It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and was built from the English oak timbers of the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute. Franklin Roosevelt added a door with the presidential seal to hide his leg braces.
Many presidents since Hayes have used the desk at many locations in the White House.
The desk was removed from the White House after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when President Lyndon Johnson allowed it to go on a traveling exhibition with artifacts of the Kennedy Presidential Library. It was then put on display in the Smithsonian Institution.