The standing desk fad hasn’t always been a fad; in fact, it has deep roots in the evolution of the workstations we know and use now. Standing desks surfaced in the 18th and 19th centuries–early proof can be found in an 1883 Popular Science article, advising professionals to get a “telescope-desk” at ”the first symptoms of indigestion.”
It’s no surprise that the following list of creatives and politicians used standing desks. As a way to stay alert and active, it’s a powerful tool.
1. Ernest Hemingway
“A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.”
2. Charles Dickens
Dickens’s study had books all round, up to the ceiling; a standing-desk at which he writes; and all manner of comfortable easy chairs.
3. Virginia Woolf
The modernist writer’s desk stood about three feet six inches high with a sloping top; it was so high that she had to stand to her work. Apparently, the famed writer designed her desk herself.
4. Thomas Jefferson
One of the more interesting pieces of furniture owned by Jefferson is this tall, adaptable desk for reading or drawing. The angle of the top, hinged at the front, can be adjusted with a ratchet stand. A bail handle pulls forward the front of the desk to reveal a flat, lined writing surface. Supported by six legs, the desk has mostly replacement Chinese fretwork brackets beneath the skirt. The original—presumably brass—list to prevent books, papers, or writing implements from slipping is missing. The straight legs sit on casters.
5. Stan Lee
Legendary comic-book author Stan Lee wrote “Fantastic Four,” “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” and his many other comics and screenplays at a standing desk.
A much-circulated photo of him writing in his back yard bears this caption: “Always wrote standing up – good for the figure – and always faced the sun – good for the suntan!”
6. Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld was both an early DIY standing-desk user and one of the first to speculate on the productivity benefits of standing, according to a May 19, 1988 Washington Post story:
“Donald Rumsfeld became a convert before the tall desk was widely available. His first experience working while standing was with a wall-mounted drafting desk in Brussels when he was appointed ambassador to NATO in 1973. Later he bought an old school desk for $215 and mounted it on a credenza. He continued to use a stand-up desk when he was White House chief of staff in 1974 and 1975 and then as secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977.
“[later] Rumsfeld mused about his desk: ‘I can’t claim my brain worked better, but if you feel good, you do tend to work better.’”