Oval Office Desk Trivia

Imagine that you are about to move into the Oval Office. In addition to choosing the types of portraits and art you'll wish to hang therein, you'll also have to think about what desk you might decide to use. Your options will be a bit limited. You can choose between four desks with a lot of history behind them: the Theodore Roosevelt Desk, the C&O Desk, the Wilson Desk, or the Resolute Desk. Of course, you can always bring in your own desk.

Original Desk

The Theodore Roosevelt Desk was the original desk used in the West Wing of the White House. The desk was created for Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 and used within the Oval Office by presidents Eisenhower, Truman, FDR, Hoover, Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, and Taft. Nixon used this desk in his working office as separate from the Oval Office. Nixon's working office was located in Room 180 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It is believed that Nixon stored the Watergate tapes in a drawer of this desk, concealed in some type of apparatus. The Theodore Roosevelt Desk's chief attribute is that is has a large desktop.

The C&O Desk was used in the Oval Office in recent times by George H. W. Bush, who brought it over from his Capitol-based vice presidential office. The desk is a very nice reproduction of the sort of double pedestal desk made in 18th century England. The desk has the same number of drawers on either side and was created circa 1920 for the owners of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. After its donation to the White House, the desk was used by presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan in the West Wing Study.

Wrong Wilson

The Wilson Desk was used by Presidents Nixon and Ford in the Oval Office. Nixon used this desk while he was still located in the Capitol as vice president. He asked that he be able to bring it to the white House. Nixon developed an attachment to this desk because he believed it had once been owned by Woodrow Wilson. However, the 1969 edition of the Public Papers of the Presidents stated that the Wilson who had used the desk was Vice President Henry Wilson who served during the administration of President Grant.

The Resolute Desk is meant to accommodate partners working on either side and is therefore known as a partner’s desk. Franklin D. Roosevelt used this desk but opted to add a panel decorated with the President's Seal to hide his leg braces from view as well as to hide a safe. Presidents have used the desk since 1880, though Kennedy was the first president to give it pride of place in the Oval Office. After Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush all used the Resolute Desk inside the Oval Office.

Lyndon Johnson chose to BYOD (bring your own desk). Johnson's desk now sits in a replica of the Oval Office located in Austin's LBJ museum. Some swear that the former president used to sit behind the desk at the museum, taking delight in the surprise of the museum visitors who would see him ensconced there.