UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The President's Desk
Made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute -- one of the ships that carried Allsopp’s Arctic Ale
to the Northwest Passage.
In 1854, after The HMS Resolute was abandoned by Sir Edward Belcher it began to move slowly eastward in the pack ice, and by the autumn of 1855 was roughly 1,200 miles away from its original point of abandonment. In September 1855 an American whaler named James Buddington from New London, CT spotted The Resolute adrift in the pack ice off Cape Walsingham in the Davis Strait. He split up his crew and sailed her back to New London, arriving home on Christmas Eve 1855.
The Resolute was then purchased by the U.S. Congress and refurbished. It was Senator James Mason of Virginia who presented a bill in front of the U.S. Congress proposing that the government purchase The Resolute, refurbish her, and sail her back to Britain as a token of goodwill & friendship during a time when the U.S. and Britain were on the brink of war. Once the bill passed and more than $40,000 was authorized for the work, President Franklin Pierce signed it into law. The ship was subsequently purchased, fitted out and sent to England as a gift to Her Majesty Queen Victoria by the President and people of the United States.
After The Resolute was successfully sailed back to Britian, Queen Victoria celebrated the return of her beloved ship and returned it to service in the Royal Navy. After 23 more years in the Royal Navy, the Resolute had fallen behind the advances in technology and maritime ship-building, and it was at this time that the Queen ordered the ship removed from service, salvaged and broken up.
On November 2, 1880, a large crate arrived at the White House, its contents unknown to the recipients since there were no deliveries expected that day. (This was in the days before the Secret Service). President Rutherford Hayes stood by as workmen opened the mysterious package and inside found the most beautiful desk the President had ever seen, made from dark oak with repeating carved panels all around. He was delighted, but still did not know who had sent it until he noticed the brass plaque accompanying it that read: “Presented by the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland to the President of the United States.” As it turned out, this desk had been made by a skilled woodworker from the ship’s timbers when she was broken up, and was presented as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the original offer of the gift of the Resolute.