Miniature of the Month
Wooten Desk by Orvin Fjare
The late Orvin Fjare created this Wooten desk in 1/12 scale displayed in the KSB Miniatures Collection. The original desk, popular in the later part of the 19th century, was known as the “king of desks” in its time. Produced by an Indiana company owned by William Wooton, his 1874 patent for a “cabinet office secretary” marked the birth of this utilitarian beauty that would become “an enduring symbol of Victorian business.”
Wooton desks had more than 100 compartments to store records and office supplies. It was a bonafide fast-growing need since the introduction of typewriters and improved fountain pens had increased the amounts of paperwork businesses were producing. And Wooten’s design accommodated it all beautifully and efficiently.
The Wooton desk came in four varieties—Ordinary, Standard, Extra, and Superior—featuring added embellishments with each grade. Prices ranged from $90 to $750 (some more) and it’s reported that John D. Rockefeller, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Pulitzer and Charles Scribner each owned one. It’s also rumored that a version was commissioned by Queen Victoria.
Orvin’s background is just as interesting. Born in Montana in 1918, the beloved family man, Army pilot, community leader, public speaker, and congressman was a prankster with many hobbies, including photography, horticulture and vinification. He started his miniaturist career by making his wife, Sigrid, the dollhouse she had always dreamed of. They would be married for 66 years and often traveled to miniatures shows well into their 80s.
Orvin lived to be 93, passing away just two years after Sigrid, but not before sharing his Wooten desk secrets with another Montanan miniaturist, IGMA Fellow Gideon Wolf, who worked closely with Orvin and continues to make the late artisan’s signature secretary along with other Wooten fine-scale reproductions.