Share / Discuss

Desk Donation

An ornate roll-top desk once owned by prominent Quaker ministers Joel and Hannah Bean—lovingly maintained and passed down from one generation to the next—made its way to Friends Historical Library this spring through a gift from the Beans’ great-great-grandson Oliver Jones.

As clerk of the Iowa Yearly Meaning, Joel Bean (1825–1914) faced friction during a growing revivalist movement in the late 1800s. The couple’s teachings in response to the controversy drove the formation of independent “Beanite” Quakerism, and their extensive writing collection—including sermons, 69 diary volumes, and more than 1,800 letters—is housed at FHL.

What better place, then, for a desk than with its papers? Seeking a permanent home for the piece, Jones and wife Carolyn Ramm discovered the Beans’ Swarthmore connection. They reached out to Carolyn’s Swarthmorean cousin, Dorothy Ramm ’58, who helped coordinate the donation through the College’s Alumni and Parent Engagement Office.

“The Joel Bean desk has been in the FHL Reading Room for just a few months now, but we cannot imagine a time that it did not sit in here, it fits so very well,” says curator Jordan Landes. “That it does not entirely conform to ideas of Quaker plainness is interesting, and it serves as an excellent artifact to accompany the library’s Joel and Hannah Bean Papers.”