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Chisel Away at “Tools of the Trade”

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

This writing desk, designed and created by William Howard c. 1870, is a newly acquired object for MIA’s collection of African American and American Folk Art. Most striking is the pictographic assemblage of more than 70 hand-carved and applied weapons, tools, eating utensils, vessels, and trade symbols. Find out out more.

Some “Tools of the Trade” are easy to identify. But the name and purpose of others have been lost through time.

This tool remains unidentified! Can you identify its purpose? Answer in the comments section below. The curator will use your input to inform research of the desk.

Visit Tools of the Trade: The William Howard Writing Desk from Kirkwood Plantion to discover more “Tools of the Trade.” On view through July 29 in the Cargill Gallery. Free!

Image credit: William Howard (American, born Africa about 1805), Writing Desk, c. 1870, Yellow pine, tobacco box and cotton crate wood. The Driscoll Art Accessions Endowment Fund, the John and Ruth Huss Fund for Decorative Arts, the Fred R. Salisbury II Fund, and the Deborah Davenport and Stewart Stender Endowment for American Folk Art, 2012.11

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