Gallery: Desks

Hidden compartments Mystery in Desks

The secret compartment mystery and romance in antique desks started with famous movie ‘National Treasure 2 Book of Secrets’. Benjamin Franklin Gates, the hero of movie had to break into the White House in this movie to find some hidden clues in Resolute Desk in secret compartments in the Oval Office.

The twin desk at Buckingham Palace is the second clue of these compartments. There is combination in these compartments knowing the distance of other drawers which are pulled out which is appealing and quite elaborate to all of us in detective.

The actual finding of important documents in old desks was found in early 1900s. Louis XVI desk with secret compartments was purchased by James Monroe in 1794 who was future 5th president of US. He never told about secret compartments to anyone. The desk was damaged by a child, one of descendants of Monroe in 1906. This desk was repaired by cabinet maker where these secret compartments were discovered. There were priceless and historical documents in these compartments including letters from Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. These letters were thought great treasure considering that Jefferson had burned most of his personal correspondence.


There are lots of desks with secret compartments available for antique seekers with hidden treasure. These compartments are in use for a while but these desks are inspired by Italians. These desks got popularity in American and English cabinet makers in 1720s. Its trend remained for 100 years. These desks got popularity mainly due to financial reasons as people wanted secure place keep their money, jewelry and valuable documents. Today safes and safety deposit boxes are used but these were not found in the past therefore people used hidden compartments to feel secure.

There might be one or many hidden compartments in some desks. There were 21 hidden cubbies discovered in one simple slant top desk. These compartments have decent size and found in drawer under false bottoms. The document boxes became very popular which were larger hidden compartments and these were kept hidden behind half column pilasters. Most of hidden compartments are very small which can hold small jewelry or some documents.

You can reach some of secret compartments only after removing series of regular drawers. Some can be opened by raising them with letter opener or fingernail and others can be opened with wooden spring. It can be complicated to find the trigger for spring and best way is to feel around.

It was found that some desk owners took lots of time to find these secret compartments which were existed. It can be great challenge to owe an antique desk and find secret compartment. The question about secret compartment in the Resolute desk in Oval Office still remains. I can not say with surety although I did little checking. Only one person meet me online who said yes but he did not give any proof or documentation. So I would say, “ I don’t know but I would love to find it out.”

Raven Furniture