The Stirrup Gallery Displaying Congressional Desks Dating to 1800s

Date Posted: 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ELKINS - A piece of American history used by lawmakers more than 150 years ago is now on display in The Stirrup Gallery in Myles Center for the Arts on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. A pair of desks from the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber serves as a reminder of the growth of our nation in the early years.

The desks and chairs were part of the Chamber furnishings from 1857-1873 and were replaced with new compact designs to accommodate the increasing number of representatives. When U.S. Sen. Henry G. Davis retired from public office in 1883, he brought the double desk and chairs to Graceland.

“The double desk and chairs are part of the Senator Davis family history,” said Mark Lanham, ’14, coordinator of special collections at D&E. “Along with several other family artifacts on display in The Stirrup Gallery, these items help tell the story of one of the College’s founding families.”

Designed by Architect of the Capitol Thomas U. Walter in Renaissance Revival style, the oak desks feature ornate details. The U.S. Office of Art and Archives states that, “The concept of Manifest Destiny — the nation’s ambition to expand westward across the continent — is illustrated on the desk fronts, which are decorated with a carved globe with ‘America’ emblazoned across it. A shield with stars and stripes is carved above the globe, on the top rail, emphasizing the Union.”

The matching chairs have a similar decorative element with a stars-and-stripes shield flanked by an oak branch and a laurel branch.

According to the U.S. Office of Art and Archives, the desks were occupied by congressmen from New York, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota, North Carolina and Nevada. From 1867 to 1868, Congressman Daniel Polsley of West Virginia was assigned to one of the desks.

The furnishings, along with collections representing more than 14,000 years of history and culture, can be viewed at The Stirrup Gallery from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For additional information, call Lanham at 304-637-1980 or 304-642-6705 or visit

Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington,

D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at or call 304-637-1243. 


Photo Caption: A double desk and chairs that were part of the furnishings for the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber between 1857 and 1873 are on display in The Stirrup Gallery in Myles Center for the Arts on the campus of Davis & Elkins College.

Davis & Elkins College The Stirrup Gallery