Annual $50,000 Prize Among Largest in Literary Awards
Chestertown, MD, February 19, 2005 — The first annual George Washington Book Prize will be awarded at Mount Vernon on May 7 to the author of 2004's most important new book on the founding era. The black-tie event will celebrate the works of the three finalists, announced on February 19, which are Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, Landon Carter's Uneasy Kingdom by Rhys Isaac, and The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon Wood. The winner will be revealed at the event and presented with a medal.
The award has attracted keen and immediate attention among historians, due in part to the lucrative stipend. The $50,000 prize is one of the largest book prizes in the United States and is far greater than those accompanying prestigious literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for History at $7,500, the National Book Award at $10,000, and the Bancroft Prize at $10,000.
Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association have joined forces to create the George Washington Book Prize.
A three-person jury of respected scholars screened scores of books on the founding era and accepted nominations from all interested parties. Don Higginbotham, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina; Philip D. Morgan, Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University; and Barbara Oberg, Senior Research Historian at Princeton University and General Editor of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, served as jurors for the initial award.
Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, but also served on the governing board for many years. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The George Washington Book Prize will be administered by the College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by two New York business and philanthropic leaders, Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman. The Institute sponsors a wide range of educational programs for both teachers and students, with a commitment to promoting “the study and the love of American history.” Headquartered in New York City, the Institute uses its impressive collection of rare historic documents to encourage history education and new scholarship through exhibitions, publications, and other outreach programs. The Institute has established similar prizes for scholarly books written about the Civil War era and African American history. The Lincoln Prize was created in 1990 in conjunction with the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, and the Frederick Douglass Prize in 1999 in cooperation with the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University.