Lectures & Events

Fall 2019: One Last Lecture Series

Before the David Library of the American Revolution closes at the end of the year, we will present one final series of free lectures that will illuminate the story of America in its founding era.  Registration is required: RSVP by calling 215.493.6776 x 100 or email rsvp@dlar.org.  Lectures are held in the Feinstone Conference Center at the David Library of the American Revolution, 1201 River Road (Rt. 32), Washington Crossing, PA 18977.  

Mathew CostelloFriday, September 13 at 7:30 PM   - Matthew Costello: "The Founding Generation and their Spirits:  How Consumption Shaped American Politics and the Presidency."  The Senior Historian of the White House Historical Association will describe how alcoholic beverages played a pivotal role in the founding of the United States and the defining of its institutions. Beer, hard cider, wine, and champagne were used in a variety of ways for different reasons -- even on Election Day to bolster voter turnout. In colonial taverns, intoxicants provided "liquid courage" to debate independence, and during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were provided with rations of alcohol to maintain morale. President Washington and his successors were shaped by these patterns of consumption, and their experiences molded presidential hospitality during the Early Republic.  Following the lecture, Herman C. Mihalich, Founder & Distiller of Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye in Bristol, PA, will give an informal talk about classic Pennsylvania rye spirits and the 200 year-old American distilling tradition.  Tastings of Dad's Hat Rye Whiskey will be offered!                

Paul FinkelmanTuesday, September 24 at 7:30 PM - Paul Finkelman: "Supreme Injustice:  The Proslavery Jurisprudence of John Marshall and the Legacy of the American Revolution." We'll observe the 264th anniversary of the birth of John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with a talk by Paul Finkelman, President of Gratz College, and author of Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation's Highest Court. John Marshall was a Young Man of the Revolution, serving for most of the war in a number of states, rising to the rank of captain under Washington's command.  As the problem of slavery bedeviled the nation, Marshall aggressively acquired hundreds of slaves along with more than 200,000 acres of land.  This lecture explores how Marshall's commitment to slavery, his deep hostility to free blacks, and his lifelong investment in slaves dovetailed with a jurisprudence (which has been mostly unexplored) that was surprisingly and sometimes even shockingly proslavery.

Sara GeorginiThursday, October 10 at 7:30 PM – Sara Georgini: "The Providence of John and Abigail Adams."   Reflecting on his past, President John Adams mused that it was religion that shaped his family's fortunes and young America's future. Globe-trotters who chronicled their religious journeys extensively, John and wife Abigail developed a cosmopolitan Christianity that blended discovery and criticism, faith and doubt. Sara Georgini, series editor for The Papers of John Adams at the Massachusetts Historical Society and author of Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family, will demonstrate how pivotal Christianity was in shaping the family life of the Adamses as America formed as a nation.

Robert McCracken PeckThursday, October 17 at 7:30 PM - Presented in collaboration with the Delaware River Greenway Partnership, a lecture by Robert McCracken Peck: "Ordering the Cosmos: Charles Willson Peale and the Philadelphia Museum." In 1790, Charles Willson Peale announced to the citizens of Philadelphia that he was prepared to open a museum of "objects of natural history and things useful and curious" which he hoped might one day be recognized as a cultural and scientific repository for the nation.  Peale's Philadelphia Museum, which flourished well into the 19th century, began its focus on the flora and fauna of the Delaware Valley, but quickly expanded to include other parts of the country and ultimately objects from around the world. It set standards for museums that are still applicable today.  Using images of Peale's remarkable collections of paintings and artifacts, naturalist and historian Robert Peck will discuss Peale's seminal contributions to American art and science and place his museum in its broader cultural, artistic and scientific context.

John Gilbert McCurdyTuesday, October 22 at 7:30 PM – John Gilbert McCurdy: "Quartering the British Army in Revolutionary America."       In the decades before the Revolution, British soldiers were a common sight in America. They lived in private houses in Trenton, marched up Broadway in New York, and came to blows in Boston. What was it like to live in this world? Drawing on his new book, Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution, John Gilbert McCurdy will explain how the colonists made room for redcoats by reimagining places like home, city, and empire. They insisted on a right to privacy in their houses and civilian control of troops stationed in their cities, both of which they achieved through the Quartering Act. Professor McCurdy will also explore how protests by the Sons of Liberty and events like the Boston Massacre caused the civilian-martial comity to unravel.

Kellee Green BlakeSaturday, November 2 at 3:00 PM – Presented in collaboration with the Lower Makefield Historical Society, a lecture by Kellee Green Blake: "Unbroken Reeds: Eastern Shore Women and the American Revolution."  For women on the remotest parts of the Delmarva Peninsula, the American Revolution presented itself on land and sea, in church and town square, and in the divided loyalties of pervasively tied families. Virginia's Margaret Cropper, Maryland's Arianna Margaretta Chalmers, and so many others in this "peculiar" Tidewater landscape redefined themselves with the emerging new nation. Whether idealized, ostracized, benefitted, bankrupted, or even "banished" by the decisions of others, Eastern Shore women, then as now, displayed a fierce independence of their own.  Retired National Archives Regional Director Kellee Green Blake will tell stories of remarkable women-- some of them Patriots, some Loyalists.  

Joel T. FryTuesday, November 12 at 7:30 PM - Presented in collaboration with the Delaware River Greenway Partnership, a lecture by Joel T. Fry: "America's 'Ancient Garden': The Bartram Botanic Garden 1728-1850." Bartram's Garden has been preserved as a Philadelphia city park since 1891.  Joel T. Fry has served as curator since 1992, having first been involved in archaeological research there beginning in 1975.  Four generations of the Bartram family operated it as a family-run botanic garden from 1728 to 1850, and made their livelihoods by the exchange of plants and natural history specimens with the world. Bartram's Garden became a gathering point for scientists, artists, gardeners, and the curious. Most of the native plants of eastern North America were in cultivation by the Bartrams, and the collection grew with contributions from each generation. When the garden left Bartram family hands in 1850, Bartram's Garden could be described as a truly ancient garden. This talk will trace the careers of John Bartram and his son William, their travels in North America, and their impact on international science. 

John U. ReesThursday, November 21 at 7:30 PM – John U. Rees: "'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness': African Americans in the Continental Army." The role of African-Americans, most free but some enslaved, in the regiments of the Continental Army is not well-known; neither is the fact that relatively large numbers served in southern regiments and that the greatest number served alongside their white comrades in integrated units. John U. Rees, author of 'They Were Good Soldiers': African–Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783, will discuss black soldiers' acceptance, service, and experiences during and after the War for American Independence, focusing on those who served in Continental regiments. African American women with the army will also be featured, as will the only known wartime letter written by a black Revolutionary soldier. Mr. Rees, a lifelong resident of Bucks County, has been writing about common soldiers' experiences in the American Revolution for over 30 years, on subjects ranging from battle studies, army food, and the soldier's burden, to army wagons and watercraft, campaign shelters, Continental Army conscription, and women with the army.

T. Cole JonesTuesday, December 17 at 7:30 PM – T. Cole Jones: "The Problem of Prisoners of War in the American Revolution."  T. Cole Jones is an assistant professor of history at Purdue University.  He holds a PhD in early American history from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution.  His lecture will examine how the founding generation of Americans grappled with the problems of prisoner treatment. During the eight-year conflict, American forces captured over seventeen thousand British and allied Germanic soldiers, as well as thousands more loyalist civilians and British mariners. The number of enemy prisoners in American custody often exceeded that of American soldiers in the Continental army. These prisoners proved increasingly burdensome for the new nation as the war progressed.  What was to become of these men? How should they be confined? Who would pay to house and feed them? When and how should they be released?  A series of thorny political issues compounded these logistical difficulties.  This talk will take the audience from the meeting rooms of the Continental Congress to the prison camps of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, revealing the factors that coalesced to transform the conflict into a war for vengeance, escalating its violence precipitously.