Adam Link Desk

  • Artifact:

    Adam Link Desk

  • Time Period:

    Circa 1795

  • Description:

    Desk made by Adam Link, ca. 1795. Adam Link II lived four miles from Shepherdstown. He served as an ensign (flag bearer) in the Revolutionary War. He died in 1835 and is buried at St. Peters Old Lutheran Church in Shepherdstown.

  • Benefactor

    Gift of Georgia Lee McElhaney


According to family history this walnut slant-front desk was made by John Adam Link, 2nd.  Link was born in Pennsylvania in 1756 to John Adam and Elizabeth Miller Link.  He moved with his family to Frederick County, Maryland, where he served in Captain Peter Barrick’s  Company, the Catoctin Battalion, Militia of Frederick County Maryland during the Revolutionary War.[1]   In 1783 John Adam Link, 2nd, married Jane Ogle and the next year they moved to Berkeley County, Virginia (presently Jefferson County, West Virginia) and eventually settled on a farm on the Halltown Road about four miles south of Shepherdstown.

This desk apparently remained in the Link family until about 1980 when it was sold at public auction of the personal property Gladys Link Hartzell, great-great-great granddaughter of John Adam Link, 2nd.  The Link desk was purchased by a private collector from Martinsburg, WV but was eventually acquired by Georgia Lee McElhaney who donated the desk to the Historic Shepherdstown Commission.   A note written by Miss Hartzell and attached to the back of the desk reads, “This desk was made by Adam Link, 2nd, in the 1790’s.  He lived four miles south of Shepherdstown.  In the Revolutionary War he served as an ensign (flag bearer).  Gladys Link Hartzell is his great-great-great granddaughter.”   In 1980 Miss Hartzell donated a maple tilt-top tea table, which she attributed to John Adam Link, to the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The table, marked “AL/1793” (AL for Adam Link) on the birdcage,  is on display in the West Virginia period room at the DAR’s Memorial Continental Hall in Washington, DC.

The Entler desk is walnut with ogee shaped feet and four overlapping, graduated drawers with brass pulls and diamond-shaped, wooden (perhaps holly) keyhole escutcheons.  The one-piece fall board has battens on each end that appear to be butt-joined but could have mortise and tenon joints that are not visible.  The fall board supports are solid walnut with round brass pulls on shaped ends.  The interior of the desk has a center prospect flanked by fluted document drawers and that arrangement is framed on each side by an array of four pigeonholes over four drawers.  The prospect contains three visible drawers in a walnut frame.  On the underside of the two horizontal drawer dividers in the prospect frame are cut-outs holding small wooden tabs; these tabs slide through holes in the sides of the frame and into holes cut into the vertical dividers that separate the prospect from the bill drawers, thus locking the prospect frame in place.  When the prospect frame and drawers are taken out, a thin board slightly smaller than the prospect opening is revealed; that thin board hides another bank of three shallow drawers.   All interior drawers have small, round brass pulls with the exception of the three hidden drawers, they have leather pulls tacked to the drawer faces.


Three horizontal butt-joined boards, nailed into rabbets in the top and sides, form the back of the desk. Half-blind dovetails attach the top board to the two-board sides of the desk. A two-board pine bottom is dovetailed to the case sides and nailed to the underside of the bottom front rail.  A one-inch by three-eight inch strip of walnut is attached to the sides and front of the case just above the feet.  The front feet consist of  a center block with two-piece laminated facings on the front and side that are mitered at the corners.  The rear feet have a center post with two-piece laminated facings on the side and a single board rabbet-joined at the back.

The three walnut drawer blades are probably dovetailed to the case sides; thin walnut strips attached to the face of the side boards conceal the drawer blade joints. Vertical dividers between the top drawer and the fall board supports are tenoned to the drawer blade and interior writing surface.  A dust board under the top drawer extends to within three inches of the back of the desk.  It is attached by tongue and groove to the drawer blade and by dados to the case sides.  Drawer guides are attached to the dust board with nails driven from the underside.  The two middle drawers lack dust boards and have drawer runners that are dadoed and nailed to the case sides.  Runners for the lower drawer are nailed to the bottom of the case.   The drawers have walnut fronts with edges that are slightly shaped and pine or poplar sides and backs, all dovetailed at the corners.  Drawer bottoms with tapered edges rest in grooves in the drawer fronts and sides and are flush nailed to the backs.

The removable frame holding three small prospect drawers is walnut with sides dovetailed to the top and bottom and drawer dividers that are mitered in the sides of the frame.  The small walnut-front drawers have the same construction as the large case drawers except the drawer bottoms are set in lap joints all around.  The three hidden drawers are constructed of pine and poplar with dovetail joined sides and bottoms set in lap joints and nailed.  Dividers for the hidden drawers are set in dados in the prospect compartment sides.

The vertical bill drawers have thick front and back boards that are lap-joint shaped to hold side boards secured with nails.  The bottoms of these drawers are nailed in lap joints in the side, front and rear boards.  Fluted walnut columns and shaped caps are nailed to the bill drawer fronts.

The pigeonhole dividers are shaped walnut set in grooves in the underside of the case top.  The center divider on each side is set in grooves in the top of the stepped-up board behind the interior writing surface.  The remaining pigeonhole dividers and drawer dividers are mitered to their adjoining members.  Dividers between the upper and lower bank of drawers appear to be pine faced with walnut.

Overall, the desk is 40″ wide, 42 1/2″ high and 21 1/2″ deep.


Brass pulls on the case drawers are replacements.  The fall board opening appears to have been altered in some way since a lock is present but the top of the desk has no keeper in which the lock can engage.  The prospect door is missing and one of the small drawers is reconstructed.  One of the bill drawer caps is detached but still with the desk.  The bottom board of the lower case drawer appears to be replaced.  A two-inch wide shadow along the front and sides of the bottom board of the case indicate the piece had a molded frame to which the feet were attached.  All elements of the feet are recent replacements.