The Adjustable Height Desk: A Brief History

November 4, 2012

People have been using adjustable height desks longer than you think.

Wait! Before you stop reading even before the story begins, let me clarify: this is not some boring, put-you-to-sleep, Ben Stein-delivered history on adjustable height desks; this is a riveting, true, and seat-gripping history on adjustable height desks. Okay, perhaps not “seat-gripping,” but the adjustable height desk actually has an interesting background.

As we know, in recent years, standing desks and height adjustable desks, like the Xdesk, have been growing increasingly popular as people learn more about the health risks of sitting for long periods of time. But actually, the standing desk was “cool” long before this new trend.

Looking through Google Books, you’ll find many mentions of the standing desk, increasingly so during the 19th century. For example, school classrooms were often outfitted with standing desks.

Check out this excerpt from a 1989 book, School Hygiene: “In late years it has been suggested that even with the proper kind of desk, much sitting is liable to injure the abdominal organs and the circulation. Desks have accordingly been proposed which can be arranged for standing as well as sitting.”

And this is how the history of the adjustable height desk began.

Just as students were using adjustable height desks in the classroom then, schools and companies all over are starting to implement them again today. HERE is a great article in the New York Times about several schools that have decided to start using adjustable height desks in the U.S.

But that is today. Let’s get back to history.

Before even the 19th century, there was mention of standing desks. For example, Thomas Jefferson used a “six-legged, tall desk” with an adjustable slanted top. It was standing behind this desk (not sitting!) that Jefferson drew up brilliant blueprints for beautiful, now famous buildings like the Virginia State Capitol.

Leaders like Otto von Bismarck and Winston Churchill were also described as pouring through papers and proposals, standing behind their desks.

Authors, too, used standing desks and adjustable height desks when weaving the threads of some of their literary masterpieces. Charles Dickens, for example, was once described opting for a standing desk rather than a seat in this description by a visitor: “Books all round, up to the ceiling and down to the ground; a standing desk at which he writes; and all manner of comfortable easy chairs.”

Even Hemingway chose to stand rather than sit, though he was a bit more inventive. Apparently, this master of his craft had a regular desk, but he chose to stand at a makeshift standing desk he’d created out of his bookshelf.

As you can see, the adjustable height desk has gone through its ups and downs over the years. It started out popular in schools, was replaced by the stationary standing desk, and then seemed to disappear altogether. Today, though, the height adjustable desk is back in full force.

Schools are using them in their classrooms, workplaces are bringing them into the office, and the health benefits of adjustable height desks are spreading far and wide. This time though, as health and weight problems in the U.S. seem to be at an all time high, the adjustable height desk’s popularity seems to be more than a trend. It is time for change. It is time for the adjustable height desk to reclaim its position as the norm.

Do you have an adjustable height desk? How has it changed your life?


  1. […] See original here: The Adjustable Height Desk: A Brief History […]

    Pingback by The Adjustable Height Desk: A Brief History | Height Adjustable Desk — November 13, 2012 @ 8:24 am

  2. Adjustable height desks are the best solution for those looking for a desk for standing. Going from sitting to standing and back again throughout the work day encourages you to stay active to move around while you work instead of
    working stationary. Moving around and keeping active is the best way to stay healthy while you’re stuck at your desk. adjustable height desks that easily convert from standing to sitting and offer huge health benefits at a fraction of
    the cost of similar desks.

    Comment by adjustable height desk — November 23, 2012 @ 8:59 am

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