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The evolution of the school desk

Classroom Desks, General Info October 13th 2017
The evolution of the school desk

Everyone remembers sitting at their desk during their school days, but the appearance of that desk has differed through the generations.

Making do - When education became compulsory in 1880, schools had to accommodate more children than ever before. The first pupils sat at long benches or tables in rows, a basic solution, but better than nothing, as many of the students in poorer areas were all too aware. Sometimes they had no desk or table at all and had to write on their laps during lessons.

The first desks - John D. Loughlin of Sidney, Ohio, created the first school desk in 1881. Known as ‘the fashion desk’, the desk came in a range of sizes to suit children of all ages and to sit two or three classmates together.

In the 1920s, the next stage of development was the popular ‘Welsh’ school desk, the first desk to incorporate a space for students to store papers and books within it. Many had a lift up writing surface which covered this storage area.

Both desks were made of wood on an iron frame and usually included an inkwell so pupils could dip their quills while writing. Apart from the addition of adjustable desks in the 1930s, the basic appearance would remain relatively unchanged for a few decades.

Desk developments - The first notable change came in the materials used to make desks in the 1950s. Heavy wood and iron gave way to plywood and steel for a much lighter, easily moved item of furniture, such as the Munkegard school desk created by Arne Jacobson. An entirely steel and chrome structure followed in the 1960s, still with a storage area incorporated, but inkwells were long gone.

The next most notable change was in design, with the arrival of the popular ‘wrap around’ desks that are still commonly seen today. They had no storage space and a small writing surface attached to the chair itself.

Modern desks - In todays classrooms, desks come in an almost endless variety of shapes and sizes, often fully adjustable by users and tailored to the type of lessons going on in each space.

At Edu-Quip, we offer a fantastic range of modern and traditional desks and we specialise in the perfect desk solutions for any classroom or student. Our range of school desks can be viewed here and we're happy to discuss your specific requirements. For further details on our classroom planning service give a member of our design team a call

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