Library of Congress

Today in History, April 24, 1800:

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite sources! On this date the Library of Congress was established. Congress allocated $5,000 for the initial purchase of books from London. The Library was charged with providing source material for Congress and for the American people. President John Adams signed off on the creating legislation. His successor, Thomas Jefferson, supported the Library also. Adams and Jefferson, once friends, became estranged after Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency.

But they both remained true to the Library of Congress. After the British invaded DC and burned the Library in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his own vast library to the government to seed the recreation of the Library. In the late 19th century the charge of the Library was expanded to not only books, but photos and items of importance. The LOC now has over 135 million items for the Congress and the public to utilize…all books, pamphlets, maps, prints, photographs, and pieces of music registered for copyright have two copied registered in the library. Today, the Library is utilizing the latest technology to place as many of those items as possible online…so that it will truly be a source for all Americans.

By the way…those fast friends, Adams and Jefferson, who helped create America together in 1776, then became enemies, never speaking to each other in person after that fateful election? They exchanged somewhat conciliatory letters in their old age….but the old rivalry never expired. On July 4, 1826, the Nation’s 50th birthday, Adams died. His last words reportedly were, “Thomas Jefferson lives…”. But it was not so. Jefferson died a few hours before Adams on the same date.

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