American Revolution libraries to merge into one historical powerhouse

Historians in the News
tags: American Revolution, American Philosophical Society, David Library

Any history book about the American Revolution worth its salt will likely include an acknowledgment of the David Library, a historical archive tucked into 118-acres of green rolling hills in Washington Crossing, Pa.

“The David Library is this incredible gem in Bucks County,” said Scott Stephenson, the CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution. As a scholar and curator, he has spent countless hours pouring over documents at the David.

There are 10,000 reels of microfilm at the David, containing about a million documents related to the American Revolution.

Stephenson is happy to hear that the David will soon be his neighbor in Old City. At the end of this year, the library will leave its bucolic setting and join the American Philosophical Society, which is around the corner from Independence Hall.

Stephenson said it will be an academic “force multiplier” for making the city a center for research.

“On the eve of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, coming in just seven years, the timing couldn’t be better for this,” Stephenson said.

The library was founded 60 years ago by Sol Feinstone, a collector of historic manuscripts who amassed about 3,000 original documents related to the American Revolution, mostly correspondence of the Founding Fathers. He named his library after his grandson, who has developmental disabilities.

Since then the library has collected 10,000 reels of microfilm, containing images of about one million original documents from American, British, and German archives.

The original Feinstone farmhouse is now used as a residence for visiting fellows – researchers who are invited to live there for a period of a few weeks. The house can host five in its furnished rooms just as Feinstone family had, a kind of bed and breakfast for scholars.

The property also has a handful of residential homes for semi-permanent tenants. Much of the estate is protected by an agricultural easement, now leased by a sod farmer.

Even with rental income, upkeep of the library is difficult, said chief operations officer Meg McSweeney.

“A lot of old buildings, a lot of land, a lot of parking lot and lanes that need repair, trees come down in stormy weather,” she said. “A lot of things that have nothing to do with scholarship.”

Read entire article at WHYY

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