Desk carved with ‘JFK’ isn’t Kennedy’s

A desk is displayed in the exhibit titled “Young Jack” at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. An archivist at Choate, the private school in Connecticut where the president studied as a boy, insists the desk didn’t belong to him.

It seemed too good to be true: An old wooden desk carved with the initials “JFK” from the private school in Connecticut where John F. Kennedy studied as a boy.

That’s because it was.

The desk was the centerpiece of a new exhibition in November at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston devoted to the 35th president’s early years, even though the museum put it into storage in 1993 after school officials said the desk wasn’t Kennedy’s. It had been displayed from 1979 to 1993 as Kennedy’s desk from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut.

“I said, ‘Oh boy, here we go again,’ ” said Judy Donald, Choate’s archivist since 2001.

The story begins in the 1970s, when the wife of a former Choate teacher offered the desk to the school. Choate turned down the offer, knowing the desk wasn’t authentic: The style of desk wasn’t in use during the time Kennedy attended, from 1931 to 1935.

The woman then donated the desk to the museum.

Meanwhile, Lem Billings, Kennedy’s former roommate at Choate, wrote to the museum’s then-director, Dave Powers, in 1977 assuring him the desk belonged to his boyhood friend.

But in 1993, Lee Sylvester, Choate’s archivist at the time, told the museum the desk certainly was not Kennedy’s.

A library official replied that the desk was in storage and would not be displayed again. But in November the desk re-emerged. The museum has since updated the description that accompanies the desk.