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I think by now, everyone has seen the pictures of Trump sitting at a tiny table bearing the presidential seal:

enter image description here

I am tempted to ask many things, like who thought that would be a good idea. But my actual question is, given that that table bears a presidential seal - has any other president ever used it?

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    This is an interesting question. Maybe it would be better if posted on another StackExchange SE. But still interesting question! – Gregory Nov 28 '20 at 10:29
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    Do you have a suggestion for another S.E site? (+1) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Nov 28 '20 at 12:39
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    No, @Mawg says reinstate Monica. Since the community has a response to your question there's no need for another SE. But still good question! – Gregory Nov 28 '20 at 14:15
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    I'm at a loss to understand the rationale of the close voter. – Robert Columbia Nov 28 '20 at 20:26
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    @RobertColumbia: there were some comments posted here and under my answer why this is a bad (or marginal) question, but the comments were massively deleted. – Fizz Nov 29 '20 at 8:41
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That's known as a "signing table". Trump himself has used it before in 2017, and even joked about it himself. Or at least the audience laughed at his comments.

While the seal seems to be a more recent addition, there's a very similarly looking table being used by Reagan... well, to actually sign documents.

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President Reagan, Tom Lantos, Annette Lantos and Nina Lagergren at the signing ceremony in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden for S.J. Resolution 65 "The Wallenberg Resolution" proclaiming Raoul Wallenberg a Swedish national to be an honorary citizen of the United States. 10/05/1981.

Also indoors

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President Reagan signing Voting Rights Act legislation with Bob Dole, Orrin Hatch, Bob Michel, Howard Baker, George Bush, William French Smith, Joseph Biden, Charles Mathias, Melvin Bradley and Thelma Duggin in East Room. 06/29/1982.

Reagan's "virtual library" index of signing ceremonies has more photos with Reagan using it for the same purpose.

One thing I've noticed in some (if not most) of the Reagan photos is that there's nearby lectern from which to give speeches afterwards. I guess the less usual thing in the Trump setups is giving speeches and/or press interviews from that table itself.

G. W. Bush can also be seen using the table to sign a NATO accession protocol for some Eastern European countries. In that photo, the table has gained the seal.

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(Video of the ceremony also shows a nearby lectern.)


Interestingly, there are actually multiple copies of that table or at least very similarly looking ones at the White House, you can see two of them being used by Trump and Liu He, side-by-side.

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Bill Clinton and Obama also used them (in individual ceremonies, at least).

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And also Jimmy Carter (1977):

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But I could not find evidence of Nixon or LBJ using that exact table (top) design, although they did use other tables of roughly the same size for signing ceremonies. (LBJ signing Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and Nixon signing Older American Act Amendments of 1969.)

enter image description here enter image description here

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    I think a lot of those pictures actually show the exact same table as each other, but not necessarily the same as in the OP. The table that Reagan (first pic), Clinton, Obama, and Carter are using has a distinctive small knothole near the bottom of the face to the right of center. Same with GHWB in the answer by user76284. – shoover Nov 29 '20 at 3:55
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    @shoover From the replaced photo, there's at least two very similar tables; also some photos could plausibly be of the same table but rotated 180°. – TripeHound Nov 29 '20 at 12:19
  • Note in the picture with 2 tables, there's a seal on both, but it's a different seal, missing the text around the outside and the eagle emblem taking up the whole thing. Not sure how significant that is, just pointing out another difference. – Darrel Hoffman Nov 30 '20 at 18:18
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    Interesting how far off-centre the seal is in the Obama picture. I guess it's a sticky seal that's added when needed and removed when the table is stored. – Graham Lee Dec 1 '20 at 15:35
  • Here's a picture of Gerald Ford using the same table, that's one president further back than what you've got. – Darrel Hoffman Dec 1 '20 at 19:38
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Yes. Here is a photo of Barack Obama with the same table:

enter image description here

This table has been used by many presidents for bill-signing ceremonies:

A signing ceremony is a ceremony in which a document of importance is signed (approved). Typically the document is a bill passed by a legislature, thus becoming a law by an executive's signature. However, the document may also be, for example, an executive order, international agreement, or a veto statement that invalidates a legislative measure.

Another photo from 1990 showing George H. W. Bush signing the ADA into law:

enter image description here

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    "Barack Obama with the same table" - how do you know it's the same? – Grzegorz Oledzki Nov 29 '20 at 12:24
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    @GrzegorzOledzki If it's not the actual same table, it's an identical different table, and for our purposes here what is the material difference between the two cases? In other words, why does it matter? – Asteroids With Wings Nov 29 '20 at 17:38
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    @AsteroidsWithWings if it's not the same exact table, it means someone is wrong on the internet – Kodos Johnson Nov 29 '20 at 18:30
  • @KodosJohnson: IMO the spirit of that xkcd is "someone is wrong in a way that needs correcting because it's misleading". At least that's why I use it as my avatar, not because I like nitpicking. I wish people would stop being wrong in the first place - it'd save time reviewing and commenting on answers on Stack Overflow. Although, to be fair, it would be interesting bonus info to know if there were multiple such tables (ever or currently), or if it's the exact same one in all the photos. Update: The other answer on this question shows 2 in one photo. – Peter Cordes Dec 1 '20 at 12:46
  • @KodosJohnson: we're getting into ship of Theseus arguments. If the it's been relacquered, a knothole repaired or a leg replaced, at what point is it not the same exact table? – Gnubie Dec 1 '20 at 17:26

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