Federal agents have recovered and returned to the White House a rocking chair belonging to President Theodore Roosevelt, one piece of what historians said is an unknown trove of White House property gone missing since the 18th century.
The chair was recovered by the U.S. General Services Administration Inspector General after it was discovered being sold at auction in Atlanta. Internal agency memos obtained by the News4 I-Team said, “In October 2012, a rocking chair that is part of the White House Collections was being offered for auction.” The memos also said, “The auction was terminated after the auction house was contacted by the White House Office of Counsel.”
Federal investigators said the chair was removed from the White House in the 1960s by an employee who was likely told he had permission to take the chair home. After the chair’s recovery from a family member of that employee, the case was closed.
“The worker brought the chair home and restored it," General Services Administration Inspector General special agent Lee Quintyne said. "They actually kept it in their family until it was put for auction in Atlanta.”
No criminal charges were warranted, federal investigators told the I-Team.
The White House curator’s office in a report produced for the News4 I-Team said, “This Windsor-style rocking chair was at one time located in President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt’s bedroom. It may be from among five chairs purchased in November 1901 from The Old Virginia Antique Company in Washington. It bears a brass identifying plate which reads: 'Executive Mansion/ Theodore Roosevelt/ Cmr. P.B.& G. Theo. A. Bingham' [Commissioner Public Buildings & Grounds, Theodore A. Bingham]. This label was used on White House furniture in 1901.”
The White House said the chair is being held in a White House storage area. The General Services Administration Inspector General’s office appraised its value at $2,500.
The chair is one of an unknown number White House pieces that disappeared before White House staffers began more closely tracking property in 1961, according to historians.
The White House Historical Association, a nonprofit organization which helps in the preservation of White House history, said it has spent $42 million acquiring pieces for the White House collection. That includes some White House items from before 1961, in which the locations or owners of the items are known. Among other items, the association has recently obtained a dining room piece of President James K. Polk, a custard cup of President Abraham Lincoln and a chair of President William McKinley’s.
The White House curator’s office said, “When the curator’s office was created in 1961, the historical importance of numbered objects was emphasized, even though many of the objects just seemed like household property.” Historians said, before 1961, staff often collected and removed White House property at the end of each presidency.
But the I-Team’s review found no federal agency regularly investigating and searching for lost White House property. The General Services Administration Inspector General’s office, which retrieved the lost Teddy Roosevelt chair, said it has not handled any other investigations into lost White House property.