The antebellum period was difficult for the Library

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The antebellum period was difficult for the Library

Post by jancancook on Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:09 am

The antebellum period was difficult for the Library. During the 1850s the Smithsonian Institution's librarian Charles Coffin Jewett aggressively tried to move that organization towards becoming the United States' national library. His efforts were blocked by the Smithsonian's Secretary Joseph Henry, who advocated a focus on scientific research and publication and favored the Library of Congress' development into the national library. Henry's dismissal of Jewett in July 1854 ended the Smithsonian's attempts to become the national library, and in 1866 Henry transferred the Smithsonian's forty thousand-volume library to the Library of Congress.[4]
On December 24, 1851 the largest fire in the Library's history destroyed 35,000 books, about two–thirds of the Library's 55,000 book collection, including two–thirds of Jefferson's original transfer.[4] Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library's administration under Librarian John Silva Meehan and Joint Committee Chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library's activities.[4] In 1857, Congress transferred the Library's public document distribution activities to the Department of the Interior and its international book exchange program to the Department of State. Abraham Lincoln's political appointment of John G. Stephenson as Librarian of Congress in 1861 further weakened the Library; Stephenson's focus was on non-library affairs, including service as a volunteer aide-de-camp at the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg during the American Civil War. By the conclusion of the war, the Library of Congress had a staff of seven for a collection of 80,000 volumes.[4] The centralization of copyright offices into the United States Patent Office in 1859 ended the Library's thirteen year role as a depository of all copyrighted books and pamphlets.


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