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The Desk Where Harriet Wrote


Uncle Tom’s Cabin book image
Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 10,000 copes in the U.S. its first week, 300,000 its first year. It’s been translated into 60+ languages.

In the northwest corner of a second-floor guest room in Patterson Place, former home to Western College presidents and now to the Western College Alumnae Association, stands a desk on which Harriet Beecher Stowe is said to have written “a large portion” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

According to the 1954 book The Western College for Women: 1853–1953, the desk was donated by the Tichenor family in the 1860s or ’70s after the death of Gabriel Tichenor, one of the first benefactors and trustees of Western, originally known as the Western Female Seminary. Tichenor was a good friend of the Rev. Daniel Tenney, founder of the seminary.

Tichenor and his wife were also good friends and neighbors to the Stowes in Cincinnati.

Author Narka Nelson writes, “Gabriel Tichenor as a young man had been a planter in Mississippi and had owned a great many slaves. Becoming convinced that it was a sin to own slaves, he had freed them and moved with his family to Walnut Hills in Cincinnati.”

Hailing from New England, Mrs. Stowe knew little about the South, which is why, reportedly, she spent a great deal of time at the Tichenors’ desk writing and editing while Mr. Tichenor critiqued her anti-slavery manuscript.

Originally run in 40 installments in the anti-slavery newspaper The National Era, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly was published in 1852 as a two-volume book and became an immediate best-seller.