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United States Military Academy Library

Jefferson Hall Tour Guide

Points of Interest


Immediately upon entering the West Point Room you will see a marble memorial to James Abbott McNeil Whistler. Whistler entered West Point as a cadet in 1851 as a member of the class of 1855, but was dismissed after three years due to conduct and deficiency in chemistry. He then went on to become one of the most influential American artists of the nineteenth century, best recognized for his paintings known as Whistler’s Mother and Old Battersea Bridge. The memorial was designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial.


Directly in front of the Whistler memorial sits the Aguinaldo desk. This desk once belonged to Emilio Aguinaldo, Filipino leader and revolutionary who fought first against Spanish rule of the Philippines and then against American rule in the Philippine-American War. This desk was captured by US forces in 1899 during the latter conflict and was later presented to Congressman Henry B. Cocheu (Brooklyn, NY) by his brother CPT Frank L. Cocheu (USMA 1894). Henry Cocheu restored the desk and donated it to the Academy in 1938.



In the northwest corner of the reading room stands another marble memorial to another notable ex-Cadet, Edgar Allen Poe. Though Poe, a member of the class of 1834, attended West Point for less than a year, he was popular with his fellow cadets, who raised a subscription to publish the 1831 edition of Poems, dedicated to the Corps of Cadets. The quotation on the arch is from one of the poems in that volume, To Helen.



Along the south wall of the reading room stands a desk bought by GEN Douglas MacArthur (USMA 1903) in the Philippines. Made out of Narra wood, native to the Philippine Islands, this desk was used by MacArthur at his headquarters during the Philippine Campaign of 1945, then in the City Hall of Manila, then at his residence at the American Embassy in Tokyo, and finally in the living room of his New York City penthouse at the Waldorf-Astoria.



The reading room houses rotating exhibits that highlight a variety of materials in our collection. Currently on display are historical objects highlighting past graduation ceremonies and celebrations at West Point (Reading Room Display Cases) as well as an exhibit on photographic censorship in World War I (Coat Room Display Cases).



Our collections house historical records of the academy from its founding in 1802 to the present, as well as academy publications like cadet yearbooks (Howitzer), the post newspaper (Pointer View) and Annual Reports of the Superintendent. We also have a vast holding of personal manuscripts, maps, photographs, and other unique materials, as well a rare book collection that includes early European and American imprints and the Sylvanus Thayer Collection. The latter is comprised of the Library’s holdings circa 1822 when the Library's first catalog was published. This collection can be seen from the West Point Room and serves as a testament to the Library's enduring role at the center of the academic program.

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