William F. Spencer from Richmond, Indiana, received a U.S. patent for an improved combined school desk. Patent no. 176701 was issued on April 25, 1876.
This model is made of wood with metal hinges and feet. The design featured a construction to make uniting the desks easier. A pivotal bolt having wedge-shaped wings or ribs made this construction viable. There is a bench-like seat which folds up, but there is no lower back support. There is a desk behind the backrest that has a shelf for storage.
William Fouke Spencer (1833-1920) was the son of Quakers Mary Custard and Jesse Spencer. He became a lawyer and a merchant, marrying Christina Bradley of Philadelphia. He moved west to Ohio and eventually to Indiana and the family claims he assisted with the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. He and his wife had 6 children. As an entrepreneur, he developed an interest in the expanding school supply industry and developed improvements in desk design. In 1875 he filed the first of his patents on improvements on combination school seat and desks. His patents were: 176,701, issued April 25, 1876; 179,877, issued July 18, 1876; and 316,495 on June 23, 1884 for an opera chair By 1880, he was listing his profession as a manufacturer of school furniture, having joined the firm originated by John P. Allen and George H. Grant. It became Haynes, Spencer & Company. When it was destroyed in a fire in 1892, he founded the Richmond School Furniture Company. He also founded the American Lawnmower Company in 1895. Both companies moved to Muncie, Indiana in 1902.
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