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Latin Mottoes
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Related
 Wild Turkey
 President's Seal
 Sightings
   Resolute Desk

Related
 Wild Turkey
 President's Seal
 U.S. Constitution
 Sightings
 Resources

The Resolute Desk

The Resolute desk of the President

This desk was made from the timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, a British ship abandoned by its crew in 1854 after it became stuck in the Arctic ice. An American ship found it the next year and brought it to Connecticut.

Congress spent $40,000 to rescue, repair, and completely refit the ship which was then given to the Queen of England as a token of friendship and goodwill.

After the H.M.S. Resolute was decommissioned, Queen Victoria had a desk made from its timbers. She presented the richly carved "Resolute desk" to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.

The desk originally had a kneehole, a space in the center, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested the kneehole be fitted with a modesty panel with the Seal of the President carved on it. (He preferred people not see his leg braces and often placed a waste basket in front of his desks.)

FDR did not live to see the new panel installed, but Harry Truman liked the eagle motif and had it installed when he became President in 1945.

NOTE: The Seal of the President carved on the Resolute desk shows the eagle facing the bundle of arrows in its left talon. President Truman changed the design in 1945, so the eagle faces the olive branch in its right talon, as it has always done on the Great Seal.

Every President since Hayes – except Johnson, Nixon, and Ford – has used the Resolute desk, although some chose to use it in their private study instead of the Oval Office.

As above, so below...

In this famous photo, President Kennedy works at the Resolute desk while his son John Jr. peeks out through the open kneehole panel (that has the seal on it).

Images: White House Museum