The David Library of the American Revolution Releases Its Spring 2015 Slate of Programs

…And it is a star-studded lineup:

With the exception of Richard K. Beeman’s lecture on April 22nd,  which will be held at Bucks County Community College, all events will take place in the Feinstone Conference Center at the David Library of the American Revolution, 1201 River Road, Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania (1.3 miles north of the Washington Crossing Bridge).  David Library events are admission-free, but reservations are necessary, and can be made by calling 215.493.6776 ext. 100, or sending an email to   

Lectures at the David Library:

Nancy K. Loane
Sunday, January 18, 3:00 PM  –  “Present But Not Accounted For: Women at the 1777-1778 Valley Forge Campaign,” Nancy K. Loane, Ph. D.  — Did you know that more the 400 women were encamped at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778? Much has been written about the Valley Forge winter and Washington’s fortitude there, of the remarkable remodeling of the Constitutional Army and the suffering endured by the soldiers. But what about those women?  Who were they? What did they do at Valley Forge? Nancy K. Loane is author of Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment. This program is a co-presentation of DLAR and the Lower Makefield Historical Society. (Snow date: January 25)

Wednesday, February 25, 7:30 PM  –  “Rethinking Slavery’s Slow Death in New Jersey, 1775-1865,” James Gigantino II, Ph. D. — Contrary to popular
James Gigantino II
perception, slavery persisted in the North well into the nineteenth century. This was especially the case in New Jersey, which did not pass an abolition statute until 1804. New Jersey’s “gradual” abolition law freed children born to enslaved mothers only after they had served their mother’s master for at least two decades.  This lecture will examine the impact of the American Revolution on New Jersey in this regard, and explain how there really were no easy dichotomies between “free states” and “slave states” up to the Civil War.  James Gigantino II is Assistant Professor of History and an affiliated faculty member in African & African American Studies at the University of Arkansas.  He is the author of The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865.

Tuesday, March 24, 7:30 PM  –  “A Tale of Two Plantations,” Richard S.
Dunn, Ph. D. — Since the 1970s, Richard S. Dunn has been tracking the 1,103
Richard S. Dunn
slaves who lived at Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica between 1762 and 1833, and the 973 slaves who lived at Mount Airy plantation in Virginia between 1808 and 1865, reconstructing the lineages of slave families from both plantations through four or five generations. In Jamaica, many more slaves died than were born, and the planters imported huge numbers of new slaves from Africa to replace the dead workers. In Virginia, the slave population doubled every twenty-five years, and the planters sold huge numbers of “surplus” slaves, or moved them to distant work sites. The people at Mesopotamia and Mount Airy suffered a terrible predicament, trapped into forced labor, with meager possibilities for personal achievement. Bare traces of their existence have been handed down to us by their captors, and represent mostly what slaveholders chose to inscribe. But by interpreting such records against the grain, these simple family diagrams and biographical sketches highlight personhood, connection, and belonging rather than proprietary accounting. Consequently, they open many fruitful lines of investigation. Dr. Dunn taught at Princeton, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and for 39 years at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he founded the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies (renamed the McNeil Center in 1998), and directed the Center from 1978 to 2000. He and his wife Mary Maples Dunn are former Co-Executive Officers of the American Philosophical Society. His latest book,  A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, was just published at the end of 2014.

Christian M. McBurney
Wednesday, April 8, 7:30 PM  –  LECTURE: “Kidnapping the Enemy:  The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee & Richard Prescott,” Christian M. McBurney  — On December 13, 1776, a party of British dragoons surprised and captured Major General Charles Lee, second-in-command of the Continental Army. In order to have a British captive of the same rank, Rhode Island’s William Barton planned and executed the capture of Major General Richard Prescott. Barton’s raid was the outstanding special operation of the Revolutionary War and still ranks as one of the greatest in American History. But did the pride Barton earned from the mission ruin his life? McBurney is the author of three books on the American Revolution, including his newest, Kidnapping the Enemy, about the missions to capture Charles Lee and Richard Prescott

Tuesday, June 2, 7:30 PM – LECTURE  –  “‘The Pursuit of Happiness’: On John Adams and Egalitarianism in the Declaration of Independence,” Danielle S. Allen, Ph. D.  – Professor Allen is an American classicist and political scientist. She
Danielle S. Allen
is the UPS Foundation Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies’ School of Social Science. Her latest book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, has been called “a tour de force of close textual analysis” by Gordon Wood and “a wise and rich book,” by Cornel West. In her talk at the David Library, Professor Allen will consider John Adams, who she believes played a much more significant role in the development of the Declaration of Independence than is conventionally recognized. “Among his central contributions was to provide the definitive grounding for the Declaration’s egalitarianism in the concept of ‘happiness,'” she notes, adding, “This was a move away from the slave-holding sections’ preferred commitment to ‘property.'”

American Heritage Music Performance:

On Tuesday, March 10 at 7:30 PM, the David Library and the Friends of the Delaware Canal will co-present a performance of American “roots music” by the Long Hill String Band. 

American music in the 1800’s was melodic, energetic, and bound to start toes a’tapping.  Settlers carried tunes from their homelands and created new music that embodied their hardships, joys, and stories from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and beyond.

The Long Hill String Band, a group of six local musicians, will perform with fiddle, banjo, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, bass, guitar and voice to evoke the times when America was growing by leaps and bounds.   (There may even be some flatfooting and limberjack dancing!)

On the program will be canal tunes (yes, there is more to canal music than just the ubiquitous Erie Canal song),  reels, jigs, waltzes, square dance tunes, and “familiars” such as “Oh Susannah!,” “Buffalo Gals” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”  Singing, humming, toe tapping and clapping by the audience will be part of the fun!  Karl Varnai and his band members will also share some of the history of the times and the tunes that they will be playing.

Book Launch:

On Sunday, March 29 at 3:00 PM, help celebrate the publication of  “The Revolution’s Last Men: the Soldiers Behind the Photographs” by Don N. Hagist. In 1864, as the Civil War threatened to tear apart the United States, a book called The
Don N. Hagist
Last Men of the Revolution was published. It featured photographs and interviews of six old men who were believed to be the only veterans of the American Revolution still living at that time. The book captured the public’s imagination when it was first published, but through a combination of the subjects’ fading memories and the interviewer’s patriotic agenda, the profiles accompanying the photographs distort history. In his new version of this landmark work, independent researcher and author Don N. Hagist has updated the profiles of each of these veterans using service records, pension files and other materials now available. Hagist’s book, The Revolution’s Last Men, includes accurate biographies of each of the six men, several additional newly-discovered photographs, drawings of how the men might have looked when they were soldiers in the American Revolution, and many unexpected discoveries uncovered in the recent research. This event will include a talk by the author about his process, as well as a book sale reception to celebrate the publication of this exciting new work.

Lecture at Bucks County Community College:

On Wednesday, April 22 the David Library and Bucks County Community College will co-present “The Founding Fathers of 1787: Lessons In Political Leadership,” a lecture by Richard K. Beeman, Ph. D. in the Kevin and Sima Zlock Performing Arts Center on the BCCC campus. 

Richard K. Beeman
Professor Beeman is the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of many books, he won the George Washington Book Prize for Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution.  His latest book is Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor: Americans Choose Independence.  
About his talk on April 22, he noted, “Americans today, though they continue to show great reverence for the U.S. Constitution, are often thoroughly disenchanted with the way in which our political system is functioning. Indeed, that disenchantment borders on disgust when the subject is the hyper-partisan and vituperative manner in which our United States Congress functions (or, in many cases, fails to function). In this era of political dysfunction, it might be useful to look back in time, to the summer of 1787, when 55 delegates, representing widely diverse constituencies across the breadth of America, were able in just under four months to craft a constitution that has not only brought stability and justice to the United States, but has also served as a model for other constitutions around the world.” In this lecture, Professor Beeman will examine both the eighteenth century context in which the delegates to the Constitutional Convention carried out their deliberations and the varieties of individual and collective leadership represented among that group of extraordinary men.