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Collection Freedom's Fortress: The Library of Congress, 1939 to 1953

Key Staff Members

Verner W. Clapp (1901-1972)

Portrait of Verner W. Clapp, undated.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Photo Credit: Leet Brothers Photography

Verner W. Clapp began his Library of Congress career in 1921 in the Manuscript Division. Over the years he held a number of administrative positions, including Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress (1947) and Acting Librarian of Congress (1953-54). During his years at the Library Clapp contributed to the development of the Library's reference services to the Congress and the public. As director of the Administrative Department, he modernized the Library's fiscal plans. As head of the newly established Acquisitions Department, Clapp found ways to build the Library's collections as well as to develop cooperative acquisition programs with other libraries. Clapp resigned from the Library of Congress in 1956 to become president of the Council on Library Resources.

[Detail] Photograph of Frederick Goff and Gladys Harris, undated.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Frederick Goff (1916-1982)

Frederick Goff began his career at the Library of Congress in 1940 as curator of the Rare Book Collection and in 1945 he became the chief. He developed a specialty in 15th-century books and, during his years at the Library, acquired more than 5,600 of them. He published Incunabula in American Libraries: A Third Census in 1964 and a supplement to the Census in 1972. In later years Goff worked on the compilation The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection: A Catalog of the Gifts of Lessing J. Rosenwald to the Library of Congress, 1943 to 1975.

Memorandum from Lewis Hanke to David C. Mearns, July 13, 1944.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Lewis Hanke (1905-1993)

Lewis Hanke became the first director of the Library's newly established Hispanic Foundation in 1939 and held the Chair of Latin American Studies from 1944 until 1951. In the 1940 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress he wrote that the purpose of the Hispanic Foundation was "to build up a comprehensive collection of materials on all aspects of Hispanic culture, carefully organized for reference purposes and made available to investigators of all nations for consultation under the freest possible conditions."

Letter from Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., to Archibald MacLeish, May 10, 1940.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. (1906-1990)

Wishing to increase the number of accomplished and creative administrators on the staff, Librarian MacLeish appointed Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. as curator of the Rare Book Collection on March 31, 1940. Houghton, a collector of rare books and an executive with Steuben Glass and Corning Glass Works, quickly took up the challenge of managing the Library's rare book collection. In his first annual report he noted the successful acquisition of two very generous gifts: the Rudyard Kipling Collection, formed by the late William M. Carpenter, and 86 early American children's books by Frank Joseph Hogan. Arthur Houghton was curator for two years.

"The Acquisitions Policy of the Library of Congress," by David C. Mearns, undated.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

David C. Mearns (1899-1981)

David C. Mearns worked for the Library from 1918 to 1967. During this time he served as Superintendent of the Reading Rooms, Director of the Reference Department, Assistant Librarian, and finally Chief of the Manuscript Division. In 1946 he wrote The Story Up to Now, a history of the Library from 1800 to 1946. Archibald MacLeish described him as "the rarest treasure in the Library of Congress."

Portrait of Elsie Rackstraw, September 18, 1950.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Elsie Rackstraw (d. 1992)

A graduate of the New York Library School and American University, Elsie Rackstraw began working at the Library of Congress on July 10, 1944 as chief of the newly established Loan Division. The creation of the Loan Division and the appointment of Rackstraw were part of Librarian MacLeish's sweeping reorganization in order to make the Library more responsive to the Congress and the public. Upon Rackstraw's retirement on September 30, 1950, her successor, Legare Obear, wrote: "It was through her guidance that many of the loan procedures which have worked so successfully had been established."

Letter from Lucy Salamanca to Archibald MacLeish, February 1, 1942.
Papers of Archibald MacLeish, 1907-1981, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Lucy Salamanca (d. 1989)

Lucy Salamanca, Chief of the Inquiry Section of the Library's Legislative Reference Service, was the author of Fortress of Freedom: The Story of the Library of Congress. Published in 1942, the book tells the Library's history and the way in which it became a great national force in the world's struggle for freedom and democracy. She wrote: "In a world fighting desperately against the savage inroads of a philosophy of force, its power is great, its obligation sacred to protect the integrity of the written world. Husbanding and dispensing here at home the fruits of man's culture and the written record of man's past, it finds itself at the same time called upon to offer sanctuary to the driven exiled scholars of other lands. These obligations it never knew in the past. And who could foresee such incredible necessities?"

Portrait of Harold Spivacke.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Harold Spivacke (1904-1977)

Harold Spivacke served the Library for 38 years, first as Assistant Chief of the Music Division from 1934 until 1937 and then as chief from 1937 until he retired in 1972. During his time in office, the holdings of the Music Division almost tripled, the activities and services of the division expanded greatly, and the Library's music program became an important part of America's cultural life.