Peabody Room, Georgetown Public Library

Peabody Room, Georgetown Library

The Peabody Room is a special collection of Georgetown neighborhood history, and is a part of The People’s Archive. The People’s Archive is DC Public Library’s local history center with materials on D.C. and African American history and culture. The Peabody Room has a house history file, covering many Georgetown homes.

Peabody Room, Georgetown Library

This local branch dates back to 1875, when the first library in Georgetown was funded by George Peabody (1795–1869), an American financier and philanthropist. Peabody was born into a poor family in Massachusetts. He went into business in dry goods and later into banking. In 1837 he moved to London (which was then the capital of world finance) where he became the most noted American banker and helped to establish the young country’s international credit. Having no son of his own to whom he could pass on his business, Peabody took on Junius Spencer Morgan as a partner in 1854 and their joint business would go on to become the global financial services firm J.P. Morgan & Co. after Peabody’s 1864 retirement.

Peabody is often considered the father of modern philanthropy. He founded the Peabody Trust in Britain, the Peabody Institute as well as the George Peabody Library in Baltimore, among other charitable initiatives. For his generosity, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and made a Freeman of the City of London.

In 2007 a large fire broke out at the Georgetown library, severely damaging much of the building and causing the roof to collapse. The fire irreparably damaged some of the library’s holdings and artwork, including the Peabody collection. Repairs and a major renovation were completed in 2010.


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