This Day in History : Library of Congress Established April 24th, 1800, by President John Adams for $5000Posted: April 24, 2014
President John Adams approves legislation to appropriate $5,000 to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress,” thus establishing the Library of Congress. The first books, ordered from London, arrived in 1801 and were stored in the U.S. Capitol, the library’s first home. The first library catalog, dated April 1802, listed 964 volumes and nine maps. Twelve years later, the British army invaded the city of Washington and burned the Capitol, including the then 3,000-volume Library of Congress.
Former president Thomas Jefferson, who advocated the expansion of the library during his two terms in office, responded to the loss by selling his personal library, the largest and finest in the country, to Congress to “recommence” the library. The purchase of Jefferson’s 6,487 volumes was approved in the next year, and a professional librarian, George Watterston, was hired to replace the House clerks in the administration of the library. In 1851, a second major fire at the library destroyed about two-thirds of its 55,000 volumes, including two-thirds of the Thomas Jefferson library. Congress responded quickly and generously to the disaster, and within a few years a majority of the lost books were replaced.
After the Civil War, the collection was greatly expanded, and by the 20th century the Library of Congress had become the de facto national library of the United States and one of the largest in the world. Today, the collection, housed in three enormous buildings in Washington, contains more than 17 million books, as well as millions of maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints, and drawings.
More Information on the History of the Library of Congress
- Webcast: A History of the Library of Congress
- Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress
- On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations in the Buildings of the Library of Congress
- Library of Congress Bicentennial (archival site from year 2000)
- The United States Library of Congress was established today in 1800 when President John Adams signed legislation to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.” Now WE know em (carl-leonard.com)
- Today in Entrepreneurial History: April 24 (business-opportunities.biz)
- Fire ravages Library of Congress – History.com This Day in History – 12/24/1851 (worldhistoryreview.org)
- On This Day In 1851, Fire Ravages The Library Of Congress (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
- TIMELNES: What library was established April 24, 1800, that goes on to become the world’s largest? (theepochtimes.com)
- Growing a Library (blogs.loc.gov)
- 10 facts about Thomas Jefferson for his 271st birthday (constitutioncenter.org)
- E. L. Doctorow Wins Library of Congress Award (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- The Library of Congress in the Capitol – Pic of the Week (blogs.loc.gov)