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“The Congressional Library, Capitol, Washington,” Harper’s Weekly, January 21, 1871

The Library of Congress, established in 1800, was located in the U.S. Capitol until 1897. At the close of the Civil War, its book collection contained some eighty thousand volumes.

Collection of the U.S. Senate

“The Congressional Library, Capitol, Washington,” Harper’s Weekly, January 21, 1871

The Library of Congress

Thomas Jefferson believed “there is…no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.” His broad approach to book collecting shaped the holdings of the Library of Congress, which Congress originally established as a resource for its members. Many senators and representatives—including some who left to join the Confederacy and others who remained loyal to the Union—were voracious readers, with interests encompassing history, poetry, art, and literature as well as law and politics.