Is it, or isn't it?
For many years, Gen. George Marshall’s Pentagon desk was on display in the Foundation Museum. Or so we thought.
The desk closely resembles the map table in the library, which was purchased by Gen. Phil Sheridan when the War Department built a new building in the late 1870s.
Sheridan used this as his desk, evidenced by the marks made by Sheridan’s gold spurs, which he insisted on wearing to work each day.
Marshall needed a conference/map table when he moved into his larger Pentagon office, and found Sheridan’s table in storage.
Michelle MacMahon, a researcher, has a desk similar in style to ours, which her father rescued from an auction of old Pentagon furniture in the 1960s. She visited the library, and we compared her desk to the one in the museum. While they were not identical, they appeared to have all come from the same set.
I looked at photos from the library collection with Michelle, and found one in a scrapbook of Marshall and actress Deanna Durbin that proved that while the desk the Foundation has is from the same set of furniture, it’s not Marshall’s desk as our desk has a different number of drawers.
So whose desk is it? We carefully removed drawers to see if there were any labels or information that would help us identify our desk, and we got lucky!
We learned that while the desk was not purchased by Sheridan with the map table, it was ordered several years later, and made in the style of the map table.
We discovered that it belonged to Secretary of War Henry Stimson when he served in the position the first time, 1911 through 1913, and also was used among others, by Secretary of War Elihu Root, and Secretary of War William Taft (later President of the United States).
It may not be Marshall’s desk, but it has a pretty illustrious history.
Before becoming director of library and archives at the George C. Marshall Foundation, Melissa was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with two large rescue dogs. Melissa is known as the happiest librarian in the world! Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.