Collecting American Histories: The Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75

For the University of Virginia Library, 1938 was an annus mirabilis. That spring it moved into the new Alderman Library after over a century in the Rotunda. Then, at the building’s dedication on June 13, 1938, the Library announced its greatest single gift up to that time: the magnificent 12,500-volume library formed by Detroit philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor. Presented by the McGregor Fund, the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History instantly elevated the University of Library to the ranks of the nation’s great research libraries. The collection’s new home—the elegant McGregor Room on the second floor of Alderman—was dedicated on April 14, 1939.

The McGregor Library is world renowned for the rarity, quality, and significance of its books, manuscripts, maps, and prints. Tracy McGregor built a comprehensive and broad-based collection of primary sources relating to American history, focusing on the exploration of the New World, British North America, and the early American Republic. Over the past 75 years, with unswervingly generous support from the McGregor Fund, Library curators have more than tripled the collection’s size. In addition to enhancing the McGregor Library’s core strengths, curators have painstakingly built a major new strength in the early history of the American South.

In this 75th anniversary exhibition, we invite visitors, students, and scholars to explore the riches of the McGregor Library. We honor Tracy W. McGregor and his wife Katherine, and salute the McGregor Fund for its steadfast support in maintaining the McGregor Library as one of the very best of its kind.


Curated by David R. Whitesell, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia