Fun Facts Friday: Librarian of Congress

January 26, 2024

On 26 January, 1802 Congress passed an act calling for the establishment of a Liberian of Congress in the US Capitol. The library is not only a national library but also a research service.

Fun Facts Friday: Librarian of Congress
Books about the Library of Congress*

1. James Madison had the idea of a congressional library in 1783. His initial proposal was rejected.

2. Previously, on 24 April, 1800 President John Adams approved a bill which included $5,000 to purchase books to be used in the Capitol. Seven hundred forty books and three maps were ordered from London.

3. However, on 26 January, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson approved an act that stated that the American President would appoint a Librarian of Congress, a well as establish a Joint Committee on the Library to oversee it. Jefferson being Jefferson, also had the bill extend borrowing privileges to the President and VP.

4. During the War of 1812, British forces occupied Washington and burned numerous government buildings, among which was the Library of Congress (this happened in 1814). The library contained 3,000 volumes. Most were destroyed.

5. Several congressional volumes survived, one of them was a government account book of receipts and expenditures for 1801. The book was taken as a souvenir by British commander George Cockburn, the family returned it in 1940.

6. Thomas Jefferson, who spent 50 years building his library, offered his books as a replacement. In January 1815 Congress purchased 6,487 of Jefferson’s books for $23,950.

7. Jefferson’s collection differentiated from other book collections of the rich because it had scholarly books, not a collection for display.

8. Another tragedy occurred on 24 December, 1851 when a huge fire destroyed 35,000 books, about two-thirds of the library’s collection and two-thirds of Jefferson’s original transfer.

9. By 2008 the Librarians of Congress had managed to find all but 300 replacement books which we know were part of Jefferson’s collection.

10. John G. Stephenson was appointed as librarian of Congress by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Mr. Stephenson was also a physician in the Union Army and only spent three weeks being a Librarian. He hired writer Ainsworth Rand Spofford as his assistant to run the library. Mr. Spofford officially became the Librarian in 1864 and continued to serve until 1897.

Books about the Library of Congress*

Zohar — Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

Sources:

Historical Events on January 26 | On This Day

Library of Congress | Wikipedia

The Library of Congress: A Timeline | loc.giv

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Fun Facts Friday: Librarian of Congress
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Fun Facts Friday: Librarian of Congress
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On 26 January, 1802 Congress passed an act calling for the establishment of a Liberian of Congress in the US Capitol. The library is not only a national library but also a research service.
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Man of la Book - A Bookish Blog
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