When Judah P. Benjamin fled the country following the Civil War — he needed to skedaddle since he’d served as Secretary of State for the Confederacy — there was only so much he could take with him. First, the portly attorney could only fit so much on his horse, which he rode through the South, barely escaping capture. Then, to avoid notice, he was forced to stow away on a boat to England. His quarters were no doubt cramped.
This is a long way of saying that the barrister was forced to leave behind his large roll-top desk, along with most of his other belongings. The desk remains in the archives of the Louisiana State Museum, which has it on loan from the Times-Picayune newspaper.
Benjamin bought the desk for use in his New Orleans residence, though its not clear which one. One now houses a strip club. After he fled to England, his possessions — including the desk — were sold at auction.
The desk was used by four editors of the Times-Democrat, according to Katie Hall, a curator of decorative arts for the Museum. One of them bought the desk at auction. George W. Healy, Jr., used the desk in his office from about 1939 to 1969, according to a Times-Picayune article dated August 7, 1969.
“When the Times-Picayune moved from the old quarters at Lafayette Square to its current building, the desk no longer fit the modern decor,” the article reads.