north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



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     The State Library was formed by the General Assembly in 1812 as part of the office of the Secretary of State in order to serve the legal research needs of the Governor and other state officials. At that time, the Secretary of State was instructed to maintain a growing collection of books that were acquired by the Governor’s office. The collection grew into holdings of over a thousand volumes on a wide range of topics. The library was housed in the State Capitol when the building burned in 1831, destroying all of the books and some of the state’s official papers. Only a few volumes escaped the fire since they were out of the building on loan at the time.

     After the devastating fire, the General Assembly wanted to re-build the library and sought the help of bookseller Joseph Gales of Raleigh to re-create the law collection. Furthermore, the Literary Board was charged by the General Assembly with collecting books appropriate for the “Public Library.” To accomplish the goal, booksellers from Raleigh and from northern states were contacted and an aggressive book-buying campaign was started. The growing collection was moved to the new state Capitol as soon as it was completed in 1840. Realizing the need for closer supervision of their investment in books, the General Assembly passed legislation that created a board of trustees for the library, consisting of the governor and Supreme Court justices, and appropriated funds to hire a full-time librarian. The first person to occupy the position, James Hill, began work in 1843.

     The library survived into the twentieth century, having been moved from the Capitol to the Supreme Court building in 1888 and then to a new facility in 1913, finally moving into its current home, the Archives and History/State Library building, in 1969. Throughout its history, the library has grown from a special collection of law and reference books for state officials to an assortment of titles on topics including biography, fiction, genealogy, science, and historical reference, all available to the wider public. The library’s current priority is an active campaign to collect the best in titles associated with the heritage and culture of North Carolina to assist both state government and the general public.

Maurice York, “A History of the North Carolina State Library, 1812-1888” (1977), unpublished research report, Research Branch, Office of Archives and History
Thornton W. Mitchell, The State Library and Library Development in North Carolina (1983)
North Carolina State Library website:

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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources