Deciding what to call a new business can be interesting. Sometimes it’s a word deemed “catchy”, or maybe it is an owner’s name, or it can simply be the type of service provided. For the partners of RESOLUTE, a leading governmental advocacy firm in Sacramento, the name has evolved more into a statement of core values.
RESOLUTE: purposeful, determined, unwavering, steadfast, tenacious
These guiding principles influence our work with the California state government on behalf of our clients every day. However, the use of the word is certainly not ours alone. It carries with it an intriguing look into the history of the United States.
As the country witnesses an inauguration this week, the Oval Office will welcome a new President to sit behind the Resolute desk. Many presidents have used the Resolute desk in the Oval Office or within their study at the Residence of the White House. According to the official White House Museum’s telling, it was made from the timbers of HMS Resolute, a mid-19th-century barque-rigged ship of the British Royal Navy, specially outfitted for Arctic exploration. Resolute became trapped in the ice and was abandoned in 1854. Recovered by an American whaler, she was returned to Queen Victoria in 1856. When the ship was retired, Queen Victoria commissioned a desk to be constructed by William Evenden, Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham England. This Resolute desk was presented to President Hayes in 1880.
The desk has twice been modified. Franklin Roosevelt requested that the kneehole be fitted with a modesty panel carved with the presidential seal but he did not live to see it installed. However, President Truman liked the eagle motif and had it installed when he came into office in 1945. Since this was prior to Truman’s decision to turn the head of the eagle in the presidential seal to face the olive branch of peace, the eagle in the Resolute’s modesty panel faces the arrows of war.
Every president since Hayes—except Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford—has used the Resolute desk. The desk was made famous in part by a photograph of John Kennedy at work while his son, John Jr., peeked out the front through the kneehole panel.
Inscribed into the desk itself, a plaque reads:
“H.M.S. ‘Resolute’, forming part of the expedition sent in search of Sir John Franklin in 1852, was abandoned in Latitude 74º 41′ N. Longitude 101º 22′ W. on 15th May 1854. She was discovered and extricated in September 1855, in Latitude 67º N. by Captain Buddington of the United States Whaler ‘George Henry’. The ship was purchased, fitted out and sent to England, as a gift to Her Majesty Queen Victoria by the President and People of the United States, as a token of goodwill & friendship. This table was made from her timbers when she was broken up, and is presented by the Queen of Great Britain & Ireland, to the President of the United States, as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the “Resolute’.”
Know an interesting bit of political trivia yourself? Please share with a reply!