Trump’s being slammed for this photo of his desk — here are past presidents’ desks for comparison

President Donald Trump's desk is missing something.

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President Donald Trump’s desk is missing something.
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The White House

  • US President Donald Trump was lambasted on social media after a photo in a White House handout showed him working during the government shutdown.
  • Online commenters pointed to Trump’s stiff posture and empty desk.
  • Trump’s desk has previously been busier, but his workspace lacks the family photos that previous presidents often showcased.

Your desk can shine a light on some of your work habits and personality traits.

So it’s not surprising that a recent photo of US President Donald Trump spawned several reactions on social media.

The photo, in a White House handout, shows Trump sitting at the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, the surface of which is mostly clear, aside from a phone. Trump is leaning forward in his chair, apparently listening to a phone call, while wearing a white “Make America Great Again” hat.

Some Twitter users speculated about whether the president was getting much done at all, pointing to his stiff posture and empty desk.

Honor Sachs, a history professor at Western Carolina University who wrote “Home Rule: Households, Manhood, and National Expansion on the Eighteenth-Century Kentucky Frontier,” compared Trump’s workspace with that of previous presidents, including Barack Obama’s tidy workspace and Teddy Roosevelt’s paper-strewn desk.

trump desk tweet

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Twitter/drhonor

Business Insider also found some photos of past president’s desks – photos that, of course, aren’t definitive portrayals of their typical workspaces. It’s relatively easy to move objects around and clear things when it comes time to sign a bill or pose for a photo op.

But it’s clear that Trump’s White House workplace setup lacks one element that past presidents have prominently featured: family photographs.

Here’s a look at some of the desks of previous US presidents.


In fairness, Trump’s desk hasn’t always appeared so clutter-free. Getty’s Drew Angerer captured stacks of files during the president’s contentious phone call in January 2017 with Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

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Drew Angerer / Getty Images

But the president’s desk is now barer than it was in his former spot in Trump Tower. That desk was piled high with papers and flanked by a row of trophies, photos, and bobblehead dolls on the windowsill.


In Barack Obama’s White House, pictures of the president’s family were prominently featured behind his desk.

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The White House

George W. Bush also displayed family photos, along with a bouquet of flowers, in 2004.

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Getty Images

Bill Clinton’s desk boasted a jumble of photos, busts, and picture frames in 2000.

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Getty Images / Staff

George H.W. Bush’s workspace looked a bit neater, as he kept his personal photos on a table behind his desk in 1989.


This strategy also worked for Ronald Reagan in 1981.


Even though this photo was taken as Gerald Ford prepared to vacate the White House, his desk still featured several stacks of papers, as well as a cup and saucer.


In this 1973 photo, Richard Nixon talks with Henry Kissinger over tea or coffee at his desk. On the table behind him is a bust of Abraham Lincoln, along with family photos.


When it came to John F. Kennedy’s workspace in 1962, one desk phone wasn’t enough.


In this similar shot, Kennedy’s predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, works on a desk featuring a phone, ink, and lots of documents.


Harry S. Truman’s desk also featured the familiar heaps of paper, with a table of mementos and family photos in the background.


Microphones from various news outlets lined Franklin D. Roosevelt’s desk as he prepared to make an announcement.


Herbert Hoover’s desk was aflutter with papers in 1932.

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Wikimedia Commons