Resolute desk

The Resolute desk is a large,nineteenth-century partners' desk often chosen by presidents of the UnitedStates for use in the White House Oval Office as the Oval Office desk.

It was agift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B.

Hayes in 1880 and wasbuilt from the timbers of the British Arctic Exploration ship Resolute.

Franklin Roosevelt requested the addition of a door with the presidentialseal to conceal his leg braces.

Many presidents since Hayes have used thedesk at various locations in the White House, but it was Jackie Kennedy whofirst brought the desk into the Oval Office in 1961 for President John F.


It was removed from the White House only once, after the assassinationof President Kennedy in 1963, when President Johnson allowed the desk to goon a traveling exhibition with the Kennedy Presidential Library.

After thisit was on display in the Smithsonian Institution.

President Jimmy Carterbrought the desk back to the Oval Office, where Presidents Ronald Reagan,Bill Clinton and George W.

Bush used it.

It is currently in use by PresidentBarack Obama.

Description = Design = The original design plan and elevationfor the "President's Desk" were created on 9 September 1879.

They are now keptby the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, England and can be viewedonline = Plaque =A plate on the front of the desk presented to President Hayes bears thefollowing inscription: H.



RESOLUTE forming part of theexpedition sent in search of SIR JOHN FRANKLIN IN 1852, was abandoned inlatitude 74° 41' N longitude 101° 22' W on 15th May 1854.

She was discovered andextricated in September 1855 in latitude 67 degrees N by Captain Buddington ofthe United States Whaler "GEORGE HENRY.

" The ship was purchased, fitted out andsent to England as a gift to HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA by the PRESIDENT ANDPEOPLE of the UNITED STATES as a token of goodwill & friendship.

This table wasmade from her timbers when she was broken up, and is presented by the QUEENOF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES as amemorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of thegift of the "RESOLUTE.

" Plaques with similar messages werefitted onto each desk made, the Resolute Desk in the White House, QueenVictoria's writing table and the Grinnell desk.

= Modifications = The desk has been modified twice.

President Franklin D.

Roosevelt ordered a hinged front panel for the knee holeopening in order to hide his leg braces.

The panel features the presidentialseal—one of only three of the ninety-seven in the White House thathave the eagle's head turned towards the 13 arrows in the eagle's left talon, asopposed to the now-official arrangement with the eagle turned towards the olivebranch in the right talon with the 13 leaves.

The second modification was done to raise the desk by adding a separate,uniform base to the desk, called a plinth.

The first time a base was madefor the Resolute Desk was during the John F.

Kennedy Administration.

Thisbase was made of pine and did not match the desk very well.

That base is veryvisible in the famous photo of John F.

Kennedy Jr.

playing under the ResoluteDesk.

In January 1977, President Carter requested the desk be sent back to theWhite House from the Smithsonian Institution.

Photos fromJanuary–February 1977 show the Resolute Desk being used with a base, but thebase had been removed by late May of that year, when it was photographedwithout it.

White House record photos from early in Ronald Reagan'spresidency, one as late as October 23, 1981, show the desk being used without abase.

President Reagan requested that the desk be raised higher since he washitting his legs on the top of the knee hole.

The White House's earliest imageof the desk with a base during the Reagan Administration is dated August13, 1982.

A new, better-fitting base was built for the desk in 1986, and thatbase has remained with the desk since that time.

History = HMS Resolute =HMS Resolute was part of a five-ship squadron under Edward Belcher sent fromBritain in April 1852 to search for the missing British explorer Sir JohnFranklin, who had left Britain in 1845 in search of the fabled NorthwestPassage through the Canadian Arctic.

The Western Division of the squadron,consisting of HMS Resolute and HMS Intrepid under Captain Kellett'scommand, sailed West and wintered at Deally Island off Melville Island.

TheEastern Division, consisting of HMS Assistance and Pioneer under Sir EdwardBelcher's command, sailed North up the Wellington Channel and wintered nearNorthumberland Sound.

The men spent the autumn of 1852, and the spring andsummer of 1853 sledging across the Arctic in search of the FranklinExpedition, as well as the men on HMS Investigator, and HMS Enterprise.

Afterfinding and rescuing McClure and the crew of Investigator, Resolute andIntrepid sailed east, but had to winter in the pack ice, gradually moving Eastall winter.

Belcher's two ships moved south in the Wellington Channel beforebeing frozen in again near Disaster Bay.

In the spring of 1854 Belcher orderedthe abandonment of four of his five ships, and the men gathered at BeecheyIsland.

Ironically, by the time they were ready to leave, both Assistance andPioneer had broken free and had traveled 45 miles South in the Wellington Channeluntil they were only a few miles from Beechey Island.

This made no differenceto Belcher who was simply desperate to go home.

Since he had made his two ships"hells afloat" as he always did, his men were also desperate to leave.

However,Kellett only abandoned Resolute and Intrepid under protest.

The officers andmen returned home on HMS North Star and the relief ships HMS Phoenix and HMSTalbot.

As a matter of course in the Royal Navy,all captains who lost ships were tried by Courts-Martial.

And so Belcher wastried by court-martial for abandoning the four seaworthy vessels, as wereResolute's captain, Henry Kellett; Intrepid 's commander, Francis LeopoldMcClintock; and Pioneer 's commander, Sherard Osborn.

All were acquitted.

Belcher, however, never received another commission and was scorned by theofficers of his Court-Martial when they returned his sword to him in completesilence.

Resolute continued to move slowly eastward in the pack ice, and oneyear later in the autumn of 1855 she was 1200 miles away from the place where shehad been abandoned.

In September 1855 an American whaler named James Buddington,from New London, CT saw Resolute adrift in the pack ice off Cape Walsingham inDavis Strait.

He split his crew and sailed her back to New London, arrivinghome on Christmas Eve.

Buddington's ship, George Henry, had precededResolute, and many were beginning to wonder if Buddington was still alive.

The British government waived all claims to the ship upon learning of its arrivalin New London.

The relationship between Britain andAmerica was at a breaking point when Buddington salvaged Resolute.

They wereon the brink of their third war.

President Franklin Pierce addressedCongress to say he had ceased to have diplomatic relations with Britain.

Heclosed the British embassies and sent the ambassadors home.

Tensions continuedto mount.

Suddenly one of the most vocal hawks, Senator James Murray Mason, fromVirginia, proposed a bill in Congress for the government to buy Resolute,refurbish her, and sail her back to Britain as a present.

The bill passed,authorizing more than $40,000 for the work, and President Pierce signed itinto law.

Resolute was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she underwenta complete refit, and Commander Henry Hartstene USN, sailed her back toBritain, arriving at Spithead on December 12, 1856.

After Resolute wastowed to Cowes so that the Queen and Prince Albert could tour her, CaptainHarstene presented the ship to Queen Victoria as a gesture of peace andgood-will on December 17, 1856.

Soon the talk of war ceased, and the gift ofResolute was seen as instrumental in the easing of these tensions.

HenryGrinnell, a New York merchant and ship owner who had grown up in New Bedford,had supported the purchase of Resolute to be used as the gift, and both he andLady Franklin had hoped the Navy would use the ship for a new search for SirJohn Franklin's expedition.

However, by 1856 the Royal Navy was no longerwilling to spend money on what they now believed would be a fruitless search.

Itwas impossible to believe that any of the Franklin men could still be aliveeleven years after they entered the Arctic.

Belcher's abandonment of fourseaworthy ships was the last straw.

Nor was the Navy willing to let LadyFranklin use Resolute for a privately funded search.

Britain could not risklosing Resolute after the important role the ship had played in smoothing theturbulent waters between her and America.

Resolute stayed in home watersuntil she was taken to the breaker's dock at Chatham Dockyard in 1879.

= Presidential desk = President John F.

Kennedy first placedit in the Oval Office in 1961.

Some presidents, such as George H.


Bush,have used the desk in their private study rather than the Oval Office.

Thedesk left the White House from 1963 until President Carter brought it backto the Oval Office.

Since then, former presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton,George W.

Bush, and the current president Barack Obama have used it inthe Oval Office.

When president Lyndon B.

Johnson tookoffice in 1963, he found he was too large for the desk, and insteadcommissioned a plainer replacement which was built for him by the Senate cabinetshop.

Richard Nixon, who succeeded Johnson in 1969, used the Wilson desk,the desk from the Vice President's Room at the United States Capitol, which hehad used as Eisenhower's Vice President and believed to be that of formerpresident Woodrow Wilson.

Gerald Ford, who succeeded to the presidency in 1974following the resignation of Nixon, used the Wilson desk throughout his term.

Jimmy Carter, Ford's successor, brought the Resolute desk back to the OvalOffice, where it remained until George H.


Bush returned the Wilson desk tothe Senate, preferring the C&O desk that he used while serving as Vice Presidentduring the Reagan Administration.

Bill Clinton subsequently brought theResolute desk back again to the Oval Office, where it has remained since.

In 2009, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, visited President Barack Obamaand gave him the original framed commissioning papers for Resolute and anornamental pen holder made from the timbers of HMS Gannet.

HMS Gannet wasnot a sister ship to the Resolute, as has been widely reported.

Her onlyconnection with Resolute was that the Gannet was launched from the ChathamDockyard, which was the same dockyard where Resolute was decommissioned.

Gannet was launched in 1878 long after the cross Atlantic slave trade was madeillegal, and also many years after the American Civil War.

Therefore, she wasnot used in anti-slavery work in connection to these markets.

She did,however, patrol the Mediterranean Sea and prevented slave trade there.

Other Resolute desks After Resolute was broken up, QueenVictoria asked for several desks to be built from her timbers.

Four desks weredesigned and made by William Evenden.

A large partners desk was presented toPresident Rutherford B.

Hayes on 23 November 1880, while a smaller lady'sdesk was presented to the widow of Henry Grinnell; this desk is now in the NewBedford Whaling Museum.

Finally, the queen had two desks made for herself:one similar to the one given to the president and people of the UnitedStates, currently in Windsor Castle; and a writing table, which she had made forher private yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert II.

This writing table is in thecollection of the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.

The existence of the "(almost) twin" desk, the one similar to the desk givento the US President, has been denied by the Royal Collection at St James'sPalace in London.

Replicas There are exact replicas of the Resolute desk on display in at least fivepresidential libraries.

The desk at the John F.

Kennedy Presidential Library wasrecreated by Robert Whitley.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in SimiValley, California; the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda,California; and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, includereplicas of the Resolute desk.

The desks at the William J.

Clinton PresidentialCenter and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas was made by Presidents Desk in Canada.

The George and Barbara Bush Center at the University of New England, Maine,were produced by History Company of Ithaca, New York, at the KittingerCompany of Buffalo, New York.

A video clip of the desk in production can beviewed at History Company.

The George W.

Bush Presidential Center includes arecreation of the Oval Office that features a replica of The Resolute Deskhand-carved by Eli Wilner & Company.

A few independent museums also displayreplicas, including The Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont, Florida, TheQuality West Wing Foundation Museum in Corona, California, a children'seducational program focusing on U.


government, history, and the Presidency;along with the educational program there is a replica of the Oval Officeavailable by appointment; the Treehouse Children's Museum, in Ogden, Utah, whichfeatures a small-scale Oval Office; and a full-scale replica of the Oval Officeopen to the public at the American Village in Montevallo, Alabama.

Replicas of the Resolute desk have appeared in many movies.

The desk was akey plot device in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, in which a secretcompartment in the desk contained pieces of a clue to the location of treasure.

The film also features another desk made from HMS Resolute, situated inBuckingham Palace, which was made for the personal use of Queen Victoria.

See also Bureau du RoiHenry VIII's writing desk List of Oval Office desksUnited Kingdom–United States relations References Sources consulted and recommended readingEndnotes External links John F.

Kennedy, Jr.

peeking out of "secret door" in Resolute deskOnline White House Museum page on the Resolute deskOfficial Custom Replica of the Resolute Desk from the White House Gift ShopThe Resolute desk is at 38.

89734°N 77.

03742°W / 38.

89734; -77.


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