Sylvanus Cox and William W. Fanning's 1873 School Desk and Seat Patent Model

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Sylvanus Cox and William Fanning from Richmond, Indiana, received a U.S. patent for an improved school desk and chair. Patent no. 135089 was issued on January 21, 1873.
This model consists of a wood and iron combination folding seat and desk. The brass desk supports have Gothic arches. The seat has dark and light wood slats with a curved, smooth bench and back support. The desktop is made of wood and features a groove for writing utensils. The cutout for an ink well would have been an option. It is attached to the back of the bench and has a folding mechanism to reduce noise. The brass base supports and legs form two birds with beaks touching. There is a small brass label on the desktop. The Cox and Fanning design was become one of the most attractive desk designs of the nineteenth century.
There were a few men with the name Sylvanus Cox living in Indiana when this model was created so we do not have specific information about the inventor. William W. Fanning was a carpenter who lived in Richmond, Indiana. He was born in November 1843 and died February 20, 1909 at age 65 in Richmond, Indiana.
date made
patent date
Cox, Sylvanus
Fanning, William W.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Cox, Sylvanus
Fanning, William W.
referenced in patent specifications
United States: Indiana, Richmond
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
oak (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall: 8 1/4 in x 6 1/4 in x 8 in; 20.955 cm x 15.875 cm x 20.32 cm
seat: 1/4 in x 5 3/16 in x 3 1/2 in; .635 cm x 13.208 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
accession number
patent number
catalog number
patent number
Patent Models
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Education
Cultures & Communities
American History Education Collection
Inventing In America
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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