Originally located in Widener Library, the Farnsworth Room moved to the third floor of the Lamont Library shortly after Lamont opened in January 1949.
The room was a gift from the family of Henry Weston Farnsworth, class of 1912. Farnsworth — a newspaper correspondent, world traveler, adventure-seeker, avid reader, and member of the French Foreign Legion — was killed in action at Bois Sabot in France in September 1915.
The Farnsworth Room was dedicated on December 5, 1916, four months before the United States officially entered the Great War, making it quite possibly the country's first memorial to an American who lost his life in WWI.
The Farnsworth Room marked a milestone at Harvard — and in the history of libraries more generally. This was the first extracurricular reading collection at an American college or university. The books on its shelves were designed to be those "such as any undergraduate might have bought" or would be apt to read if they happened upon them.
The Farnsworth Room never pretended to offer the "best reading" — just "a good collection in which to browse, where an hour may be passed with pleasure and a chance of profit."