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President's Room Table: A Civil Rights Landmark?

Eyewitness Account

President Lincoln's private secretary describes the events surrounding the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln's study at the White House.

"Mr. Lincoln took the various manuscript notes and memoranda which his Cabinet advisers brought him on the 31st of December and during that afternoon and the following morning with his own hand carefully rewrote the entire body of the draft of the proclamation....

"No ceremony was made or attempted of this final official signing. The afternoon was well advanced when Mr. Lincoln went back from his New Year's greetings, with his right hand so fatigued that it was an effort to hold the pen. There was no special convocation of the Cabinet or of prominent officials. Those who were in the house came to the executive office merely from the personal impulse of curiosity joined to momentary convenience.

"His signature was attached to one of the greatest and most beneficent military decrees of history in the presence of less than a dozen persons; after which it was carried to the Department of State to be attested by the great seal and deposited among the archives of the Government."

-Nicolay, John G. and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln, A History, vol. 6 (1890).

Historical Images

The President's Room, 1865

The President's Room, 1865

Note the small, oval table in this image from 1865.

The President's Room, 1877

The President's Room, 1877

This image from 1877 shows a rectangular table, with square corners.

The President's Room, 1901

The President's Room, 1901

This 1901 photograph shows the table currently in the President's Room. Note that the table is lozenge-shaped, with long straight sides and rounded ends. This table does not appear in images of the President's Room until after 1877.