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FDR's Death:  FDR's Oval Office Desk
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FDR's Oval Office Desk

Franklin Roosevelt used this desk and chair in the White House Oval Office throughout the 12 years he served as President of the United States. At this historic desk he signed the act creating the Tennessee Valley Authority, the declarations of war with Japan and Germany, the GI Bill, and other landmark laws. Here he also met with national and world leaders and presided over hundreds of press conferences.

The desk was used previously by President Herbert Hoover. It was presented to Hoover by the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturer's Association in 1930. When President Roosevelt took office he kept his predecessor's office furnishings.

The objects on the desk all belonged to FDR. They are arranged largely as they were at the time of his death.

The objects on the desk include:

Elephant figurine
This carved ivory elephant was given to FDR by F. Heimann of New York City.

Desk blotter pad
When FDR died on April 12, 1945, White House staff quickly removed all of the items from his Oval Office desk as they prepared the office for the new president, Harry S. Truman. However, they left one item behind - this leather desk blotter pad. At some point during April or May of 1945, President Truman gave the desk blotter pad to Eleanor Roosevelt. On May 24, 1945, White House reception clerk William D. Simmons forwarded it to the Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. The hole on the pad's right side was likely created by ashes from a presidential cigarette.

Calendar holder with six 1945 calendar cards
This wood calendar holder contains six calendar cards for 1945. An inscription on the holder's base indicates it was made in the White House carpentry shop by C.H. Shepard and I.M. Avery.

Stuffed elephant
According to Grace Tully, FDR's personal secretary, this elephant was among his favorite desk items. Periodically, it became dirty and was sent out for cleaning. Each time it shrank until it was half its original size. A visitor once asked Roosevelt about the emaciated elephant. "'Oh, I must tell you about him,' the Boss said eagerly. 'He's been around since I came to Washington...and every now and then either Missy [LeHand] or Grace [Tully] sends him to the dry cleaners and each time he comes back, he has another inch off until now you can see he's just about down to GOP size.'"

Paperweight
This metal and wood paperweight is designed like a bench mark. Bench marks are used by surveyors to mark the boundaries of surveyed property. The paperweight is inscribed: "U.S. General Land Office Survey-1941-Penalty $250 for Removal Franklin D. Roosevelt".

Missouri Mule figurine
Nuts and pipe cleaners were used to create this novelty figurine. Made by the St. Louis National Novelty Company, it is titled "Missouri Mule Downs ol' Man Depression".

Dog magnets
Set of Scottish terrier and West Highland terrier figurines mounted on magnets. The box for these magnets, which sits next to them, is labeled "Snooty Love Dogs". FDR kept these magnets on his Oval Office desk for years.

Ostrich figurines
These novelty figurines were constructed with burrs, pipe cleaners, and acorns. The letters "A R K" appear on the back of each ostrich's head. The meaning of these letters is not known.

Paperweight
An inscription on the bottom of this tin ingot paperweight reads; "Longhorn Tin Made in U.S.A.; Easter, 1942".

Desk fountain pens
Basil O'Connor presented this set of Waterman desk fountain pens to President Roosevelt as a birthday gift in January 1944. Daniel Basil O'Connor (1892-1972) was a longtime friend and political adviser to FDR. He was Roosevelt's law partner from 1925 to 1933, and later served as president of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis-March of Dimes drive against poliomyelitis.
President William Jefferson Clinton used one of these pens to sign the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 in a ceremony at the White House.

Three lead pencils
The yellow No. 2 pencil was manufactured by the Eagle Pencil Company. The larger patriotic pencil features the motto: "I Want Roosevelt Again for the Preservation of Democracy". The small striped pencil was made by Schwan, a pencil manufacturer in Bavaria.

Urn or oil lamp
Nothing is known about the history of this small metal urn or oil lamp.

Ash tray
Enameled copper ash tray with holder for cigarettes. Manufactured by the Duk-It McDonald Products Corporation of Buffalo, New York, the ash tray has a label that reads "The White House".

Commemorative half dollar coin
United States half dollar coin commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of New Rochelle, New York in 1688. New Rochelle was established by French Huguenots. FDR's Delano family was descended, in part, from French Huguenots and Walter G.C. Otto, chair of New Rochelle's anniversary committee, no doubt had this in mind when he visited FDR at the White House on May 16, 1938 and invited the President to attend the city's 250th anniversary banquet. Though Roosevelt was unable to attend, he did keep this commemorative coin, which was likely presented to him by Otto during his White House visit.

"Uncle Sam" glass hat
Dr. and Mrs. Charles Whelan sent this pressed glass novelty item to presidential secretary Marvin McIntyre on April 11, 1936 with a request: "May we ask, you place upon our President's desk this 'Uncle Sam's Hat'? Perhaps it can hold the ashes of a cigar, as he smokes and ponders the best interests of his fellow Americans." FDR later wrote to thank the Whelans for their gift. "It is sitting on my desk," he noted, "and holds plenty of cigarettes for my visitors." Charles Whelan served on the United States Board of Parole at the Justice Department. At some point the hat got chipped, but FDR continued to keep it on his desk.

Donkey figurine
Nothing is known about the history of this Italian-made terracotta donkey figurine.

Pig figurine
FDR enjoyed collecting pig figurines. Eleanor Roosevelt placed this hand carved wood pig in his Christmas stocking as a gift in 1937. The First Lady had admired the pig during a guided tour of a Rural Arts Exhibit staged in Washington D.C. It was made at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. The exhibit's organizer, Allen E. Eaton, gave the pig to her. When FDR opened his gift he reportedly said, "Don't let Henry see this," referring to Secretary of Agricultural Henry Wallace. Wallace led a controversial campaign to encourage farmers to destroy pigs to maintain pork prices.

Donkey and elephant figurines
Nothing is known about the history of these Japanese-made celluloid donkey and elephant figurines.

Desk thermometer
Desk thermometer sent to FDR as a gift by Marie L. McGinty on April 4, 1942. Printed on the reverse side of the thermometer: "Insurance Company of North America A Philadelphia Institution Since 1792".

Reclining pig figurines
FDR enjoyed collecting pig figurines. Grace Tully, his personal secretary, later recalled that "only the people closely associated with him knew about this interest. Sam and Dorothy Rosenman [Judge Samuel Rosenman was a long-time political adviser and speechwriter for FDR] gave him a whole flock of pottery pigs one Christmas...He had some on a ledge over his bedside table, some on his bedroom and study mantelpieces, some on the desk in his study and a few in the Executive Office."

Paperweight
This brass paperweight is shaped like a capstan. Capstans are used on ships to wind in ropes and cables. Desk items like this one reflect President Roosevelt's lifelong love the sea and sailing.

Miniature pig pitcher
FDR enjoyed collecting pig figurines. Grace Tully, his personal secretary, later recalled that "only the people closely associated with him knew about this interest. Sam and Dorothy Rosenman [Judge Samuel Rosenman was a long-time political adviser and speechwriter for FDR] gave him a whole flock of pottery pigs one Christmas...He had some on a ledge over his bedside table, some on his bedroom and study mantelpieces, some on the desk in his study and a few in the Executive Office."

Pill or snuff box
This silver box features an engraving of a British sailing vessel on its hinged lid. The initials "WP" are engraved on the front of the box. The identity of "WP" is not known.'

Ship's wheel cigarette lighter
Chrome-plated cigarette lighter in the form of a ship's wheel. The base of the lighter is marked: "Marine-Lighter Flint Fuel Made in U.S.A."

Snuff jar
Chinese glass snuff jar with cork stopper and bone applicator. Two scenes of Chinese children at play are painted on one side of the jar. Museum records indicate that this item may have been given to the President in 1942 by Catherine Derby of Bridgeton, New Jersey.

Pin cushion
Wood and velvet pin cushion manufactured by the Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut.

Naval shell base ash tray
FDR used this base from a naval shell as an ash tray. The shell base is stamped on the underside with an anchor and the letters: "J.R.D., J.R.L., N.G.F., 1935, 5 MARK V 38 cal."

Stamp gauge
FDR used this plastic "Roto Gage" stamp gauge when working on his large stamp collection. It was a gift from Joseph F. Fiala, a fifteen-year-old student in Cicero, Illinois. On November 17, 1937, Fiala wrote to FDR, noting their shared interest in stamp collecting. "Knowing that you are the nation's most prominent stamp collector," Fiala wrote, "it is my desire to present you with one of the latest type stamp gauges. I am a junior stamp collector and hold a very deep interest in this gauge, since the device was invented by my father, Joseph Fiala, Sr., to facilitate my efforts in stamp classification."

Desk stand with clock, barometer, calendar stand, and pen stand
This black marble desk stand includes a clock (upper left), barometer (upper right), calendar stand (center), and pen stand (lower right and left). An engraved plate mounted in the center reads: "Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt Christmas 1929".
This desk stand is part of a set of four black marble items on the President's desk that was presented to FDR as a gift in 1929. The others are: a letter holder, a rocker-style ink blotter, and a letter opener.

Letter holder
This letter holder with black marble base is part of a set of four black marble items on the President's desk. The others are: a desk stand with clock, barometer, and calendar stand; a letter stand; an ink blotter; and a letter opener. The set was presented to FDR as a gift in 1929 while he was serving as governor of New York State.

Ink blotter
This black marble rocker-style ink blotter is part of a set of four black marble items on the President's desk. The others are: a desk stand with clock, barometer, and calendar stand; a letter stand; a letter holder; and a letter opener. The set was presented to FDR as a gift in 1929 while he was serving as governor of New York.
Ink blotters were used to dry excess fountain pen ink without smearing a signature.

Letter opener
This black marble and stainless steel letter opener is part of a set of four black marble items on the President's desk. The others are: a desk stand with clock, barometer, and calendar stand; a letter stand; an ink blotter; and a letter holder. The set was presented to FDR as a gift in 1929 while he was serving as governor of New York State.

Model airplane propeller
FDR may have used this aluminum model airplane propeller as a letter opener. It was sent to him as a gift by Madeleine Par of Katonah, New York in August 1934. The propeller was made by the Hamilton Standard Propeller Company.

Letter opener made with White House wood
A metal plate on this wood letter opener reads: "This wood was part of the White House roof erected about 1817 and removed in 1927." President Roosevelt's daughter, Anna, later recalled that letter openers like this one were made in the White House carpentry shop for FDR, who presented them as gifts to visitors.

Letter opener
Souvenir letter opener commemorating the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany.

Donkey figurine
Little is known about the history of this ceramic donkey. It was manufactured by Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Carved wood donkey
This carved wood donkey is inscribed: "Democrat, 1932 Missouri". This item was on FDR's desk from the earliest days of his presidency.

Stuffed elephant
Mrs. Gadsden King of Charleston, South Carolina presented this elephant to FDR.

Rooster figurine
Nothing is known about the history of this ceramic rooster figurine. It was manufactured by Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ash tray with revolving match holder
This silverplate ash tray has a revolving match holder in its center. The tray is engraved: "President Franklin D. Roosevelt Merry Christmas Amon Carter 1937 Semper eadem". Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879-1955) was a Texas publisher and philanthropist whose foundation later created the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth in 1961. The Latin expression "Semper eadem" means "Always the same."

Pig salt and pepper shakers
Nothing is known about the history of these Mexican-made earthenware salt and pepper shakers. FDR enjoyed collecting pig figurines. Grace Tully, his personal secretary, later recalled that "only people closely associated with him knew about this interest. Samuel and Dorothy Rosenman [Samuel Rosenman was a political adviser and speechwriter for FDR] gave him a whole flock of pottery pigs one Christmas...He had some on a ledge over his bedside table, some on his bedroom and study mantelpieces, some on the desk in his study and a few in the Executive Office." These pigs may be part of the Rosenman "flock."

Leather folder with photographs of FDR's four sons
The Roosevelts' four sons - James (1907-1991), Elliott (1910-1990), Franklin Jr. (1914-1988), and John (1916-1981) - all served in America's military during World War II. FDR kept this framed leather folder with their photographs on his Oval Office desk. It was a gift from Jacob Levi of New York, who sent it to the President in June 1943 "with my sincerest admiration of you for your sons in the uniform of their country, and my deepest respect for you." Roosevelt wrote Levi that he was "perfectly thrilled" with the gift. At FDR's request, Levi created a duplicate folder for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Match box cover
This hammered pewter match box cover features a silhouette of the presidential yacht USS Sequoia on the top. Three crudely scratched figures on the bottom are labeled "Pewtercrats." An identical match box cover appears on the right side of the desk blotter pad.

Bronzed metal bookend
A maker's mark on the bottom of the bookend reads: "Revere Rome, N.Y."

The World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1945 (New York: New York World-Telegram, 1945).
President's Book Collection

Peter Mark Roget, Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872).
This book belonged to the President's father, who inscribed the inside cover: "James Roosevelt 1873". Under his father's signature, FDR added his own inscription: "Franklin D. Roosevelt 1914".
President's Book Collection

Official Congressional Directory 79th Congress 1st Session February 1945 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945).
President's Book Collection

Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, July 1, 1942 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1942).
Tabs and extensive notes throughout this book reflect Roosevelt's keen interest in U.S. Navy and Marine Corps appointments and promotions.
President's Book Collection

Sol Bloom, The Story of the Constitution (Washington D.C.: Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission, 1937).
President's Book Collection

Peter Mark Roget, Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (New York: William H. Wise and Co., 1937).
President's Book Collection

Senate Manual Containing the Standing Rules and Orders of the United States Senate (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944).
President's Book Collection

Cigarette case
Cigarette case with "FDR" monogrammed in gold on the top. Ten Camel cigarettes - FDR's favorite brand - are stored inside it. The interior of the case contains a facsimile signature: "Franklin D. Roosevelt".

Appointments easel
FDR used this leather appointments easel from 1933 until 1945 to display a typed record of his daily appointments. It contains a facsimile of his calendar for March 29, 1945, the last day he sat at this desk. Shortly after FDR's death, his personal secretary, Grace Tully, gave the easel to presidential adviser and speechwriter, Judge Samuel I. Rosenman, with a note that read: "I thought you might like to have in your possession this engagement pad which stood on the President's desk since he first came to Washington in 1933." In 1968, Judge Rosenman donated the easel to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum.

Water pitcher set
This water pitcher set-consisting of a stainless steel tray, a vacuum pitcher, and two water glasses-is on loan from the White House. It is similar to a set used by FDR at his Oval Office desk.

American flag with wood stand
This handmade silk and rayon American flag with wood staff and base appeared on FDR's desk for a number of years. On the evening of April 12, 1945, U.S. Army Colonel Egbert White was among a small group of people admitted to the Oval Office by White House reception clerk William D. Simmons to take a last look at the office as FDR maintained it. White said Simmons told the group they could each take an item from the desk if they wished. Colonel White selected this flag. In September 1969 he presented it as a gift to the Roosevelt Library.

Telephone
FDR's desk has no dialing apparatus, since the White House switchboard placed his outgoing calls. The phone was manufactured by the Northern Electric Company Limited of Canada.

Magnifying lens in metal base
FDR was an avid stamp collector whose personal collection eventually included nearly a million stamps. The President likely used this Bausch & Lomb lens to examine items from his collection.

Magnifying glass paperweight
In early 1933, optician Frank Edmonds of Washington D.C. sent FDR this "Magniwate" - a magnifying glass that also serves as a paperweight. Secretary to the President Stephen Early wrote Mr. Edmonds on April 13, 1933 to convey FDR's thanks "for the 'Magniwate,' which now has a place on his desk."

Bullet
Nothing is known about the history of this item.

Electric desk clock and penholder
This electric digital clock clock is housed in maroon leather and bears the presidential seal in gold. The leather clock case was made by Arthur Hertzberg & Craftsmen of Chicago and the clock mechanism by the Pennwood Electric Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
 
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