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Old Congressional Library in the U.S. Capitol, photograph by Jarvis E. Wilkins, 1897

By the late 19th century, materials overflowed the shelves of the Library of Congress in its old quarters in the U.S. Capitol.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Old Congressional Library in the U.S. Capitol, photograph by Jarvis E. Wilkins, 1897

The Library's New Home

Established by Congress in 1800 and housed in the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress was intended as a resource for legislators. From its initial collection of 740 books and three maps, its holdings expanded in all areas of knowledge. In the 1870 Copyright Act, Congress stipulated that copies of protected works be deposited in the library, and the collections rapidly overflowed the space. In 1897, the library relocated to a monumental new building commissioned by Congress.