Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

A Presidential Library Fit for Abraham Lincoln

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

A Presidential Library Fit for Abraham Lincoln

Article excerpt

Looking for a presidential library? If so, for which president? How recently did that president hold office? In the world of presidential libraries, the great divide is between Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. Beginning with Herbert Hoover, every president and his friends have raised money for a presidential library. These libraries are administered by the National Archives. Relatively few of the pre-Hoover presidents had presidential libraries. The Library of Congress is the repository for a majority of the papers from the pre-Hoover presidencies. As a result, searches for presidents sworn in before and after 1929 follow different paths.

If your focus is on any president since Calvin Coolidge, you begin your search by clicking on the URL for the Presidential Library System, This site provides information about all of the presidential libraries between Herbert Hoover and Bill Clinton, and plans for the George W. Bush library.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman built libraries of their own, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955. This act stipulated that the libraries would be built with private funds and then be administered by the National Archives. After taking part in the dedication of the Truman library, Herbert Hoover authorized creation of a Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to leave office with the Presidential Libraries Act in force. His library was built in Abilene, Kansas. These four presidents established a firm precedent. All of their successors built libraries close to their homes or birthplaces. Differences exist among these libraries, but all are joys as working sites for researchers.

The most efficient way to begin a search for any of the historical presidents--those between George Washington and Calvin Coolidge--is with a Library of Congress Web page. The Library of Congress holds the papers of 23 of the first 29 presidents. The URL for the relevant Web page is This brings up an "American Memory" page. You next click on "Presidents" in a list on the left side of the page. (There is a URL that will bring up this "Presidents" page directly. However, it is composed of 40 letters, along with forward slashes and punctuation marks. One click is easier.) As you scan the alphabetized list, you will find "Manuscript Division--Selected Documents." Click on this, and when the "Words and Deeds in American History" page appears, click on "The Presidency."

Here, you will find a brief history of how the presidential papers were acquired. The "Presidency" page also contains two vital links. One is a list of presidents whose papers are held by the Library of Congress. Click on "twenty-three presidents" in the first paragraph, and your computer will produce a list of presidents whose papers are held by the Library of Congress. To access any of the presidents whose papers are held by the Library of Congress, return to the "Presidents" page. Entry points for searches are at the top of this page. If, for example, you wish to learn about Benjamin Harrison, you enter "harrison, benjamin--papers" and a list of all documents relating to Benjamin Harrison will appear.

The second important list on the "Presidency" page is close to the top of the fourth paragraph. This provides the names of presidents whose papers are in libraries other than the Library of Congress. There are six of them.

John Adams deposited his extensive collection of books and papers in the Boston Public Library. An extensive publication project is based on these papers. The URL for the John Adams papers is

John Quincy Adams also had a voluminous personal collection. It is now stored in the Stone Library adjacent to the Adams home in Quincy, Massachusetts. There is no single portal for the John Quincy Adams collection. …

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