White House Timbers Gavel
Relic Presentation Gavel c. 1948-52

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Gavel from White House Timbers
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Gavel from White House Timbers
Washington, D.C.: c. 1948-1952
10 inches long, 3 inches head
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

A pine gavel of typical form, with simply turned head and handle, having a typed paper label glued in the center band of the mallet head and multi-colored ribbons tied in a bow under the head. It was made of relic White House wood and issued as a commemorative presentation or souvenir.

The White House suffered considerable damage during the War of 1812, and by the early 20th century, major structural restoration of the building became necessary.  Some reconstruction took place in 1902 and 1927 and White House relic wood gavels from roof materials were issued at that time by various organizations, who affixed their own labels or metal plates with commemorative inscriptions.  The most commonly encountered example from this period, a simple pine gavel, has a silvered band inscribed as follows: “‘Certified by Centuries’/ Northern White Pine after 112 Years Service/ The White House Roof 1815 to 1927/ National Lumber Manufacturers Association.”

In 1948, when Harry S. Truman moved in to the White House, he ordered engineering reports which revealed remaining serious structural problems.  From 1948 to 1952, further major renovations were undertaken to correct them.  As in the 1920s renovation, 19th century “White House wood” was salvaged to make gavels.  Gavels from this period are in a variety of turned forms and finishes, and usually have a brass band centered by a raised Presidential seal and imprinted “Original White House Material/ Removed in 1950.”  Generally they are pine, some with enhanced grain painting, but others were made of rosewood, probably from an interior wood that was removed during renovation.  These gavels were presented as mementos to various people by members of Truman’s cabinet, and by members of Congress (as indicated by labels and tags on extant examples).   Presumably Truman himself presented some of the gavels as well.  It is possible that gavels of White House wood produced during the Truman administration were also sold as souvenirs.

Inscription on Label: "Wood taken from The White House built in 1794. Compliments of the Board for Vocational Education."


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