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Adapted from Smith, Isabel and Elliot Snow. "Historical Sketch of the Navy Department Library and War Records." Washington, DC, 1926.

Much of the unpublished manuscript material mentioned above was later transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, and is now located in Record Group (RG) 45. Manuscript materials acquired subsequently are located in the library's Special Collections. 


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Historical Sketch of the Navy Department Library and War Records

Miss Isabel Smith
Rear Admiral Elliot Snow,
Construction Corps, USN

March - 1926.


Room 2115
Bureau of Construction & Repair
Washington, D.C.

24 March 1926.

Subject: Offering manuscript text of historical sketch of the Navy Department Library and War Records Office to the Naval Historical Foundation.

Dear Captain Knox:

With this letter I hand you a brief historical sketch of the Navy Department Library and War Records, attached to which is an account of some of the visitors to the library and the uses made of it while it was located in the State, War and Navy Building; also there is appended a list of a few of the interesting books to be found in the Navy Department Library.

This manuscript was compiled by Miss Isabel Smith and myself and the photographs accompanying it were obtained through the Photographic Section of the Navy Department Library and War Records Office.

Yours very sincerely,
Elliot Snow
Rear Admiral (CC)
U.S. Navy

Naval Historical Foundation, Care of
Captain Dudley W. Knox, USN (Ret.),
Navy Department Library & War Records,
Room 2726, Navy Department,
Washington, D.C.

Captain Dudley W. Knox, USN (Ret.) in charge of Naval Records and Library and Historical Section, Old Records Files, 1930. Photo by Childs, C&R. Naval Historical Center, Photographic Section, #NH000407.

Historical Sketch of the Navy Department
Library and Archives.

Prior to the erection of the building for the State, War and Navy Department which was authorized by the act of Congress approved 3 March 1871 (16 Statutes At Large, page 494), the Navy Department Library, such as it was, had been in the Old Navy Department Building at 17th Street between "F" and "G" streets.

The design for the State, War and Navy Building was furnished by Mr. Alfred B. Mullitt, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, and, as required by the act, was approved by the three Secretaries, viz: Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State; William W. Belknap, Secretary of War; and George M. Robeson, Secretary of the Navy.

Under the terms of the act of Congress the erection of the building was begun at the south wing, under the direction of the Secretary of State. Mr Mullitt was in immediate charge until 1874, by which time the south wing was nearly ready for occupancy. Mr. Mullitt was succeeded by Mr. William A. Potter, Supervising Architect of the Treasury who remained in charge of the work until its completion.

In July 1872, while the south wing was still in progress, ground was broken for the east wing. When the masonry for this wing had reached about mid-height of the first story, the direction of the construction of the building (excepting the south wing) was transferred, under the act of 3 March 1875, from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of War, and Major General O. E. Babcock, Engineer Corps, US Army, was placed in charge of the construction. The entire east wing was completed for occupancy 16 April 1879, whereupon the Navy and War Departments at once moved into the building; the Navy occupying the southern half and the War the northern half pending the construction of the northern wing.

The west and center wings were simultaneously erected, and covered the site of the Old Navy Building on 17th St. between "G" and "F" streets; the demolition of this old building was commenced 18 February 1884, and finished 31 March 1884. The wings built on this site were completed for occupancy January 1886. Early in February of 1886, the several bureaus of the War Department began moving into these wings.

Old Navy Department Building facing 17th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C., 1870. Site is now (1968) occupied by the Executive Office of the President. Naval Historical Center, Photographic Section, NH#001527.

The exterior walls and outside stone work of the entire building are stone. The material of all the front walls was furnished from the Green Quarry on the James River above Richmond, Virginia and, for all other exterior walls, the stone came from the Vinal Haven quarries, Fox Island, Maine. The main stairways in the south wing came from Maine; the north wing from Concord, New Hampshire; and those of the west wing, from Bay View, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The foundations are of concrete; the roof trimmings and chimneys are of iron. All door and window frames, trimmings and baseboards are cast iron; all floors are of brick arching laid on rolled iron beams. The word work in the building is confined to elevator cars, the doors, which are of mahogany, and the hardwood floor covering of the various office rooms. The total floor area of the building is upwards of ten acres. The building is five stories and basement, and took nearly 17 years to complete at a cost of about two million dollars.

The Navy Department Library rooms were located on the fourth floor of the east wing looking over the beautiful grounds of the White House, the Potomac River, and the park in the distance.

The reception and reading room was fifty feet wide by fifty-five long and in height extended up two stories. Overhead was a beautiful dome of stained glass. The ceiling of this room was frescoed and studded with gold stars to represent the firmament.

The representatives of the several leading naval powers of Europe informed their respective governments of the construction of the building, whereupon several of these countries, in recognition of the services of the officers in the Union Navy in the Civil War, sent marble and other material to adorn the walls. England gave the Winton tiling to be inlaid in the floor of colors, blue, white and red and a large star in the center.

The walls are of iron inlaid with thirty-two marble panels -- the green is malachite from the Alps; the yellow stripes -- sienna, were presented by Italy; the red porphyry was presented by France. In the bronze balustrade around the second floors of the room are inserted sixteen circular pieces of onyx presented by Mexico.

The bronze figures in the corners represent respectively, "War and Peace" -- northwest corner; "Liberty" -- northeast corner; "Industry and Mechanics" -- southwest corner; "Literature, Art and Commerce" -- southeast corner. Each group weighs about three hundred pounds.

In the center of the room was a beautiful mahogany table. Chairs and sofas upholstered in leather were arranged about the room for the comfort of readers. Over the table and suspended fifty feet from the ceiling was a large electrolier which was installed under the direction of Major (later Major General) Ulysses S. Grant III, grandson of General Ulysses Grant. Major Grant also provided clusters of electric lights for each set of the bronze figures in the corners.

Over the entrance door of the library was a block of green marble excavated from the Temple of Jupiter in Pompeii in 1848, inscribed and gilded with the word "Library," which was presented by Greece.

Adjoining the reading room on either side were spacious well lighted rooms provided with iron shelves. These shelves were of graded sizes to accommodate the various sizes of books; each shelf was numbered for the locations of books by subjects, each book being marked as to the shelf--and so entered in the shelf lists.

The library when completed and ready for occupancy, was placed in charge of Professor James Russell Soley. He proceeded to gather the few rare old books that were scattered through the different bureaus of the Navy Department. Professor Soley thus laid the foundation for the present library. He then set about cataloguing and classifying the books by subjects and also entered subscriptions for many of the scientific, professional and historical magazines both American and foreign. Some old prints of battles and photographs of foreign and American naval officers were acquired, also under his administration. The first appropriation for $2,500, which was the greatest amount ever given to the library for the purchasing of technical books and periodicals, was obtained thanks to Professor Soley.

In 1881 Captain John Grimes Walker was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. He at once began to collect data and records of the Navy in the Civil War with a view to having them published. At the end of four years this work was handed over to Professor Soley, who was assigned the use of some of the rooms on the fifth floor as a "records office." The first appropriation for copying and compiling the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion was $2,640, and sufficed only to provide for one clerk at $1,200 and two copyists at $720 each.

The work of the libary and the Civil War documents editing project were then brought under a single supervisor, though separate appropriations were made for each office. Under Professor Soley the library and the naval war records made great progress and were brought to a high state of efficiency.

In October 1889 Professor Soley was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Lieutenant Commander Frederick May Wise, USN [US Navy], succeeded him as Librarian and "In charge of War Records." Lieutenant Commander Wise was a brilliant and talented officer and a fine linguist.

Old Records, Office of Naval Records & Library. Miss N.D. Barney in charge, Miss E. Cravan, Mrs. A. Lawrence and Mrs. Alice Thomas, 1930. Photo by Childs, C&R. Naval Historical Center, Photographic Section, #NH000423.

In 1888 Congress provided for nine clerks for duty on the naval records to be appointed without a civil service examination.1 With this added assistance, the work of copying and comparing and preparing the text for the records went forward rapidly. The catalog commenced by Professor Soley was completed and printed. The proofreading proved to be a greater task for the novices assigned to this work, but it was nonetheless well and conscientiously performed.

Lieutenants Frank E. Beatty and Charles E. Fox, who, at the time, were assigned to duty in the library, rendered valuable services in helping to compare the catalogue and in placing the books on the shelves in their proper locations.

Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) Richard Rush, USN, a descendent of the Rush family of Pennsylvania, succeeded Captain Wise. At that time Assistant Secretary Soley was unable to obtain any appropriation for the printing of the naval records of the Civil War. However, upon Captain Rush's recommendation, Lieutenant Lucian Young was detailed to the library. Lieutenant Young had no difficulty in obtaining an appropriation for printing the records because his efforts were heartily approved by his friend Senator Blackburn of Kentucky. This state had previously voted its thanks to Lieutenant Young for heroism.

The first five volumes of these war records were published under Captain Rush's administration, 1895-1897.

Edward Kirk Rawson, USN when made a professor in the Navy was placed in charge of the library, a position he retained until 1902. During his incumbency he managed to publish one volume each year. The chief clerk of the office was made acting Superintendent of War Records by Secretary Moody and retained the place until 1918. Seventeen volumes of these records were published during this period.

Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball, USN, who had succeeded Professor Edward Kirk Rawson, was detached from duty in the library in 1918 and was assigned the duty of collecting the records for a history of the Navy in the World War. These records were at the time in the Navy building at 17th Street between "B" and "D" streets Northwest in Potomac Park. Admiral Kimball consequently established his office there and only occasionally went to the library, which was still in the State, War and Navy Building.

In 1919, at the close of the war, Rear Admiral Kimball was succeeded by Captain Charles Marsh, USN Captain Marsh was such a wide reader and so energetic that, in four months, he completed and had printed the remaining three volumes of the 30-volume set of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894-1922).

Also during his time in office, James Morton Callahan's the Diplomatic History of the Southern Confederacy, (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1901) and Frederic Stanhope Hill's Twenty-six Historic Ships: The Story of Certain Famous Vessels of War and of Their Successors in the Navies of the United States and of the Confederate States ... (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905) were compiled and published, as well as five monographs on the World War.

In 1920 Captain William D. McDougall, USN, was placed in charge of the library and World War records; Captain Marsh was at that time detached and ordered as naval attaché to Spain.

After one year, Captain McDougall was succeeded by Colonel E. K. White, US Marine Corps. Captain White was much interested in the library; he obtained several hundred books from ships' libraries.

Captain Dudley W. Knox, USN, succeeded Colonel White in 1923 and is still in charge of the library (March 1926). At first he was assisted by Commander Jay Hale Sypher and Lieutenant Robinson and then later by Lieutenant Commander Richard Wainwright, Jr., USN.

From a few hundred books collected in 1882, the library cards now note 55,500, exclusive of an almost perfect set of congressional documents.

The appropriation under which books are obtained specifies them to be "professional books and periodicals." The idea therefore prevails that the Navy Department Library has books pertaining only to the Navy.

Practically, however, every field of science is touched by the work of the Navy, so that the "professional needs" of naval officers cover books on nearly every subject: Engineering in all its phases; fine arts, history; international law; literature; naval and military science; physics and technology. There is an unusually fine collection of voyages to the Arctic, Antarctic, and to all other parts of the globe and there are many works of reference and valuable files of technical magazines of every country and clippings from contemporary newspapers.

Although not strictly a library activity, it is well here to record that for current reference and publicity purposes, the "Information Section" of the Navy Department maintains a scrap book system in which clippings are pasted by consecutive dates. Scrap books bear the following titles:

    Current News; Feature Stories; Photographs.
    Cartoons; Editorial Comments Regarding the Navy.

Whenever a Navy subject is completed, as, for instance, the Australian-New Zealand Cruise, the Hawaiian Maneuvers, etc., the clippings of such a subject are pasted in a separate book bearing the subject title. These ultimately will probably be lodged in the Navy Department Library.

In addition to the scrap books mentioned, a clipping system is maintained in filing cases for ready access. The filing cases are separated according to naval districts, of which there thirteen; and the material for each naval district is further subdivided by folders bearing the titles of current topics which are of interest to the Navy, such as, for instance, "Shenandoah," "S-51," "Naval Appropriations Bill," etc. In addition to the filing cases maintained for the thirteen naval districts, a filing case with folders of miscellaneous subjects is kept; for instance, "Naval Memorials," "Naval Disasters," "Naval Heroisms," etc.

Old Navy Department Building facing 17th Street, Washington D.C. (1870). This site is now occupied by the Executive Office of the President, (1968). Naval Histotical Center, Photographic Section NH#001526.

A third filing case is maintained for data on foreign nations which maintain large navies. In this case are placed clippings concerning the growth and activities of such navies.

Late in the fall of 1925, a number of additional records of the War of 1812 were found. This "find" was announced in the press in these words:

When the frigate Constitution took to sea in the War of 1812, mail "On His Majesty's Service" in British men-of-war ceased to be safe. Documents taken from HMS Java when "old Ironsides" met and defeated that ship on 29 December 1812, have recently been found in the Navy Department where they have lain for 114 years awaiting archiving.

The documents are of varied nature, some of them written from the London offices of the East India Company, then a project of the British government, to the Governor in Council in India regarding the governmental details on which the Governor had two years previously reported. There are other letters dealing with routine business with the officials of various West Indian ports and with Naval and Military officers at British bases. Some of the papers were captured by other American men-of-war, but the most important ones had been entrusted to HMS Java.

Among the papers taken from the Java are statements showing the East India Company's desire to extend religious liberty to the natives of India; the policy in regard to the suppression of rebellious princes; the settlement of estates, the Company's desire to mete out justice to the natives as well as to the British citizens; the approval of the payment of 21/2% interest for money and supplies furnished; the awarding of pensions; and hundreds of other details of instruction and approbation for the Governors.

In 1918, a large building (Main Navy Building) of nine wings was constructed on "B" Street Northwest between 17th and 19th streets for the Navy Department, on soil made by draining the so-called Potomac Flats. Although spacious, no special provision was made for the library. Therefore, for the time being, it was retained in the State, War and Navy Building. In 1920 a move was made to transfer the library to the ground floor of the New Navy Building, in Potomac Park, at 17th and "B" streets. However, the location was shown to be unsuitable because of dampness and lack of light, and the library was retained at the State, War and Navy Building.

In 1922 Lieutenant Stewart F. Bryant was detailed as secretary to the planning division of the General Board of the Navy. The choice was a happy one as Lieutenant Bryant, at one time before entering the service, had been employed in a public library, and thus had acquired a good understanding of the usefulness of a library to naval officers. In the discharge of his duties as Secretary to the General Board he called upon the library for information of every description. For example, "The definition and history of the Monroe Doctrine" and the "Meaning and definition of the flag and its history." All data of this nature was written and sent from the library in the State, War and Navy Building to the General Board in the new Main Navy Building. Although the books requested were delivered very promptly to the Main Navy Building, it became increasingly evident that the library should no longer remain at the State, War and Navy Building. The value of Lieutenant Bryant's advocacy of this move was recognized by the President of the General Board, Admiral William L. Rodgers, USN, and through his efforts the library was transferred to the new building at Potomac Park, where with the exception of the photographic records it now occupies several rooms near the middle of the seventh wing.

The system of issuing information to the press has changed since the World War. It is now given out by the "press room," an adjunct to the "Information Section." However, this section obtains much information from the library.

The basic organization of the Navy Department Library and War Records Office, as it is called today, comprises three divisions:

  1. Library Division.
  2. Records or Manuscript Division.
  3. World War Records Division.

This third division exists merely as a matter of administrative convenience, because the volume of work there being handled (under the direct supervision of Captain Dudley W. Knox, USN) is about equal to that of the Library and Manuscript Divisions. It is estimated that the archiving of the World War Records will not be completed inside of five years.

The Archiving System adopted for the World War Records is basically the same as for old records and is very largely a chronological extension of the latter. Fundamentally therefore, this archiving system applies to the whole of the historical records of the Navy Department.

Frequently, the Records or Manuscript Division invokes the assistance of the material bureaus of the Navy Department when answering technical questions, because the old records of technical documents are still largely distributed and in the possession of these bureaus. The reverse procedure likewise prevails at times as the shelves of the Navy Department Library contain many books not to be found in the technical libraries of the various bureaus.

Some Visitors to the Library in the State, War and Navy Building,
and Its Use During Peace and War.

Navy Department Visitors.

As the reading room of the library was mentioned in the guide book of the Navy, it daily attracted visitors from all over the country. Visitors, after familiarizing themselves with the history of the room, would often seek to inform themselves about the naval service, and often have letters afterward been received from some who had visited the library mentioning an ancestor who had in some way been connected with the Navy even as far back as the Revolutionary War. When the record was looked up, the ancestor generally proved to be an enlisted man. There was thus created an interest and pride in the Navy, especially in the middle west, where the Navy was little known.

Distinguished visitors from Europe and other countries calling on the Secretary of the Navy were taken to the library escorted by the officer who was aide to the Secretary and often by the Secretary himself.

Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg (son-in-law of Queen Victoria) with his entourage spent about an hour in the library. He was interested in the room and remarked they had nothing like it in the Royal Navy's Admiralty Office.

Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian aviation pioneer often made use of the library. He built an early gas powered dirigible, and made the first sustained airplane flight in Europe on 23 October 1906.

The late President Theodore Roosevelt was a frequenter of the library and practically wrote his two-volume The Naval War of 1812 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1900) there while he was the Civil Service Commissioner of New York City. Later, when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and afterward President of the United States, he used the library frequently. On one occasion, when he was President, he telephoned to the library that "the shades were drawn unevenly" and another thing "growing plants should not be placed in the library windows."

When writing his The War With Mexico (New York: Macmillan Co., 1919), Justin Harvey Smith spent a great deal of time in the library consulting its books and manuscripts and obtaining addresses of the officers' families who had taken part in the Mexican War.

Robert W. Neeser, author of Statistical and Chronological History of the United States Navy, 1775-1907 (New York: Macmillan Co., 1909) and other books on naval subjects did the majority of his writing in the library.

James Barnes, the naval writer, and Mollie Elliot Sewell and other authors were also visitors.

Foreign diplomats, especially naval attachés, were practically daily visitors at the library to read our foreign magazines.

Baron F. Prenschen von und zu Lieberstein of Austria came every day. His mother was a daughter of the first Governor of Texas (Sam Houston). This accounts for his great interested in America and its history. He never seemed to tire of seeking information, and at one time expressed his great surprise that American women were allowed to hold administrative positions in the Government.

His successor, Commander Maximilian Burstyn, was a distinguished engineer, and presented several of his works to the library. One day, Commander Burstyn came to the library when a search was being made for the type of gun used in Europe to bring down airships. Upon seeing the illustration, he immediately remarked the guns were the same as those used by Austria and Italy to bring rain in the vineyards by shooting into the clouds. He was killed in action in the World War.

Captain F. C. E. Ryan and The Honorable Captain (later Rear Admiral) Horace Lambert Hood, Royal Navy, the naval attaché from Great Britain during 1907-1908, came to the library several times each week bringing their official mail. His [Hood's?] requests were always considered to be of a confidential nature as he disliked anything like espionage.

In addition to Captain Horace Hood, his naval attaché successor (in 1909), Captain Charles Fitzgerald Sowerby, also used the library. They both commanded cruisers in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916; each went down with his ship. Hood commanded the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron with his flag on battlecruiser HMS Invincible which was sunk by the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger. Sowerby commanded the cruiser HMS Indefatigable which was sunk by the German battlecruiser SMS Von der Tann.

Commander de Blanpr'e and a compatriot, Captain St. Simmon of the French Navy were frequent visitors to the library.

Captain (later Admiral) Arkadi Nebolsine of the Russian Navy, who commanded the armored cruiser Rurik (sunk on 14 August 1904 in the battle off Ulsan in the Russo-Japanese War) came nearly every day to the library. He did not speak English well and hence had difficulty making known his wants.

Commander Luis A. Lan of Argentina, an authority on submarines was a visitor, and Lieutenant Radles de Aquino of Brazil worked out his "Altitude and Azimuth Tables" in the library.

The Press Visits.

The library was the mecca for the press. Each morning a number of correspondents and Associated Press men would gather in the reading room to look up the matters of interest and happening of the day, always keeping the library abreast of the news. The late Louis Arthur Coolidge, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, correspondent of the Boston Journal and New York Commercial Advertiser, Secretary to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Editor of the Congressional Record was one of the noteworthy visitors of this group. Another visitor was Mr. John O'Laughlin, correspondent and magazine writer, member of the European Staff of the Associated Press in the Russo-Japanese War, on the staff of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald. Francis B. Loomis, the second Assistant Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt, and aide to General George Washington Goethals (of Panama Canal fame), now owner and edito of the Army and Navy Journal, spent a great deal of his time in the library.

Other visitors included:

Frank J. Brunner, editorial write for the N.J. Tribune and former editor of the Army and Navy Journal.

Richard Victor Oulahan, publisher of the New York Sun, correspondent for the New York Times chairman of the Committee of Congressional Correspondence, and representative at the World War Peace Conference.

The late Edwin M. Hood, President of the Associated Press, and magazine writer Adams of the Boston Journal.

Hal H. Smith, editor of the The Navy and correspondent of the New York Times and magazine writer.

John E. Jenks, owner and dditor of the Army and Navy Register.

Robert G. Skerrett, naval writer and editor and publisher of Compressed Air.

Raymond Patterson, magazine and political writer and Washington editor of the Chicago Tribune.

George Rodgers, editorial writer.

Judson Welliver, editorial writer on the Washington Times and magazine writer, and Periton Maxwell, on editorial staff of the New York Sun World Journal, editor cosmopolitan of the Saturday Evening Post, London Magazine and others. Sons and Daughters of the Revolution Colonial Dames.

Daughters of the War of 1812 were interested visitors at the library, looking up their ancestors who had served in our wars. It was in the library that the president of the United Daughters of 1812 was able to locate the records of this war.

Ida Sherman Jenne (Mrs. F. R. Clarence Jenne of Hartford, Connecticut), collected funds, and with them had made from the archives in Ottawa, Canada, a list of the U.S. prisoners in the War of 1812. A copy of this valuable record was presented by Mrs. Jenne to the library.

P.R. Burke in charge of pictorial section Naval Records & Library, 1930. Photo by Childs, C&R. Naval Historical Center, Photographic Section NH#000405.

The library is indebted to the late Rear Admiral George Henry Preble for his generous donation of hundreds of old and rare books on naval subjects and a collection of naval registers, naval tracts and other works, which constitute the rarest sets of U.S. naval publications in existence. These have seemed in many cases to supply information for biographies of naval officers and for historical data not otherwise obtainable. Admiral Preble wrote History of the Flag of the United States of America ... (Boston, MA: A. Williams and Co., 1880), and The First Cruise of the United States Frigate Essex (Salem, MA: Essex Institue, 1870). He collected the data for a History of the United States Navy-Yard, Portsmouth, N.H. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1892) while on duty there. This manuscript, with photographs, is in the Navy Department Library.

Captain Nathan Sargent, USN, who served as Naval Attaché in several foreign countries, presented the library with many valuable old works, especially those of Italy and Spain.

Rear Admiral Samuel Rhodes Franklin, Rear Admiral William Ledyard Rodgers, Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball, Captain William Frederick Halsey, Captain Charles March, Commander Byron McCandless, and other officers of the United States have presented valuable books to the library.

Retired officers spent more time in the library than those on the active list. In the old days, Rear Admiral Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers and Rear Admiral Samuel Rhodes Franklin would visit the library every afternoon -- both splendid types of American Naval Officers who had served through two wars and were greatly interested in the service and its records.

Admiral George Dewey was a lover of books, and spent some hours each day in reading. He was so interested in the Japan-related writings of Lafcadio Hearn that he always tried to get the first call on these books.

Admirals Winfield Scott Schley, Andrew Ellicott Kennedy Benhan, Albert Gleaves, Colby Mitchell Chester, Walter Cleveland Cowles and Frank Friday Fletcher, and others have all taken great interest in the library and been ready to give assistance and information.

War Reminiscence.

On Monday, 3 August 1914, two days after war was declared by Germany, there were some sixty-five newspaper men, besides a number of officers of the Army and Navy, in the reading rooms of the library, all anxious to find out "who's who" in Europe. At the time, Major General Allen and Commander William Moses, USN, happened to be in the reading room and they were able to assist in answering many of the inquiries. During the war, the reading room was very popular not only on account of furnishing treaties, laws and other information, but for the fact it was the only quiet spot in the entire building.

Conferences on War Matters Held in the Library.

Confidential conferences on devices to indicate the approach of a submarine were discussed, and models of them drawn and viewed in the library. On the library table models were displayed to the Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair and his assistants and other models of ships to show the different types and means of camouflaging ships. The officers of submarine chasers were also instructed in the library, and the convoy system explained.

Use by Senators.

Senators and Congressmen frequently visited the library, especially those on the Naval Committee who wished to make a study of the service, and also those making addresses.

Senator William Eathon Chandler, former Secretary of the Navy, wrote the greater part of his memoirs in, and from books in, the library.

Senators Julius Caesar Burrows, Redfield Proctor, Henry Cabot Lodge, Henry McMillan and others were constant visitors to the reading room.

Use by Secretaries of the Navy.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels used the library probably more than any other Secretary, though Secretaries Paul Morton, Truman H. Newbury and Hilary A. Herbert were also frequent users of the library.

A Few of the Old Books in the Navy Department Library.

Selected Pre-1700 Imprints in the Navy Department Library
The George Henry Preble Collection
America's Naval Heritage: A Catalog of Early Imprints

Footnote: 1. Miss Nannie Barney was one of the number so appointed. She is now (April 1926) in charge of its "Archives Division."


Adapted from Smith, Isabel and Elliot Snow. "Historical Sketch of the Navy Department Library and War Records." Washington, DC, 1926.

Much of the unpublished manuscript material mentioned above was later transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, and is now located in Record Group (RG) 45. Manuscript materials acquired subsequently are located in the library's Special Collections.


Published: Thu Mar 26 16:33:30 EDT 2020