Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Curtis Gruenler, English; Dr. Anne Heath, Art History; Laura McGrath, Mellon Scholars Program

Document Type


Event Date



The Founding Fathers have long been considered in the public imagination as the creators of the modern democratic system. Like their educated, political-minded European contemporaries, these men supplemented their formal education with outside reading borrowed from libraries such as the New York Society Library, the oldest library in New York City (founded in 1754). Thousands of entries in its ledgers dating to the eighteenth-century track the lending histories of books read before, during, and after the American Revolution. Through examination of these recently digitized ledger pages available at the New York Society Library from 1789 to 1805, the books that these Founding Fathers chose to read shed light on who these men were, both politically and personally, in relation to the world around them. By visualizing data and analyzing the relationships present between these men and literature that they read, this project explores how the Founding Fathers were influenced by their continual education and presents the results on a Wordpress website. As the ledgers show, the Founding Fathers were more than the American political icons that they have come to embody.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.