John L. Riter's 1873 School Desk and Seat Patent Model

John L. Riter's 1873 School Desk and Seat Patent Model

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Herbert L. Andrews from Chicago, Illinois, received a U.S. patent for an improved school desk. Patent no. 82061 was issued on September 15, 1868.
This desk has a square wooden top and three brass legs connected to the bottom of the desktop. The metal work is considered Gothic, with a diamond-shaped pattern. The monobloc and hinges are brass colored with two knobs so the height of the desk can be raised or lowered. The seat is adjustable in height, which allows the two parts to be held together more securely. This desk was produced by A.H. Andrews & Co. in 1870 in Chicago. It was made in six sizes and called the "Triumph School Desk." The desk got a good deal of acclaim and was exhibited at the International State Industrial Exposition in Chicago in 1873. It was displayed again at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where it won an award for "strength, durability, and good form." According to Andrews he sold over 50,000 of these school desks yearly.
Herbert Lee Andrews was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on June 6, 1844. He was educated in public schools and taught for a short period in Meriden and Plantsville, Connecticut. In 1868 he moved to Chicago and entered into manufacturing with his brother Alfred H. Andrews. They were partners in the A. H. Andrews & Co. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography (1917) states that Herbert Lee Andrews was the inventor of the first folding seat school desk. He made other desks as well as opera chairs, a dustless blackboard eraser, and an ink well. He also created steel rod framed chairs, tables, and stools, which became a staple of school furniture. In 1895 he invented a steel woven fabric to be used in place of leather or plush for car seats or railroad cars.
Currently not on view
Object Name
desk model
Object Type
Patent Model
date made
patent date
Riter, John L.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Riter, John L.
referenced in patent specifications
United States: Indiana, Brownsville
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 11 1/2 in x 11 in x 11 1/2 in; 29.21 cm x 27.94 cm x 29.21 cm
overall:11 in x 4.25 in x 0.5 in
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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