Era

The ’70s saw the advent of the modern plastic, fiberboard, and chrome wrap-around desks still in use in many areas today. The desk features a basket underneath to store books (and presumably book bags). Proponents of ergonomics argue that left-handed students suffer from the right-hand-centric design. Although there are left-handed designs available, sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough in the classrooms to go around.

Photo Credit: Academia Furniture

Photo Credit: Academia Furniture



Today there are as many options as ever. From elementary to collegiate settings, from directed reading tables to study cubicles, you can find any style of desk, table, chair, or combo sets in almost any color to suit your needs. Emphasis is on promoting collaborative learning, space-saving designs, and multi-functionality.

Collaborative learning desks arranged in hexagon.

Collaborative learning desks arranged in hexagon.

If you want to see more, be sure to visit your premiere School Furnishings provider where you can find thousands of products for your big or small school, study center, or library.


Photo Credits: School Furnishings, Inc