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Letter from Joseph Milligan to Thomas Jefferson, July 31, 1815

Joseph Milligan, a Georgetown book dealer, had helped Thomas Jefferson acquire his library. When Congress agreed to purchase Jefferson’s library, Milligan went to Jefferson’s Monticello home to inventory and appraise the collection. He also supervised its packing and transportation to Washington and in this letter assures Jefferson of its safe arrival.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Letter from Joseph Milligan to Thomas Jefferson, July 31, 1815

Establishing a Library for Congress - 2

The Library of Congress was established in the act that provided for relocating the federal government to Washington, D.C. That act also authorized purchasing $5,000 worth of books “. . . as necessary for the use of Congress.” Most of these books were destroyed when British troops burned the Capitol in 1814. To replenish its holdings, Thomas Jefferson sold to the government his personal library of more than 6,000 volumes. The Library of Congress was housed in the Capitol until 1897, when the Library moved to its own building.