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Photograph, "Old Congressional Library, main hall, looking south," by Jarvis e. Wilkins, 1897

While located in the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress kept handwritten records of book loans. These pages list titles borrowed in the Civil War era by Senators Daniel Clark of New Hampshire and Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. Their reading ranged from The Arabian Nights to studies of butterflies and botany.

Library of Congress Archives, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Photograph, "Old Congressional Library, main hall, looking south," by Jarvis e. Wilkins, 1897

Wartime Reading

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 established as a resource for its members. Many senators and representatives were voracious readers. During the Civil War, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner—a staunch abolitionist who later introduced bills for the Freedmen's Bureau and Thirteenth Amendment—borrowed hundreds of works of literature, philosophy, and history from the congressional library.