Lap Desks have a special history. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on one. Most officers in the Civil War (1861-1865) used them and they were popular for officers in England earlier than that. According to my research, they became popular in the second half of the 18th century in England, made their way to America, and became a “must have” item for officers by the middle of the 19th century.
Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk was a solid wooden box with a lid that swung open on two hinges. Inside was room for pen, paper and ink. Based on a research project featured in the February 2001 issue of Smithsonian magazine, Thomas Jefferson traveled to Philadelphia to attend the Second Continental Congress in 1776. During his trip he stayed with a local cabinetmaker named Benjamin Randolph, giving Mr. Randolph a plan for a small portable lap desk that he had conceptualized on the way. Randolph built the desk for Jefferson using solid mahogany with inlays at both ends. The desk apparently provided the perfect companion to Jefferson during his travels, allowing him the comfort of reading and writing wherever he roamed.
Many of Jefferson’s letters, memos and papers, as well as the draft for the Declaration of Independence were composed on the desk, which is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum. Jefferson carried the desk with him until the year he died – at which point it was passed on to his grandson-in-law, Joseph Coolidge.
Lap of Luxury Lap Desks continue the tradition of a portable, well made work station. Available in two sizes, they offer the perfect surface for writing, drawing, working crossword puzzles, paying bills, eating a meal. Kids love to use them in the car on long trips. Adults use them for laptop computers. With a small pillow placed between the low back and the wall or back of the chair, lap desks provide good postural support. The user receives relief from the stress of bending down to read on his/her lap or twisting to use the arm of the couch to write. The neck, shoulders and low back are well supported and pain is relieved with the use of a lap desk.
From Thomas Jefferson’s wooden box to the present lightweight board with an attached cushion, lap desks continue to be a convenient and portable surface for work and leisure activities.