Joe V. Meigs' 1874 Desk and Seat Patent Model

Joe V. Meigs' 1874 Desk and Seat Patent Model

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Joe V. Meigs from Lowell, Massachusetts, received a U.S. patent for an improved school desk. Patent no. 151898 was issued on June 9, 1874.
This model is made of wood and cast iron. The desks are attached at the back and the seats face one another. They are mounted on a wooden platform. The patent stressed comfort and claimed the desk would, “avoid fatigue and distortion of the body.” His model is rather decorative with a diamond design, made up of metal bars that cross each other. The tops are made out of wood or iron but if iron is used he encouraged the metal to be japanned, enameled, or marbleized, adding further decoration. The desk is designed to be very practical, and the whole desk comes apart to be easily transported. There are two black seats curved and connected by cast iron. The two seats are facing one another and placed on a wooden base.
Joseph Vincent Meigs was born June 17, 1840, into a prominent family from Nashville, Tennessee. His father was attorney, Whig state senator, and publisher, Return Jonathan Meigs. Joe V. Meigs created his first invention, a railroad coupling, at the age of fourteen. He became a patent lawyer, but his mechanical skills also allowed him to become a prolific inventor. He was granted twenty- two patents for various inventions including the school desk, a reclining chair, and automatic fishing pole. His family supported the Union during the Civil War, and in 1864 he took command as captain of Battery A of the 2nd Black Light Artillery Battalion U.S. Colored Troops. After inventing a breech-loading firearm, he was hired by the U.S. Cartridge Company, where he served as chief inventor. His most ambitious invention was a steam driven elevated monorail called the Meigs Elevated Railway, designed to improve rapid transit. A quarter mile of track was constructed in Cambridge, Massachusetts 1885-1886 to promote his design but construction delays, politics, and his distrust of the use of electricity for new designs impeded his success. He died November 14,1907 in Boston, Massachusetts..
Currently not on view
Object Name
school desk
desk model
Object Type
Patent Model
date made
patent date
associated date
Meigs, Joe V.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Meigs, Joe V.
referenced in patent specifications
United States: Massachusetts, Lowell
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
overall: 3 3/4 in x 7 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in; 9.525 cm x 18.415 cm x 8.255 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Patent Models
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Education
Cultures & Communities
American History Education Collection
Patent Model School Seats and Desks
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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