Mount Vernon, VA, May 1, 2006 — The second annual George Washington Book Prize will be awarded at Mount Vernon on May 23 at 6:30 p.m. to the author of the most significant book on the founding era published in 2005. Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association collaborated in 2005 to create the prize, awarded in its inaugural year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton. The black-tie event will celebrate the works of the three finalists with fireworks, candlelit tours of the Mansion, and dinner and dancing under an elegant tent overlooking the Potomac River.
Finalists were announced on February 15: General George Washington: A Military Life by Edward Lengel; A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Stacy Schiff; and Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783 by Stanley Weintraub.
The books were selected by a three-person jury of early-American history scholars that included Carol Berkin of Baruch College, City University of New York, Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute, and Gordon Wood of Brown University. "In each work selected, the jury saw refreshing perspectives on our nation's founding era," said Ted Widmer, director of Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize.
The George Washington Book Prize is one of the most generous book awards in the United States and its $50,000 is a far greater sum than that of literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for History ($7,500) and the National Book Award ($10,000).
"This prize is a tremendous way to recognize exceptional scholarship on perhaps the greatest period in American history," said James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
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, he 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 is 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.
Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the Institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It creates history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, partners with school districts to implement Teaching American History grants, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by historians. The Institute also funds the Lincoln Prize and Frederick Douglass Book Prize and offers fellowships for scholars to work in history archives, including the Gilder Lehrman Collection.
With the completion of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center scheduled for October 27, 2006, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association has pledged to create the equivalent of a presidential library for George Washington. The Association will work with scholars at the University of Virginia Press to place all of Washington's writings on Mount Vernon's award-winning website. "We want to be the first place people think of when they have a question about George Washington," noted James Rees, Mount Vernon's Executive Director. "The George Washington Book Prize is an important component in our aggressive outreach program to historians, teachers, and students."