Moments in History
The intricately inlaid wooden desk that still sits in Father Flanagan’s office is more than just the spot where Boys Town’s founder conducted his daily business; it’s a testament to the ingenuity, skill and dedication of the boys who crafted it. Watch the video below to learn all about this hand-made marvel.
It is made up of more than a quarter million pieces of wood from practically every part of the world, 39 kinds in all. It weighs 320 pounds and took more than 3 years to build. It was a labor of love, a gift from the citizens of Boys Town to their protector and mentor. This was no ordinary desk, it belonged to Father Edward Flanagan. Father Flanagan's desk began as a project in the Manual Training Department class of Mister John Thomas. It was started on August of 1936, and originally, the boys hoped they could make it by the end of the year so they could give it to Father Flanagan as a Christmas gift. While working on the desk, the boys hid the project so it would be a total surprise, but the boys soon discovered that goal was not realistic. In fact, the project would take more than 3 years and the labor of 20 boys to complete. Finally, at Christmas in 1939, the boys delivered their special, heartfelt present to the beloved priest. The desk became one of Father Flanagan's most prized possessions. He understood the dedication and hard work that went into the project, and he also knew how much pride the boys took in doing the job the right way. Mister Thomas said, at the time, that most of the woods used in the desk were donated by friends of Boys Town. He also said the equipment donated to the home by various manufacturers made the construction possible.
In many ways, the desk represents what Father Flanagan stood for and believed in. He believed the boys who left his care should be prepared to be productive members of society. Because of that, he wanted the boys to learn a skill or trade, and he believed with the proper upbringing and love, success would follow.
Today as in those early years, Boys Town provides its students, both boys and girls, the opportunity to learn job skills that will help them after they leave the home. With a growing need for skilled tradesmen, Boys Town has expanded its career readiness center, and now offer classes in construction, welding, small engine repair, health occupations, and many other trade and skilled labor areas. Every year, thousands of visitors admire Father Flanagan's desk, as they too were his former residents at Father Flanagan House in the village of Boys Town. The desk is a timeless reminder of one of the most famous projects ever undertaken by the youth of Boys Town, and of the love of the boys decades passed, had for the man who gave them a new start in life.