Names Listed inside the Desk Drawer
The easiest method of tracing the history of each desk is to read the names listed inside the desk drawers. It appears that these inscriptions are a 20th-century tradition, as the earliest recorded names date back only to the first decade of the 1900s. Not all of the names in the drawers were personally inscribed by senators. The names of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun appear in their desk drawers, but the signatures are not original. Many reveal an identical hand, suggesting either that older drawer bottoms were replaced and the names recopied, or that staff members, rather than senators, took responsibility for chronicling certain holders. In recent decades, senators have adhered more closely to a tradition of personally carving or inscribing their desk drawer.
One difficulty in verifying the desks’ 19th century assignees is the fact that for many years Senate doorkeepers closely guarded such privileged information. Isaac Bassett, who worked in the Senate Chamber from 1831 to 1895, feared that souvenir hunters might damage the historic furniture if it was widely known which pieces were used by such famous senators as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, or John C. Calhoun.