Chestertown, MD, February 17, 2005 — Washington College, through the auspices of its C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, has established a Washington College Fellowship in Early American History at the Athenaeum Library of Boston, the institution announced this week in advance of Washington's Birthday. The Athenaeum is renowned for housing the personal library of George Washington, as well as numerous other documents relating the life and career of the nation's first president. Dr. Joachim Scholz, Provost and Dean of Washington College, visited the Athenaeum Library on January 21 to instate the yearly fellowship program.
“It is in keeping with Washington College's own tradition to enhance its collaborations with institutions with strong connections to the life and work of George Washington,” said Scholz. “By sponsoring the Washington Fellowship, the College hopes to make a contribution to continuing research into the life and legacy of the nation's founder, who was, at the same time, our College's founding patron. Such research, in turn, will inform and enhance the learning of our students.”
The Washington Fellowship provides a stipend of $1,500 for a month-long residency at the Athenaeum Library and supports the use of the Athenaeum's Washington collection and general collections for research, publication, curriculum and program development, or other creative projects.
The Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest and most distinguished independent libraries in the United States, was founded in 1807 by members of Boston's Anthology Society to form “an establishment similar to that of the Athenaeum and Lyceum of Liverpool in Great Britain; combining the advantages of a public library [and] containing the great works of learning and science in all languages.” For nearly half a century the Athenaeum was the unchallenged center of intellectual life in Boston, and by 1851 had become one of the five largest libraries in the United States. Today its collections comprise more than half a million volumes, with particular strengths in Boston history, New England state and local history, biography, English and American literature, and the fine and decorative arts.
One of the Athenaeum's special collections is George Washington's personal library, kept at his former home at Mount Vernon until 1848, at which time a large portion of them were sold to Henry Stevens, American agent of the British Museum. A group of Bostonians who were determined to keep these books in the United States solicited subscriptions to acquire the library, and after the acquisition placed it permanently in the care of the Athenaeum. The subscribers also bought a number of books and pamphlets relating to Washington. Many of the books obtained from Henry Stevens contain Washington's signature, some his manuscript notes, and bookplate. Topics within the collection range from animal husbandry to military strategy, carpentry, poetry, and civil liberty.
Washington College is a private, independent liberal arts and sciences college located in historic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, it was the first college chartered in the new nation. The College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is an innovative forum for new scholarship about American history drawing on the special historical strengths of Washington College and Chestertown, and dedicated to exploring the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape American culture.