President John Adams signed into law an act establishing the Library of Congress on April 24, 1800. The same act transferred of the seat of government of the United States from Philadelphia to the District of Columbia.

The law made available the sum of $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress …, and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them …”

The vast majority of the books obtained for the original collection were published in and ordered from London, consisting of fewer than 800 volumes and two dozen maps.