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

There is a symmetry between the folly of Burgoyne’s march south to Saratoga and that of Cornwallis’s march north to Yorktown. Military historians debate why Burgoyne risked marching south from Fort Edward in the same way that they question why Cornwallis advanced north beyond North Carolina into Virginia. Although Cornwallis had none of the outward vanity of Burgoyne, the two men were similar in that they were both junior generals and neither of them was commander in chief of the British army in America. Both blamed their subsequent failures on rigid orders and insufficient latitude. They both expected to march through predominantly friendly territory. They both ignored the chain of command and went over the heads of their superiors to communicate independently with Lord George Germain. They both allowed their supply lines to become overextended and their forces suffered harassment by enemy militia. They presided over the two most decisive defeats of the American Revolutionary War.

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy
The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (2013)