Home HistoryDC History The troubled, trying history of the Library of Congress

The troubled, trying history of the Library of Congress

by Chris Butsch

In 1800, when President Adams moved the national capital from Philadelphia to DC, he also approved a $5,000 budget for books. The intention was rather pragmatic: give Congress a quiet place to research.

Unfortunately, British soldiers torched the young library during the War of 1812. To replace it, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950. In 1850, however, an accidental fire destroyed two-thirds of the growing collection.

Thankfully, Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford grew a steady collection from 1864-1897, and the Library of Congress now holds over 167 million items.

Chris Butsch

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