American Philosophical Society & David Library of the American Revolution Establish a New “Powerhouse of Scholarship”

WASHINGTON CROSSING and PHILADELPHIA, PA, May 30, 2019 – In a bold decision that will preserve the material record of American Revolutionary history and make it accessible to scholars across the globe, the American Philosophical Society (APS) and the David Library of the American Revolution (DLAR) 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.”

The David Library of the American Revolution was founded in 1959 by Bucks County businessman and philanthropist Sol Feinstone. An inexhaustible collector of historical manuscripts and Americana, Feinstone established the institution at the Washington Crossing Historic Park, and later moved it to his farm on River Road in 1974. He named the library in honor of his grandson, David Golub. The Sol Feinstone Collection consists of 2,482 Revolutionary War era manuscripts, original letters and journals from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and other historical figures. In addition, the collections of the David Library include 10,000 reels of original documents on microfilm, 8,000 books and other materials.

The American Philosophical Society is the oldest learned society in the United States and was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.” The David Center will be housed in the Society’s Library and Museum, an internationally renowned research center with an acclaimed exhibition program. The Library holds over 13 million pages of manuscripts and 250,000 books.  Its Museum mounts an annual exhibition that showcases these treasures to the public and regularly draws over 130,000 visitors. The Society’s collections are particularly strong in the era of the American Revolution.

A jointly formed steering committee of leading Early Americanists will plan new programming that will make the David Center the pre-eminent institution for scholarship and study of the American Revolution. Those named to the Steering Committee include:

  • Brendan McConville, Professor of History, Boston University, who is a member of the David Library’s Board of Trustees, Co-Chair
  • Patrick K. Spero, Librarian and Director of the American Philosophical Society Library and Museum, Co-Chair
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School
  • Katherine Grandjean, Associate Professor of History, Wellesley College
  • Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Professor at the University of Notre Dame. 
  • Woody Holton, the McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina
  • Jack Rakove, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, Stanford University
  • Jeffrey Rosen , President and CEO of the National Constitution Center
  • R. Scott Stephenson, President and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution (and a former David Library Fellow)

Read more about the David Center, including additional information about collections and programming, here.

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