Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191

September 5, 1997

Young Washingtonian's Journal from the 1850's Published by the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has published the journal of Francis O. French, the son of a former Clerk of the House who lived on Capitol Hill in the mid-1800s. The boy, "Frank," started his two-year chronicle of growing up in Washington on Jan. 1, 1850, when he was 12 years old.

Frank lived several hundred yards from the east front of the U.S. Capitol in a house that was torn down in the 1890s to make way for the construction of the Library of Congress.

His father, Benjamin Brown French, was Clerk of the House from 1845 to 1847. As such, he entertained many of the prominent politicians of his day in his home--all duly recorded in Frank's journal.

Frank described the comings and goings of foreign diplomats and dignitaries of Europe and Latin America. Activities at the "President's House" are at the center of the social events he described. On Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1851, he wrote: "The President, Mr. Fillmore, received the crowd of strangers in his usual easy way. He recognized me when at last we got up to him."

Many transformations occurred in Washington while Frank wrote his journal, including the paving of the streets with cobblestones, the erection of a train depot near the foot of Capitol Hill, the extension of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal as far as Cumberland, Md., the continuation of construction of the Smithsonian "castle" and the Washington Monument, and commencement of work on the extension of the Capitol building.

Frank's journal ended when he left Washington in 1852 to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, and then Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Growing Up on Capitol Hill--A Young Washingtonian's Journal, 1850-1852 by Francis O. French was edited by John J. McDonough, a manuscript historian in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, where the original manuscript of Frank's journal is kept. The book version is available for $4.50 from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. When ordering, please cite stock number 030-001-00171-7. Credit card orders are taken at (202) 512-1800 and fax orders at (202) 512-2250.

# # #

PR 97-140
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top