What Is A Davenport?

If you do an online search for the word davenport, a plethora of results for towns, shopping centers, and businesses will pop up. But did you know there was a time when the name davenport was widely used for a common piece of furniture? While it's largely out of fashion to refer to a couch or sofa as a davenport anymore, they're all essentially terms for the same type of living room furniture.

According to San Francisco Design, the sofa originated in ancient Egypt and its name is the offshoot of the Arabic word suffah, which is a seating area made of wood and covered with pillows and throws. Couch, on the other hand, is derived from the French term coucher, meaning to lay down. Many people today think of sofas as a more upscale piece of furniture reserved for formal living areas while couches get used more frequently in family rooms. Keep reading to find out more about the history of the davenport and yet another piece of furniture with a similar name.

History of the Davenport

In regard to living room furniture, the name davenport originated with the A.H. Davenport Co., a home furnishings manufacturer doing business from 1880 through 1914. The company's factory, as noted by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, was located in East Cambridge, Massachusetts along with other successful furniture producers of the period.

The company made several couches that were popular with consumers including examples that folded out to provide bedding. The trade name Davenport was used by customers to describe these sofa beds with wider than average seats, per Home Steady. The proper name Davenport morphing into the common term of davenport is a prime example of how a brand name can become generic over time. The use of the word carried over from generation to generation throughout the 20th century, but eventually lost ground to couch and sofa. These days, most of the folks referring to them as davenports are getting up there in age, but you can still call your couch a davenport like great grandma if that's your jam.

Another type of davenport

While couches and sofas are still being made, if you want to find the other type of furniture with a similar moniker, the Davenport desk, you'll likely have to visit an antiques store. This type of portable writing desk is also called a captain's desk, and for good reason. Rumor has it that the first desk in this style was commissioned in the 1800s by Captain Davenport, a military officer in Britain, according to Home Questions Answered

Characteristics of the Davenport desk, which did not catch on as a common term for all desks, include a slanted top with hinges covering a compartment usually used to hold antique writing materials such as parchment, ink wells, and quills. The base of the desk has several drawers on the side for additional storage. Some versions also have ornately carved front legs. While you might not be able to find one at your local furniture store, if you like interesting antiques and live in a tiny apartment, researching the Davenport desk further might be worthwhile. This type of writing desk is quite compact making it perfect for small spaces.