- Historic Sites
The Strange Saga Of The President’s Desk
From the End of the Earth to the Oval Office
October/november 1981 | Volume 32, Issue 6
The United States government purchased the Resolute from the owners of the George Henry for forty thousand dollars and, as a gesture of friendship, refitted the ship and gave her back to England in 1856.
When the Resolute was finally broken up more than twenty years later, Queen Victoria remembered the gesture. She ordered an oak desk, six feet long and four feet wide, to be made from the ship’s timbers, and in 1880 she gave it to President Rutherford B. Hayes “as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the ‘Resolute.’”
The desk has been used by every President from Hayes to Kennedy, and President Carter asked that it be returned to the Oval Office in January of 1977. It has stayed there ever since.