The Organized President

When Jefferson wanted a job done right, he did it himself

What reader has not been infuriated at having to look up something in a book with no index? Serious books written in this century usually are indexed. But in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries this was not the case, and one reader of the time was so annoyed by the lack of indexes in his books that he supplied a number of them himself. Read more »

I Love Washington

A noted historian’s very personal tour of the city where so much of the American past took shape—with excursions into institutions famous and obscure, the archives that are the nation’s memory, and the haunts of some noble ghosts

The only one of our Presidents who retired to Washington after leaving office was Woodrow Wilson, and for all his celebrated professorial background he certainly did it in style. Ten of his friends chipped in ten thousand dollars each to cover most of the cost of a house of twenty-two rooms on S Street, just off Embassy Row. S Street was quiet and sedate then and it remains so. But once, on Armistice Day 1923, twenty thousand people came to cheer Wilson. They filled the street for five blocks. I have seen the photographs.Read more »

National Reflections

A new book presents uncommon portraits of our past from the photographic archives of the Library of Congress

“If one loves old photographs, with all their compelling I magic, there is no happier a hunting ground than the I Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.” So writes Oliver Jensen, the former editor of this magazine, in the introduction to America’s Yesterdays , a unique collection of some of the library’s least-known pictorial treasures, which American Heritage will publish this fall. Read more »

The Therapy Of Distance

Daniel J. Boorstin, recently appointed Librarian of Congress, and one of the most distinguished of American historians and social critics, recently gave a series of lectures in England, to be published later this month by Random House, Inc., under the title The Exploring Spirit . “The Therapy of Distance” is one chapter of the new book. —The Editors

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Jefferson and the Book-burners

When he offered Congress his library, his foes charged that it was full of books which “never ought to be read” and probably ought to be burned

When, on the night of August 24–25, 1814, General Robert Ross burned Washington, most though not all, of the infant congressional library went up in flames. Patrick Magruder, who doubled as clerk of the House and librarian, had betaken himself to Virginia Springs, and the convulsive efforts of his assistants to save the library foundered on the lack of wagons. A subsequent congressional investigation concluded somewhat illogically that the hapless Magruder should have foreseen this embarrassment and provided for it, and accepted his resignation.