Desk Musings

McNair desk

Desk used by Robert McNair as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the S.C. House of Representatives

Desks are important. 

When I visit someone’s office, I always note the person’s desk and try to glean some sense of the person from their desk and what they keep on it.  President Calvin Coolidge once said, “We need more of the Office Desk and less of the Show Window in politics.  Let men in office substitute the midnight oil for the limelight.”

When I worked as Curator of Manuscripts at the South Caroliniana Library, I was privileged to use a desk from the U.S. Senate’s Russell Office Building identical to that used by Senator Olin Johnston.  It was a most imposing desk and I loved its history.  At home I have two desks, a roll-top made in Glasgow, Scotland, around 1890, and a Stickley Brothers library table from around 1910. 

Patterson desk

The desk used by Liz Patterson as a member of the S.C. Senate

When we inaugurated SCPC, I imagined that we would acquire members’ desks and that, in time, each of our staff would work at a historic desk.  We acquired our first one with the receipt of former Governor Bob McNair’s papers, when he gave us a beautiful large desk which he had used as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the S.C. House of Representatives.  We used it in our reading room for years, and when we moved into the Hollings Library, it became the desk in our VIP Office.

Recently we received another desk from the Honorable Liz Patterson; the one she used as a member of the S.C. Senate.  This particular desk is smaller than McNair’s because it was the one she occupied among the many on the floor of the Senate.  Immediately we placed it in SCPC’s Seminar Room, where visitors and staff are able see it.

In many ways a desk is a tool.  What does your desk say about you?

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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