Malia Obama Eyes Lincoln’s Desk

By Erin Carlson Mast

The Associated Press recently wrote an article about the Obama girls being expected to do chores while living at the White House. The article also touched on Malia Obama’s interest in using President Lincoln’s desk to write papers for school.

“Obama, who is known to be an avid reader of Lincoln history, said his daughter told him “I’m going to sit at that desk, because I’m thinking that will inspire big thoughts.”

During the interview, Obama described the desk as being the spot where Lincoln signed the Gettysburg Address. While there is a copy of the address on display in that room, it actually was the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves that Lincoln signed there.” (Associated Press)

The desk current sits in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House.  A little known fact is that Lincoln used that desk at the Soldiers’ Home–not the White House.  The desk was reportedly in the Cottage throughout the Civil War including the summer of 1862 when Lincoln was working on the Emancipation Proclamation.  In fact, the desk remained at the Soldiers’ Home until 1927, when the Home transferred the desk to the predecessor of the National Park Service, which was planning a Lincoln museum at that time.  In 1930, Mrs. Hoover requested the desk for her husband’s office and it has been in the White House ever since.

Director Frank Milligan, First Lady Laura Bush, and National Trust President Richard Moe view the desk in the Cottage.

Director Frank Milligan, Mrs. Bush, and National Trust President Richard Moe view the desk in President Lincoln's Cottage.

The White House allowed President Lincoln’s Cottage to commission a replica of the desk to use in the Cottage.    While discussing the Emancipation Proclamation, visitors can see the desk in its original context and hear the stories of what President Lincoln was dealing with in his first season living at Soldiers’ Home.

Ms. Mast is the Curator at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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