The History of The Resolute Desk

The History of The Resolute Desk

The Resolute Desk is a  historic and antique desk that has been used in the White House since 1880. Over a course of many years, the Resolute Desk has occupied the Oval Office as the official Oval Office Desk in the White House.

This very well-appointed desk has been used by 8 out of 46 of the presidents of the United States. Twice, had the desk been modified. The first modification was completed in 1945, and the second modification in 1961.

 

Photo by Bruce White via White House History

 

William Evenden designed the Resolute Desk in 1880. Built from the Oak timbers that were bygone part of the HMS Resolute, hence the origin of its name. The first President to use the desk in the Oval Office of the White House was John F. Kennedy in 1961. 8 presidents in total have occupied the Resolute Desk during their terms. The 7 other Presidents were Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and our current President Joe Biden. The Resolute Desk was gifted to President Rutherford B. Hayes from Queen Victoria, who ruled Great Britain, in 1880. The desk’s origin is from a decommissioned ship that was found by George Henry in 1855. The ship was returned to England and served the British Navy for many years. The second floor, the ground floor, and notably, the Oval Office has occupied the desk in the White House.  The desk weighs more than 1,000 pounds and is worth $110,000.

 

During Obama’s presidency, photos surfaced of him propping his feet up on the Resolute Desk causing controversy amongst many people. Josh Feldman of Media ITE states that “people are outraged over the leader of the free world placing his foot atop the Resolute Desk because it’s undignified and beneath the office of the president…,” although this isn’t the first time a President has propped their feet up on the long-lived desk. Presidents such as George W. Bush and Gerald Ford also have photos with their feet resting on the Resolute Desk during their terms.







 


Apart from the Resolute Desk; six other desks have occupied the White House in the Oval Office. Below are the different desks that have been used in the Oval Office.

 

The short-lived desk was built in 1920, named the C+O Desk, made by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C+O). The C+O company donated the desk to the White House. It was then placed in the Oval Office study. During H.W. Bush’s time as Vice President under Ronald Reagan, he commandeered the desk for himself and moved it to his office. The C+O desk is made of humble walnut. A Georgian workspace that includes drawers and cabinets that are each set into either side of the two wide pillars supporting the desktop. Stained a deep brown, and accented with golden handles. C+O desk is classy, as well as a flashy piece of furniture. 

Photo via Wikipedia

The Hoover Desk is yet another piece of furniture that has occupied the White House. Named after Herbert Hoover, built-in 1930 and was designed by J. Stuart Clingman, by Robert W. Irwin Company. A sturdy utilitarian desk that has gotten more use from the four-term New Deal inventor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who primarily used it. Made from American lumber, and faced with Michigan-grown maple. Occupied by Commander-in-Chief, J. Stuart Clingman. 

 

Photo via Wikipedia


The Johnson Desk is the third desk to be used in the Oval Office by the 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson himself in 1963. This desk was his very own desk used for many years previous to his Presidency. Made of Mahogany, and designed by Thomas D. Wadelton. This desk is built with two-pillar cabinets on either side. Designed with decorative curves and bulbous feet in the rounded, classical style of all the Senate floor furniture. The only desk that is garnished at the top with garnish green leather. Later on, the Johnson Desk was shifted to the Oval Office replica located in Johnson’s Presidential study.

 

Photo via Wikipedia

 

The Wilson Desk was believed to be in occupancy of a respected predecessor; Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. The material of this desk is made of Mahogany and built with drawers on each side. This desk has remained through the terms of 15 Vice Presidents in the Capitol Building, including Nixon who greatly enjoyed it. 

 Photo via Historia Militaris

The Roosevelt Desk was built in 1903 for President Theodore Roosevelt, the motive supporting the creation of the White House’s West Wing. Charles Follen McKim, of the famed architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, was the designer behind this largely used desk. McKim was also the designer of the original West Wing. The Roosevelt Desk had remained in the office for decades. Having served under Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. The desk had been brought out of storage by Harry S. Truman during his presidency, then storing it away once again in 1945 in the Oval Office. Ex-President Truman began a tradition of signing the inside of the top drawer. Dwight D. Eisenhower was yet another President who chose to use the desk as his official Oval Office workspace. Ever since then, this desk has remained in use by many Vice Presidents.


Photo via Wikipedia

 

The Resolute Desk has had its fair share of many different Presidential occupants throughout the years since the 1800s. This desk holds an abundance of history, including a very historic origin past. Along with the desk holding much history, it also has resulted in controversy.  The desk has only been used by 8 of the Presidents of the United States. It is currently in use by the current American President Joe Biden. 



 

 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images