The National Trust for Historic Preservation utilized master craftsmen to replicate the desk on which Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, perhaps the most important document of his presidency. Now, 144 years later, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has unveiled a replica of the desk he used. This will be on display at the Lincoln Cottage in Washington, DC.

To create the replica, the National Trust hired Fred Hoover and Rob McCullough of R. M. McCullough & Co., Christiana, PA.

“We were given the opportunity to look at the desk,” says Hoover, business partner to McCullough. “We spent that time photographing the desk in great detail. We also took measurements of everything that we could possibly measure. We took impressions of the mouldings in clay so we could replicate them.”

“Hoover and McCullough were wonderful,” remarks Bobbie Greene McCarthy, executive director of Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “They do unbelievable carvings.”

After painstakingly studying the original, Hoover says he and McCullough used a combination of hand crafted and modern techniques to create the replica. “We mill our stock from modern machinery and then we take it to a point where we use hand techniques as well,” Hoover remarks.

Because they could not find an exact replica, Hoover says he had to make the desk’s hinges completely by hand, cutting and fabricating them from solid steel.

“Our entire goal was to make it as entirely accurate as possible,” Hoover adds. “The National Trust desired that we replicate the desk as it would have been during Lincoln’s use of it. The actual desk currently has more wear and tear on it, and more distressing. The one that we built is relatively clean as far as the dents and scratches.”

Another aspect of the replica that differs from the original is the drawer pulls.

“One of the differences between our desk and the one in the White House is that the one in the White House has had its drawer pulls replaced by brass, which was not used at the time of Lincoln,” explains McCarthy. “In a later administration, when brass was fashionable, they took off the carved wood drawer pulls and replaced them with brass.”

“We speculated what would have been there and at this point it was somewhat speculation, but it was also based on research we have done and other desks (from that time period) that we have seen,” Hoover says about the replica’s carved wood drawer pulls.

The replica, as on the original desk, is made mostly of walnut with the interior of the lower portion of the desk and the drawer sides made from poplar.

McCarthy says the 16th president spent approximately 25 percent of his presidency at the Lincoln Cottage, staying there from June to November of 1862 to 1864. During that time, White House staff would transport Lincoln’s furnishings to the cabin.

For more information on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the replica of the Lincoln desk or the Lincoln Cottage visit

Top, The original desk on which Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation sits in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. Bottom, The woodworkers who created the

replica of the desk took photos, measurements, and molds of

the original to produce as exact a replica as possible.  

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