Library of Congress

Washington
DC

Jefferson’s Library recreated

QUICK FACTS
  • The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress and signed by President John Adams on 24-Apr-1800.
  • Established with $5,000, the original library was housed in the new Capitol.
  • In August 1814 (during the War of 1812) invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building and the contents of the small library was burned or pillaged.
  • Within a month, Jefferson offered to replace the libary with his person collection of books. In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer; he was paid $23,950 for his 6,487 books.
  • On 24-Dec-1851 the largest fire in the Library's history destroyed 35,000 books (from a collection of 55,000), including two-thirds of Jefferson's original collection.
  • Today the collection has more than 155 million items in 460 languages.
  • The Thomas Jefferson Building (opening 1897) is the oldest of the three Library of Congress buildings. The others are the John Adams Building (1939) and the James Madison Memorial Building (1976).
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Established in 1800 to serve members of Congress, the collection of some 3,000 books was burned or pillaged by the British in August 1814, during the War of 1812. Within a month, Thomas Jefferson offered to donate his own books as a replacement. The following year, Jefferson sold his entire library of nearly 6,500 volumes, for $23,940, to Congress as the foundation for a new Congressional Library.

In 1851 a fire destroyed much of the Library of Congress collection, including two-thirds of the books from Jefferson's donation 35 years before.

The remaining Jefferson books have been conserved, many have been restored or are under restoration.

Guided and self-guided tours available, including a recreation of Jefferson’s library in the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Associated People

George Washington ordered his overseers to begin the 1767 wheat harvest on June 24, a hot, cloudy Saturday at the end of a dry week. Thus began twenty days of unrelenting exertion for Mount Vernon’s slaves and no little anxiety for their master, who for the first time had given over his holding almost entirely to the cultivation of grain. Much depended on the success of this experiment, which was a crucial element in Washington’s scheme to free himself of the debts he had accumulated over the years of failing to produce tobacco that would sell on London’s finicky market. Rich as he was in land, he feared that, like so many of his fellow planters, he too would become permanently dependent on his English merchant creditors. It was a fate he dreaded above all, for to suffer it meant that he would lose the essence of a gentleman’s character, independence, and with it the capacity to behave in a truly virtuous way.

Fred Anderson
Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2000)