The David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing is Closing

David Library

I was recently contemplating a research trip to the David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.  I have some left-over professional development money that I need to spend by the end of June and the DLAR offers me the best bang (in terms of collections) for my buck.

I enjoy research at the David Library for several reasons:

First, the early American history collections are outstanding.   I have so much stuff I still need to look at for my current project!

Second, the David Library farm is a wonderful place to work.  Fellows have 24-hour access to the library.  One does not have to worry about parking.  There is housing on site. And the farm’s location on the Delaware Canal provides opportunities for walking and other forms of exercising.  It has always been my favorite place to work.

Third, former fellows and other scholars can stay at the on-site residence at a discount.  I have taken advantage of this several times. Meg McSweeney has always been so hospitable.

Fourth, I am nostalgic.  I attended my first McNeil Center for Early American Studies (it was then called the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies) seminar at the David Library in 1995.  I held a research fellowship at the DLAR in 2008-2009.  I wrote my first The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog post in my room at the residence. I have lectured at the DLAR on several different occasions.  My family even visited one rainy Saturday afternoon during my fellowship and we organized baseball cards in my room.

David Library 2

But the days of the David Library–at least the Washington Crossing days–are coming to an end. The DLAR has just announced that it will be selling the farm and moving its collections to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.  Here is a taste of the press release:

In a bold decision that will preserve the material record of American Revolutionary history and make it accessible to scholars across the globe, the David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) and the American Philosophical Society (APS) announce a new partnership that will create an unparalleled single site for the comprehensive study of early U.S. history.

The newly formed David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society will provide for the long-term care and protection of the David Library’s collections, permit expanded public access to the materials, advance the current fellowship program, and enable the digitization of the documents. This new model of preservation comes at a time when many American historical institutions are struggling to maintain their collections.

“As a former research fellow at both the David Library and the American Philosophical Society, I am incredibly excited about this partnership,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President & CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution. “In an era of tight budgets and uncertainty about the future of some of our most venerable historical organizations, this collaboration will make the David Center a powerhouse of scholarship on the American Revolution.  With the 250th anniversary of the nation fast approaching, this is definitely a case of 1 + 1 = 3.”

The David Library will continue to operate as usual in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania until the end of 2019.The transition period is expected to begin as early as this summer, as various committees work to fulfill the joint vision of the partnering institutions. Relocation of the collection from the David Library’s Bucks County campus to the American Philosophical Society will begin after the Library closes at the end of this year.

James J. Linksz, President of the David Library said that the partnership will ensure the long-term success of the David Library. “For the David Library to fulfill its potential to be the pre-eminent institution for scholarship and study of American history in the era of the American Revolution, the Board of Trustees determined that we needed a strong and distinguished institutional partner. In the American Philosophical Society, we think we have found the best partner possible. We are sad to leave Bucks County, the David Library’s home since its founding in 1959, but we are excited to join the APS in Philadelphia, the city where the United States of America began, and we look forward to our future as the David Center.”

The new Center will house the vast collection of rare and important documents, microfilm and other material from the David Library of the American Revolution, including original letters and journals from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and other founding fathers.

The David Library Board of Trustees will be tasked with determining the next life for portions of the 118-acre Bucks County property along River Road in Upper Makefield Township (Washington Crossing), where the Library has been located for the past 45 years.  A significant portion of the property, 52.53 acres, has already been protected from development through the Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation program, and will remain open space. With that restriction, the entire property will be offered for sale and the proceeds will help to fund future programming and collections care at the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society.

“The DLAR and the APS have long shared missions to support scholarship and disseminate knowledge about the birth of our nation,” said Robert M. Hauser, Executive Officer of the APS. “This new partnership allows the DLAR to preserve that mission while leveraging professional, financial, and technological resources at APS that will expand the David Library’s reach and impact.”

Read the rest here.

I will reserve judgement until I learn more about the nature of “David Center for the American Revolution.”

Attend a Lecture at the David Library of the American Revolution This Fall

David Library

What a great lineup!

Press release:

UPPER MAKEFIELD — The David Library of the American Revolution announced a schedule of educational programs that will be offered free in the library’s lecture hall, 1201 River Road, Washington Crossing.

The David Library is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of American history Between 1750 and 1800.

The lecture series will begin at 7:30 p.m. May 14 with a talk by Larry Kidder titled “George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days.” Kidder, who lives in Ewing, is the author of the new book, “Ten Crucial Days: Washington’s Vision for Victory Unfolds,” as well as “A People Harassed and Exhausted: The Story of a New Jersey Militia Regiment in the American Revolution.”

Additional lectures scheduled at the David Library include “The Usual Suspects: General Washington, His Critics, and the Conway Cabal Reconsidered,” a lecture by Mark Lender author of “Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington,” at 7:30 p.m. June 13; “Occupied Philadelphia and the Disaffected of Revolutionary America,” a lecture by Aaron Sullivan, author of “The Disaffected: Britain’s Occupation of Philadelphia During the American Revolution,” at 7:30 June 25; “Revolution in the News,” a lecture by Joseph Adelman, assistant professor of history at Framingham State University and assistant editor for digital initiatives at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and author of “Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789,” at 7:30 p.m. July 24; “Remembering Material Worlds: The Stuff and Spaces of Interpreting Early America,” a lecture by George Boudreau, co-editor of “A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in Early Anglo-America,” a new volume of essays on material culture by leading scholars from various disciplines,” at 3 p.m. Aug. 4; “The Founding Generation and their Spirits: How Consumption Shaped American Politics and the Presidency,” a lecture by Matthew Costello, senior historian of the White House Historical Association,” at 7:30 p.m. Sep. 13; “Supreme Injustice: The Proslavery Jurisprudence of John Marshall and the Legacy of the American Revolution,” a lecture on the 264th anniversary of the birth of John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court, by Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College, and author of “Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court,” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24; “The Providence of John and Abigail Adams,” a lecture by Sara Georgini, series editor for “The Papers of John Adams” at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and author of “Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family.” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10; and “Quartering the British Army in Revolutionary America,” a lecture by John Gilbert McCurdy, author of “Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22.

David Library Lectures are free of admissions, but reservations are required. Call 215-493-6776 ext. 100 or visit for or more detailed descriptions of the programs, and for possible program additions.

Memories of Washington’s Crossing and the David Library

David Library

Some of the first posts I published at The Way of Improvement Leads Home were written in June 2008 while I was a visiting fellow at the David Library of the American Revolution.  My month-long stay at the library remains one of my favorite research experiences.  I have visited the library many times over the years, but nothing compares to the one-month immersion in the archives that Meg McSweeney and her staff provide for visiting scholars.

I recalled many of these fond memories when I read Michael Lynch’s post on his blog Past in the Present about his own visit to the library.  He has posted some great pictures.  The shot of the Delaware Canal tow path reminds me of my early morning walks.  His picture of Bowman’s Hill Tower reminds me of the Saturday my family came to visit and we ascended to the top of the tower for a view of the region surrounding Washington’s Crossing.  Caroline was seven and Allyson was ten. Since it rained that day we spent the better part of our Saturday organizing baseball cards on my bed in the Firestone Residence.

Read Lynch’s post here.  I hope he gets that mirror fixed soon!


Delaware Canal tow path

And the Winner Is…

You may recall that this morning I posted a picture and asked readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home to guess my location.

Wendy Wong Schirmer, a recent early American history Ph.D from Temple University who is starting a post-doc stint at the Library of Congress tomorrow, correctly predicted that the picture was taken from the Four Poster Room in the Feinstone Scholars Residence at the David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing, PA.

Not only did Wendy win the contest, but later in the day she and her husband showed up with a pizza!  We had a great chat about early America, faith and history, and a whole lot more.

Thanks Wendy!  I am glad that we finally had the chance to meet face-to-face!


The Spring 2016 Lecture Series at the David Library of the American Revolution

David LibraryThe David Library of the America Revolution has announced its Spring Lecture Series, “Fighting and Fulfilling the American Revolution.”  Here is what you can expect:

On Wednesday, February 24 at 7:30 PM with “A Sea Change: Naval Warfare in the American Revolution during the Spring of 1778,” a lecture by Dennis M. Conrad. There were significant changes in the nature of naval warfare in the spring of 1778, including the internationalization of the naval war, a re-direction in British strategy, and the emergence of significant Loyalist privateering activity, to name but a few. Dr. Conrad is Documentary Histories Technical Lead at the Naval History and Heritage Command. Using materials taken from the newly-published Naval Documents of the American Revolution, volume 12, he will provide a new and exciting perspective on America’s naval heritage.

On Tuesday, March 15 at 7:30 PM, DLAR will present “Maryland Immortals: Washington’s Elite Regiments and the Band of Brothers Who Led Them,” a lecture by combat historian Patrick K. O’Donnell.  In August 1776, General George Washington found his troops outmanned and outmaneuvered at the Battle of Brooklyn. But thanks to a series of desperate charges by a single heroic regiment, famously known as the “Immortal 400,” Washington was able to evacuate his men and the nascent Continental Army lived to fight another day. Drawing on his new book,Washington’s Immortals: The Untold Story of an Elite Regiment Who Changed the Course of the Revolution, Mr. O’Donnell will tell the “boots on the ground” story of the “Maryland Line,” one of the Continental Army’s first elite outfits, which fought not just in Brooklyn, but in key battles including Trenton, Princeton, Camden, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown.  Patrick K. O’Donnell is the author of ten books, includingBeyond Valor, Dog Company, and First SEALs.

DLAR will welcome T. H. Breen on Tuesday, April 12 at 7:30 PM to present “George Washington’s Journey to the American People.”  In the first months of his presidency, George Washington boldly transformed American political culture by organizing a journey to all thirteen original states, a demanding tour designed to promote the strength and prosperity of a fragile new republic. The trip taught Washington the power of public opinion in securing support for the federal union, an achievement that he saw as the fulfillment of the Revolution.  Professor Breen’s new book is George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation, and Gordon Wood says “(Breen) has given us new insights into the acute political skills of our first president and the state of the county in the 1790s.”

On Friday, April 22 at 7:30 PM, Don Glickstein will present “No One Told Them the War Had Ended: The Revolution After Yorktown, from Arkansas to India.”The popular myth is that heroic, patriotic Americans under George Washington defeated the British at Yorktown, the Revolution was over, and Americans were exceptional. But Mr. Glickstein, author of the new book, After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, points out that Yorktown only meant the defeat of one British army-it did not mark America’s defeat of the British. Washington, George III, and their allies vowed to fight on, and that fighting-which expanded after the French entered the war in 1778-spanned the world, from Hudson Bay to South America, Cape Town to Arkansas, Gibraltar to Schenectady.

Historian Todd Braisted will return to the David Library on Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 3PM to lecture on “Grand Forage 1778: The Revolutionary War’s Forgotten Campaign.”  1778 marked a crucial period in the American Revolution. The French entry into the war forced the British to completely alter their strategy. The unenviable task of carrying out London’s strategy fell upon the new commander in chief in America, Sir Henry Clinton. In the midst of detaching 10,000 troops across North America, Clinton led his full army into the field one last time that autumn, gathering supplies, striking at Washington’s advanced posts, and hoping for one last big push at the Continental Army.  Mr. Braisted is the author of the new book Grand Forage 1778: The Revolutionary War’s Forgotten Campaign and the creator of, the world’s largest website dedicated to Loyalist military studies.

Lectures at the David Library are free and open to the public – however, seating is limited and the lectures are very popular.  Therefore, reservations are absolutely necessary. Please call 215.493.6776 ext. 100 or send an email to All events take place in the Feinstone Conference Center at the David Library of the American Revolution, 1201 River Road (Rt. 32), in Washington Crossing PA. 

What You Can Expect at the David Library

First, let me say that I love the David Library of the American Revolution

I was a research fellow at the library several years ago and it was one of the best research experiences of my career.  You can’t beat 24-hour access!  

Over the years I have given a couple of talks/lectures at the DLAR and attended the annual McNeil Center for Early American Studies picnic.

If you are doing serious research on revolutionary America, or just trying to add some branches to your family tree, the DLAR is a wonderful place to work.

Over at the Journal of the American Revolution, recent DLAR intern Brianna Heverly has written an informative essay on all the library has to offer, including a few insights into some of the collections.

Here is a taste:

I have driven up and down Taylorsville Road my entire life and would frequently pass a building on that road which I knew very little about.  I later found out it is the David Library of the American Revolution and this summer I had the privilege of doing an internship there.  Before my internship, I had never stepped into the library, nor did I know what it had to offer; once I finished my first day and had but a glimpse of what the library was all about, I knew that more people should know about it and could benefit from their resources.  The David Library is a place where everyone is welcome, and provides programs and collections unlike any other to encourage learning about the colonial and Revolutionary time periods.
The David Library of the American Revolution, founded by Sol Feinstone in 1959 in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, collects material that covers the time period 1750 to 1800.  The David Library is a non-profit organization that provides exceptional services to the public.  It is open to everyone, including every age and experience level, regardless of whether or not they know about the time period or where to start their research.  From students of all levels of education, to authors and members of the general public, the library can help them find both primary and secondary resources needed to strengthen their arguments or to simply satisfy their curiosity of the Revolutionary time period.  
A significant number of visitors to the library are interested in family history.  The library has primary resources on microfilm and in books to help people find original documents about their ancestors.  Others visit the library to explore a topic that they will later develop into an article or book. Visitors are free to explore the library’s multiple resources on their own or with guidance from the staff.  Besides a full-time librarian, the library relies on volunteers and interns who are welcoming and willing to help everyone.  They have dedicated their time to supporting the library and will do their best to get people the sources they need, from help finding a book to obtaining a clear copy of a document.  If a researcher is unfamiliar with using microfilm, the staff will help from start to finish; however, visitors are free to work with the microfilm on their own if they know how. Not everyone helped by the staff walks through the door; the library also receives many phone calls and emails from all over the country, from Maine to California, with research questions that the staff will assist with answering.
Some revisit the library after they finish their research to speak about their findings. Besides being open to the public, the David Library hosts scholarly lectures throughout the year, divided into two series consisting of four to five lectures each.  The speakers come to discuss their research about a particular event or study within the time period 1750 and 1800.  Each lecture is about forty-five minutes to an hour followed by questions from the audience, after which the library hosts a reception which frequently includes the author’s book sale and signing.  Several of the lectures are recorded and are in the process of being uploaded onto the David Library website, which will be advantageous for those who are unable to attend.  There are no lectures during the summer, but instead the library shows movies about the time period.  Admission for both the lectures and movies are free and everyone in the public is welcome to these events.
The David Library offers a fellowship program that is open to both Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral candidates who are either working on their dissertation or fine-tuning previous work into a book.  The library has hosted fellowship recipients from all over the world including Canada, China and Germany, as well as all over the United States.  The most noteworthy aspect of the fellowship is that the fellow is offered onsite residency and given a key to the library, which allows them access at any time of day or night.  More information about the process and the program itself can be found on the David Library website.
Collections are, of course, the centerpiece of the David Library.  There are a number of different kinds of primary and secondary resources all under the same roof, which makes it a “one-stop shopping” experience.  Because the library limits its scope to the short time span of 1750 to 1800, it enables the library to carry a great deal of depth within those fifty years.  This time period includes two major military conflicts, the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, as well as the establishment of our first National government, and the library’s resources are focused on those areas.  In addition to the military events, there were also a lot of social, political and economic changes that America faced within this time frame, and the library’s primary and secondary sources cover these topics as well.
Read the entire piece here.

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.

New David Library Fellows Announced


James Hill, Ph. D. Candidate, The College of William and Mary – “Creek Resistance and Spanish Restructuring: How Two Peoples Sought to Avert Anglo-American Hegemony in North America, 1763-1818” (dissertation) 

David C. Hsiung, Ph. D., Professor, Juniata College – “Environmental History and the War of Independence” (book) 

Christopher Magra, Ph. D., Associate Professor, University of Tennessee – “Market-Driven Fears and Economic Origins of the American Revolution” (book) 

Christopher F. Minty, Ph. D. Candidate, University of Stirling (Scotland) – “’Men Glowing with Resentment’: Loyalism in Revolutionary New York, c. 1763-1783” (dissertation) 

Michelle Orihel, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Southern Utah University – “The Contest over the Founding: The Democratic-Republican Societies and the Troubled Beginnings of Opposition Politics in America” (book) 

Jim Piecuch, Ph. D., Associate Professor, Kennesaw State University – “Competence, Conflict, and Confusion: British and Loyalist Command in Revolutionary South Carolina” (book) 

Bryan C. Rindfleisch, Ph. D. Candidate, University of Oklahoma – “From Ulster to Indian Country: George Galphin and the Atlantic World of an Indian Trader in the Eighteenth-Century” (dissertation) 

Thomas Sheppard, Ph. D. Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – “Petty Despots and Executive Officials: Civil-Military Relations in the Early American Navy, 1793-1820” (dissertation) 

In addition, Travel Grants were awarded to the following scholars: 

Mark Boonshoft, Ph. D. Candidate, Ohio State University – “Education, Social Capital, and Elite Formation from the Great Awakening through the Early Republic” (dissertation)

Robert G. Brooking, Ph. D. Candidate, Georgia State University – “’The Powers of Government are wrested out of my Hands’: Sir James Wright and the Struggle for Power in Colonial Georgia” (dissertation) 

Kate Brown, Ph. D. Candidate, University of Virginia – “Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law” (dissertation)

Molly Perry, Ph. D. Candidate, The College of William and Mary – “Influencing Empire: Protest and Persuasion in the Plantation Ports of the British Empire, 1764-1767” (dissertation)

David Library of the American Revolution Winter/Spring 2013 Lecture Series

A New Year with a new lecture series…
The David Library‘s Winter/Spring 2013 lecture series will take a look at America’s transition from British colonies at war with their motherland, to a new nation making its own laws and creating its national identity in the world.    
We hope to see you at the lectures!

Winter/Spring Lecture Series

Ruma Chopra
Ruma Chopra, Ph. D.
Tuesday, January 15, 7:30 PM – “Through Loyalist Eyes: The American Revolution as an ‘Unnatural Rebellion'” – Ruma Chopra, Ph. D. is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University. Her recent book, Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City During the Revolution explores the relationship between the British and the loyalists in the British headquarters of New York City between 1776 and 1783. In her lecture, she will explore the hopes, perseverance, and disappointments of the largest loyalist community in the mainland colonies. New York City served as British headquarters and the center of loyalist activity for seven years. Irreconcilable tension between the loyalists and the British tempered loyalists’ enthusiasm, splintered the loyalist leadership, compromised the loyalists’ appeal to the colonial populace, and closed the loyalist alternative for an American future within the British Empire.
Kariann Akemi Yokota
Kariann Akemi Yokota
Sunday, March 3, 3:00 PM – Kariann Akemi Yokota, Ph. D., is the author of Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation. She is Assistant Professor of History at University Colorado Denver. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood called Unbecoming British, “An important and sensitive study of the efforts of postcolonial Americans in the decades immediately following independence to become a cultivated and respectable nation… It’s an extraordinary work of cultural history.” The title of Professor Yokota’s lecture will be announced shortly.

Ray Raphael
Ray Raphael
Sunday, April 14, 3:00 PM – “What Did the Framers Think About Taxes? “ – Author Ray Raphael, who lectured at DLAR in the fall about the Electoral College, will talk about taxes, a matter that is covered in his newest book, Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right. “Taxation without Representation” was key to America’s independence from Britain, but once independent, what would taxes with representation look like? If the nation of the United States of America were to remain independent, it would have to figure that one out. Raphael is the author of Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past and Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation.
Benjamin H. Irvin, Ph. D.
Benjamin H. Irvin, Ph. D.
Wednesday, June 5, 7:30 PM – “Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: Diplomacy and National Identity during the War of Independence” – Benjamin H. Irvin, Ph. D. is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arizona. His book, Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors, was a finalist for the prestigious George Washington Prize. Professor Irvin notes, “In the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress proclaimed the United States’ intention to assume a ‘separate and equal station’ among the ‘powers of the earth.’ Precisely what station did Congress imagine the United States would assume? Alongside which powers did Congress expect the infant republic to take rank? Answers to these questions may be found in the protocols by which the United States conducted diplomacy during the Revolutionary War. Eighteenth-century diplomatic etiquette relied heavily upon ceremonies such as bowing and shaking hands, standing and remaining seated, and donning and doffing hats. By these minutely choreographed gestures, nations contended for honor, expressed indignation, claimed primacy, and paid deference. In my talk at the David Library, I will explore the diplomatic rituals by which the United States treated with its French and Native American allies during the War of Independence. A careful examination of these practices reveals that though the United States did not yet occupy an equal station among the powers of the earth, members of Congress took pains to claim for it a separate one.”

In addition to the lecture series, DLAR will co-sponsor the following event with the Washington Crossing Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution: 
John F. Lehman, Ph. D.
John F. Lehman, Ph. D.

Monday, March 11, 7:30 PM – “An Evening With John F. Lehman, Former Secretary of the Navy” – John F. Lehman, Ph. D. was Secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987. He is the author of Command of the Seas, a memoir of his tenure as Navy Secretary, and On Seas of Glory: Heroic Men, Great Ships, and Epic Battles of the American Navy; Command of the Seas. He served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and contributed to the 9/11 Commission Report. He currently serves as Chairman of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, the public charity named for his cousin, the late Princess Grace of Monaco. Dr. Lehman will share stories and insights from his distinguished and varied career as a public servant, military historian and investment banker.

David Library lectures are admission free, but reservations are required. Call (215)493-2233 ext. 100 or email Lectures are held in Stone Hall in the Feinstone Conference Center on the David Library campus. Each lecture will be followed by a reception, and, when applicable, a book sale and signing.

Fall Lecture Series at the David Library of the American Revolution

Fall Lecture Series: “The Making of the American Presidency”
Ray Raphael
Ray Raphael
The series will begin on Thursday, September 27 at 7:30 with Partisanship and the “Electoral College”: What the Founders Didn’t Want and Didn’t See Coming. In this lecture, Ray Raphael will trace the birth and early evolution of the presidency, starting at the Constitutional Convention, growing stronger during Washington’s two terms in office, and being challenged by the tumultuous election of 1800, when the system of presidential selection was gamed for partisan purposes and the House of Representatives took thirty-six ballots to determine a winner. In the founders’ own time we see the genesis of the bifurcated political system that haunts us today. Ray Raphael is the author of People’s History of the American Revolution, Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation and Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive.
On Sunday, September 30 at 3:00 PM, we will welcome back former David Library 1812coverartFellow Nicole Eustace, whose lecture, Love and Honor: American Patriotism and Popular Culture in the War of 1812, will examine what it meant to love country in the new United States. How did collective emotions function to promote action in a democracy? How did debates about the meaning of patriotism shape arguments about the War of 1812? Regardless of their views of events, Americans of the era agreed unequivocally on the links between love and war and they took to print to proclaim their feelings in novels, poems and plays as well as in official political speeches and diplomatic correspondence. With an election looming in November of 1812, President Madison needed, as he put it, ‘all the good people of the United States’ to support the war and his administration. Nicole Eustace is Associate Professor of History at New York University and the author of 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism.
Author Bruce Chadwick will explore the founding presidency of George Washington on Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 with his talk, Red, White and Blue: George Washington for President. In 1789, the new United States, created after a bloody, eight year
Bruce Chadwick
revolution, was falling apart. To save it, the Founding Fathers wrote a new Constitution, started an unprecedented democratic government and elected George Washington, the hero of the Revolution, as the first President. “His task was daunting,” says Chadwick. “Could Washington unite the thirteen bickering states, make the new democracy work, bring 2.4 million Americans together as one nation and, at the same time, make the United States a world power? To hold the country together, Washington had to create a Presidency (a vague job in the Constitution), work with a new Congress and get all of the people to go along with his policies. He established a cabinet, put up with a very critical press, worked financial wonders, took over foreign relations and made the American Presidency the most unique job in the world. Along the way, he and his wife Martha gave America the First Lady and the First Family, too. And then, after just two terms, he retired and rode back home to Mount Vernon, leaving behind one of the strongest and most resilient nations on earth.” Bruce Chadwick is a journalist-turned-historian and the author of a number of books on historical topics, including George Washington’s War and The General and Mrs. Washington.
On Sunday, October 28 at 3:00 PM we will present The First Culture War: The Presidential Election of 1796 and the Origins of American Politics, a lecture by Jeffrey Pasley, Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri.  He will show us that divisive politics is nothing new in American life. The first U.S. presidential campaign was a completely unintentional affair conducted entirely by surrogates: Thomas Jefferson and especially John Adams disapproved of parties and stayed well clear of any public or private politicking, and there was nothing approaching a full party organization on either side. Yet the first contest still set a number of permanent patterns and recurring themes in American politics that are still evident in 2012. In 1796, both of the nascent parties strove to convince American voters that the opposing presidential candidate did not share their most fundamental values, be they conservative Christians in New England or radical workers on the streets of Philadelphia and New York.
The series will conclude on Sunday, November 11 at 3:00 PM with ‘Change We Can Believe in,’ 1800 Version.  In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be elected promising Change with a capital “C.” But apart from throwing those Federalist rascals out, what sort of change did he actually envision? In fact, he did have a plan for saving the country from the hole into which it was rapidly falling, and that plan involved getting rid of the national debt and paring government expenditure to the bone. Why was Jefferson so obsessed with debt and why did he see it as such a danger to the United States? It’s an interesting story and one from which much can be learned. It will be told at the David Library by Herbert Sloan, the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History at Barnard College and the author of Principle and Interest: Thomas Jefferson and the Problem of Debt.
David Library lectures are admission free, but reservations are necessary.  Call (215)493-2233 ext. 100 or email Lectures are held in Stone Hall in the Feinstone Conference Center on the David Library campus. Each lecture will  be followed by a reception, and, when applicable, a book sale and signing.
Open House October 13
Mark your calendar! We will hold our annual Open House on Saturday, October 13 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Drop in, bring a friend, and get to know the David Library! We’ll have a number of scheduled events throughout the day, along with an exhibit of original manuscripts from the Sol Feinstone Collection, and staff and interns on hand to answer your questions about David Library collections and programs.
Kenneth C. Davis
Kenneth C. Davis
Our special guest will be New York Times Bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis author of the popular Don’t Know Much About® book series from Harper Collins, including Don’t Know Much About® History. Kenneth C. Davis will host a Don’t Know Much About ® the American Presidents Live Quiz Show at 3:00 PM. Have you always wanted to be a game show contestant? Do you want to test your knowledge of American History? Don’t Know Much and want to learn more? Kenneth C. Davis, author of the million-selling Don’t Know Much About ® series will present his highly entertaining and educational quiz show based on his newest book Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents. He’ll show contestants and audience alike that what you don’t know… can be thrilling! Come early and volunteer to be a contestant! 

Sorry I am Going to Miss This: SHEAR 2012 and the DLAR

Tonight the David Library of American Revolution will be hosting a reception at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of the Early Republic (SHEAR) in Baltimore.  At 6:30pm they are asking that all former fellows gather at the DLAR pennant (left) for a group photo.  Since I will not be at SHEAR this year perhaps Meg McSweeney can photoshop me in!

By the way, I would love to get some reports from the SHEAR conference.  If any readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home want to provide some updates, short posts, or analysis of the conference or a particular session, please send me what you have and we will try to get it up.  I can almost guarantee that more people will read your post than will read your first monograph!

I also recommend that you check out the David Library’s Fall Lecture Series. It features Ray Raphael, Nicole Eustace, Kenneth David, and Jeffrey Pasley.