Sunday, April 18, 2010

George Washington's $300K Library Book Fine

A New York library discovers two unreturned books checked out by George Washington.

The first president of the United States of America borrowed two books from the New York Society Library in 1789 but failed to return them.

Adjusted for inflation, he has since racked up $300,000 in fines for being some 220 years late. The New York Society Library says it will not pursue the fine. It would simply like the books back.

He famously never told a lie, but it seems George Washington was not without his faults. Besides, who hasn't had a late book?

Two Small Losses

On October 5, 1789, the first president borrowed two books from what was then the only library in Manhattan - "Law of Nations," a dissertation on international relations, and a volume of debate transcripts from Britain's House of Commons.

George Washington did not even bother to sign his name in the borrower's ledger. An aide simply scrawled "president" next to the title to show who had taken them out.

The two books were due back a month later but were never returned and have been accruing late fees ever since. Librarians uncovered the misdemeanor as they were digitizing the library's ledger from that time.

Sadly for fans of 18th-Century political literature, they appear to have vanished. On the balance sheet of George Washington's achievements for America, mark down two small losses, but it took the library society over 200 years to even notice it.

New York Society Library; New York Daily News.

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