The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th birthday today, and the Trivia Today team is ready to party! On April 24, 1800, President John Adams approved a $5,000 budget for Congress to purchase over 700 books in what would become the first entries in the Library of Congress. Here are 5 cool facts you didn’t know about the Library of Congress…
Thomas Jefferson "Donated" His Books to Help Rebuild The Library In 1814, British troops burned the Capitol Building—where the Library of Congress was housed at the time—to the ground as part of their siege on Washington during the War of 1812. Most of the library's 3,000 volumes were incinerated. Soon after, President Thomas Jefferson volunteered to donate his collection of over 6,000 books to build a new foundation for the library. Despite some controversy around the idea, Congress eventually agreed, and Jefferson was paid $24,000 for his books. Fortunately, Jefferson was interested in a lot of subjects, so the new books included subjects such as philosophy, science, and art, but many were lost in a second fire in 1851.
The Library Contains Over 164 Million Entries The $5,000 budget approved by President Adams on April 24, 1800, was enough to get Congress 740 books and three maps. Today, that number has risen pretty significantly. In addition to over 30 million books and nearly 70 million manuscripts, the library contains over 13 million photographs, 6.5 million pieces of music, 5 million maps, and 3 million miscellaneous recordings spread across 883 miles of shelving.
The Library Contains a Lot More Than Just Books The books held by the Library of Congress are impressive on their own and range from a giant 5’ by 7’ book containing photos of Bhutan to a Gutenberg Bible. In addition, it houses the piano that belonged to composer George Gershwin and the joke collection of comedian Bob Hope. One of the more unusual items in the library’s possession includes the items that were in President Abraham Lincoln’s pockets that fateful night when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, which included a $5 Confederate note and two pairs of spectacles.
Employees at the Library Do the Research for Congressional Members Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate don’t have to handle the research when drafting new legislation. They can turn to the team of scientists, librarians, lawyers and economists who are employed by the Library of Congress, which was set up in 1914 to do just that. The current 600 employees with the Congressional Research Service supply members of the Senate and House with briefings, reports, presentations and even seminars to help them out.
It Also Has Over 120,000 Comic Books. If you thought it was all law books and old Bibles, you're wrong: the Library of Congress also houses the world's largest collection of comic books. There are 6,000 titles in all, including comics from Japan, France, Spain, and Germany dating back as early as the 1930s. As far as American comics go, the library owns the first appearance comics of Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk, as well as Famous Funnies No. 1 which many consider to be the first American comic book.