Library Blog

Presidents Day 2022

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Library will be closed on February 20th and 21st for Presidents Day. If you wish to celebrate the holiday with some Presidential reading, we have plenty to offer in our print collection, including the list of recent biographies and memoirs below, on our website (event recordings and blog posts), and in our collection of electronic resources. Read on for a brief tour of available Presidential offerings. 


You will find over 600 biographies of the Presidents in our collection by searching the general subject heading “Presidents United States Biography” in our online catalog. But there are many more (especially older books) to be found if you also do a subject search by a specific President's name or if you head to the stacks and simply look to the left and right of the book you went to fetch. If you prefer to go straight to the stacks and spend some time browsing (highly recommended), you can find most birth-to-grave Presidential biographies in stack 7, where books are arranged alphabetically on the shelves by subject. You can also find many books focusing on the Presidents in the American History section of stack 2. The Dewey Decimal number for American History is 973 and is further subdivided in chronological order. 

  • 973.4 - 1789-1809 
  • 973.5 - 1809-1845
  • 973.6 - 1845-1861
  • 973.7 - 1861-1865 Civil War & Lincoln administration
  • 973.8 - Reconstruction period 1865-1901
  • 973.9 - 1901 - 2000 (further subdivided chronologically)
  • 973.93 - 21st century


Presidents and Their Books

This 2018 post presents an overview of Presidential biographies in our collection, plus a look at the reading habits of past Presidents. Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt read a book a day, minimum, in addition to newspapers and periodicals? He also wrote several dozen books. (For more on the books that Presidents have written, see Author in Chief: The Untold Story of our Presidents, and the Books They Wroteby Craig Fehrman (2020).)

What Were the Presidents (and Vice-Presidents) Reading?

Using the Library's unique, rich City Readers database, Events Coordinator Sara Holliday rolls up her sleeves and digs into the borrowing records of some early American political figures—including John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and George Clinton—to see what these founders were reading when we shared a building with the federal government in Federal Hall (Wall and Broad Streets).

The Curious Case of the President's Overdue Books

See this 2010 press release, "Historic Mount Vernon Returns Copy of Rare Book Borrowed by George Washington in 1789 to The New York Society Library," to read about the first President's use (and possible misuse) of the Library's collection. NYSL Cataloger Emeritus Matthew Bright took a closer, critical look at the Washington case in this 2017 post.

In Her Own Hand: Read Elizabeth Hamilton's Letters of Grief

Speaking of the founders, the Library's manuscript collection includes some letters from Hamilton's widow, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Richard Harison, Hamilton's partner in law and the first US Attorney for the District of New York. The Harison letters chronicle an exchange of news and ideas between the early American lawyer and his peers, including Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and others. Former Special Collections Librarian Erin Schreiner discusses the correspondence in her 2016 post.

Presidential Libraries for Presidents Day 

In 2015, Matthew Bright published this brief tour of Presidential Libraries in the Northeast on our blog. 

Libraries and Taverns: A Library Trustee, a Vigilante, and George Washington Walk Into a Bar...

This article looks at how the Fraunces Tavern on Pearl Street became an important social hub in the 18th-century, a place where Library trustees were closely tied through their patronage of the tavern to President Washington’s inner circle and to other influential members of society, including revolutionaries.

Voting for Dogs!

Author, illustrator, and Society Library member Erin McGill on pets in the White House. Cats, dogs, raccoons...a surprising variety of animal friends have shared the White House with Presidents, their families, and their staff. 


Adam Van Doren, The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents

Artist and author Adam Van Doren and preeminent historian David McCullough unite for an excursion to the celebrated homes of fifteen American presidents, past and present. This 2016 Library event was held in the Members' Room.

Susan Nagel, Patriotism and Profit: Washington, Hamilton, Schuyler & the Rivalry for America's Capital City 

Watch the recording of this Members' Room event from November 2021. Author Susan Nagel discusses the little-known story of how George Washington borrowed, leveraged, and coerced his way into masterminding the key land purchase of the American era, which led to the creation of the nation’s capital city. 

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

A National Book Award finalist, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom. This event was recorded in the Members' Room in 2018. 

Annette Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson

This 2011 lecture was recorded at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Pulitzer Prize-winner Annette Gordon-Reed recounts the tale of the unwanted President who ran afoul of Congress over Reconstruction and was nearly removed from office. Reed is Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University and an acclaimed author. 

Barnet Schecter, George Washington's America: A Biography Through His Maps

An esteemed historian uses Washington's personal atlas to allow readers to visualize history through the Founding Father's eyes and sheds fresh light on the man and his times. Members' Room, 2010. 


The American Founding Era Collection 

Created and maintained by the University of Virginia, this database contains fully-searchable digital versions of the papers of major figures of early American history, including some of the first U.S. Presidents. The voluminous correspondence, administrative papers, and other primary sources in the database fills hundreds of print volumes. This resource applies a rigorous scholarly editorial approach, and close to every extant relevant document is included.  The American Founding Era Collection is available remotely to Library members signed in to our website. 

In the late 18th-century (after being closed for the Revolution), the Society Library occupied a room in then Federal Hall, just one floor above the chambers of the first American Congresses.  Presidents John Adams and George Washington, and Vice Presidents Aaron Burr and George Clinton, used the Library. Prominent founding figures such as Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Rufus King used the collection, as well. Their borrowing histories show a wide range of interests—law, history, geography, travel, even fiction—and users can browse their borrowing records in the Library's own City Readers database.

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