April 22-24, 1800: The Library of Congress Established
On April 22, 1800, the Library of Congress began with an appropriation of $5,000. by Congress for the purchase of books and furnishings for a reading room. The bill became law on April 24, 1800 when John Adams signed the act designating the funds “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein….” (2 Stat. 56). Booksellers Cadell & Davies of London sent the first order of 152 books to the U.S. in December of that year. Ironically, it was the British who later burned the entire collection of around 3,000 volumes in August, 1814 when they invaded Washington, DC during the War of 1812.
Former president Thomas Jefferson provided for the replacement of the Library by selling his own personal collection of over 6,000 books to the government for $23,950.00. Ten wagons were needed to transport all of his books to Washington for the new library building, which was not completed until 1817. Though the Library still serves Congress, its scope of responsibility has widened to make it the national library of the United States. Happy birthday Library of Congress.
Sources: 1. Famous First Facts, 6th ed., 2. The United States Government Manual, 2007-08., 3. Library of Congress History, http://www.loc.gov/about/history/