Franklin D. Roosevelt working at the Hoover desk in the Oval Office
|Designer||J. Stuart Clingman|
(built by the Robert W. Irwin Company)
|Date||1930; 91 years ago|
|Materials||American lumber, faced with Michigan-grown maple|
|Style / tradition||block front desk|
|Width||82 in (210 cm)|
|Depth||42 in (110 cm)|
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The Hoover desk is a large block front desk, designed by J. Stuart Clingman and built by the Robert W. Irwin Company, used by Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Oval Office as their Oval Office desk. Created in 1930 as a part of a 17-piece office suite by furniture makers from Grand Rapids, Michigan, it was given to the White House by the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association. The Hoover desk is one of only six desks to be used by a President in the Oval Office.
Design and markings
The Hoover desk is a large, 82-inch-wide (210 cm) and 42-inch-deep (110 cm), traditionally designed desk. It was designed by J. Stuart Clingman and was created in the 'Royal' plant of the Robert W. Irwin Company. Taking design cues from both Queen Anne and Colonial New England furniture styles, the desk has a block front design motif and has three drawers in each pedestal as well as a center drawer. The drawers swell outward and the desk has intricated, tooled designs, as well as hand-wrought bronze trimmings. The desk is made completely of American lumber, faced with Michigan-grown mapleburlwood veneer, and finished in a rich French Walnut tone. The desk has an engraved plate attached to it which states: 'This desk presented to the President of the United States by the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association. It is made entirely of American woods. All exterior parts are Michigan Maple. A.D. 1930.'
At about 8:00 pm on Christmas Eve, 1929, a fire began in the attic of the West Wing. Due to some quick thinking and a tarpaulin, George Akerson managed to save the Theodore Roosevelt desk, but the executive offices were heavily damaged. By 10:30 the fire was extinguished but not before the roof, attic, floors, and press room of the West Wing were ruined. The building was repaired and on April 14, 1930, President Herbert Hoover moved back into the newly constructed Oval Office.
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With the opening of the newly repaired and renovated Oval office, Hoover was given a 17-piece office suite, made by furniture makers from Grand Rapids, Michigan, by the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association, to furnish the space. The Wilson Desk was the centerpiece of this office suite. Designed to give 'the appearance of a well preserved suite of Colonia Furniture,' the furniture was built by a variety of manufactures in Grand Rapids including the Robert W. Irwin Company, the Mueller Furniture Company, and the Grand Rapids Furniture Company. According to an article in the Grand Rapids Spectator from the time, in addition to the desk the full set consists of a 'davenport, a club chair, two large and one smaller wing chairs, two tables, a swivel desk chair, two armchairs, two bookcases, a small table and three smoking stands of two sizes.' Preliminary sketches of the designs for all the furniture pieces were submitted to President Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover for approval before construction on them began. The Hoovers also selected the fabric that the chairs were upholstered in. All the pieces have uniform finishes and carry a common design language.
During Hoover's presidency a telephone was installed on the Hoover desk; the first to be installed on a president's desk.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office after Hoover, he decided to keep the same furnishings and furniture in the Oval Office as his predecessor. During FDR's 12 years as president he signed many landmark bills on this desk including the act to create the Tennessee Valley Authority,the G.I. Bill, the declaration of war on Japan, and the declaration of war on Germany. Over the course of his presidency he gathered a collection of objects that he displayed on the desk.
After Roosevelt's sudden death in 1945 Harry Truman became president, and on his first day he cleared off the Hoover desk, had it removed from the Oval Office, and replaced it with the Theodore Roosevelt desk. Truman gave the Hoover desk, the office chair Roosevelt used at the desk, and the objects Roosevelt displayed on the desk to the former presidents wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. The desk and chair were presented to Mrs. Roosevelt and shipped up to her home in Hyde Park, New York. She donated both the desk and chair to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum where both have been on display ever since. As of 202, The Hoover desk, the chair Roosevelt used with it, and a selection of objects on the desk at the time of his death are on display in a glass vitrine at the library. The Roosevelt Library one of two presidential libraries displaying the desk the president used instead of a replica (the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is the other, which displays the Johnson desk).
In 1962, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum opened and contained a small replica of the Oval Office as it appeared during the Hoover administration. A replica Hoover desk was not used, but the display instead housed the desk Hoover used in his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria hotel where he lived after his Presidency.
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- ^ abcdefg'President Hoover's Executive Office Suite'. Grand Rapids Spectator. June 28, 1930. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- ^Good Furniture and Decoration Volume 35. p. 108. National Building Publications. 1930. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- ^Treese, Joel D.; Phifer, Evan (February 9, 2016). 'The Christmas Eve West Wing Fire of 1929'. White House Historical Association. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- ^ abcd'FDR's Death: FDR's Oval Office Desk'. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- ^Monkman, Betty C. The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families.White House Historical Association. Abbeville Press. New York. 2000. p. 211-212. ISBN0-7892-0624-2.
- ^Years of Leadership 1928-1933. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- ^FDR's Oval Office Desk. National Park Service. August 21, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- ^ abcdEber, Herman. Artifact Highlight: FDR’s Oval Office Desk. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. May 27, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
- ^Leuchtenburg, William E. (2015). In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 13. Retrieved January 18, 2017 – via Google Books.
- ^Years of Struggle and Acclaim 1933-1964. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
- ^Ranger Peter. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. 'Since 1909 the official workspace of the President of the United States has been the famous 'Oval Office' in the West Wing of the White House.' Facebook status update. December 9, 2020.
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- Media related to Hoover desk at Wikimedia Commons