Folger Shakespeare Library front. Detail

How the Folgers Brought the Bard to Capitol Hill

April 8, 2014

Author Tells How Shakespeare Library Came to Capitol Hill

On April 8, 2014, Stephen H. Grant delivered an Overbeck History Lecture on the lives of Henry and Emily Folger, who amassed the world’s greatest collection of Shakespeare treasures, including 82 First Folios, and built a library on Capitol Hill to house them.

Based on his recent book,, Collecting Shakespeare, Grant described how the Folgers financed their collecting hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil of New York and how they secretly acquired prime real estate near the Library of Congress for a facility that would include a reading room, a public exhibition hall and an Elizabethan-style theater.

A former Foreign Service officer, Grant has authored five books, including a biography of Peter Strickland, a New London, CT sea captain who became the first American consul in French West Africa. His book on the Folgers was preceded by his article in the June 2012 issue of Washington History, “A Most Interesting and Attractive Problem: Creating Washington’s Folger Shakespeare Library.”

Grant earned a B.A. at Amherst College (from which Henry Folger graduated in 1879), an M.A. with the Middlebury College program in Paris, and an Ed.D. at the University of Massachusetts. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ivory Coast, he pursued a career with the U.S. Agency for International Development, with assignments in Ivory Coast and Guinea, Egypt, Indonesia, and El Salvador. He serves now as a Senior Fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in Arlington, VA.

Past Lectures