Topic: Project updates

Photo of the edition authors

Announcing Publication of George Washington’s Barbados Diary

By Katie Blizzard, Communications Specialist
July 30, 2018

Photo of the edition authors

Editors Alicia K. Anderson (left) and Lynn A. Price (right) display a copy of George Washington’s Barbados Diary, 1751-1752.

This July, George Washington’s Barbados Diary, 1751–52, edited by The Washington Papers’ Alicia K. Anderson and Lynn A. Price, was published by the University of Virginia Press. As a young man, George Washington kept a journal and ship’s log during his only trip abroad, to the Caribbean island of Barbados. He accompanied his older half brother Lawrence, who suffered from poor health, in the hopes the Barbados might cure him. The Barbados Diary is the first complete edition of the obscure text in 126 years and concludes more than two years of work conducted by Anderson and Price. Historian and archaeologist Philip Levy has called the Barbados Diary an “authoritative edition” that is “masterfully edited and annotated.”

The diary’s severely mutilated condition and lack of detail had discouraged previous scholars from most attempts at editing beyond a sparse transcription or photo reproduction. But, as Anderson explained, “Technological advances in preservation and imaging have given us the clearest picture of the diary to date. By making sense of the fragments and providing explanatory essays about the contents, we were able to bring out the meaning of the text and put it in clear view for all to see.”

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The Washington Papers Receives $320,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

August 11, 2017

On August 2, 2017, The Washington Papers received a $320,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and a federal matching grant for another $100,000.

Funding will maintain work already underway on The Papers of George Washington. The grant specifically supports preparation for volumes 26-32 of the Revolutionary War Series and publication of volumes 20-21 of the Presidential Series. These nine volumes will complete the print collection of The Papers of George Washington, a documentary edition that began in the late 1960s, with support from NEH, among other charitable institutions.

This year, The Washington Papers was one of 15 projects in Virginia that was awarded funding from NEH, which announced $39.3 million in grant offers for 245 humanities projects across the United States.

“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said NEH acting chairman Jon Parrish Peede in last week’s grant awards announcement.

As The Washington Papers move towards concluding The Papers of George Washington (as well as engaging in new ventures such as the Martha Washington Papers project), we are proud to be one of the many projects contributing to that mission.

The Washington Papers remains grateful for the funding it continues to receive from NEH, as well as from the federal matching program and private donors. For a full list of our current and past donors, click here.

Washington Papers Editors Share Work, Meet Hamilton’s George Washington at Human/Ties National Endowment for the Humanities Conference

by Kim Curtis, Research Editor
September 30, 2016

From September 14 to 17, the University of Virginia (UVA) hosted Human/Ties, a four-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). To explore and honor the vital role played by the humanities in today’s world, the forum brought together multiple University departments and programs, including the Washington Papers, as well as speakers and artists from across the country and around the world.

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Bust of George Washinton

The Washington Papers and the Florence Gould Foundation Embark on a Partnership to Explore Early Franco-American Relations

Houdon Bust

George Washington. Sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon, 1785.

France and the United States have a long tradition of friendship, forged in the course of two great 18th-century revolutions and tempered in the flames of two global wars in the 20th century. The Washington Papers project stands poised to record the origins of the Franco-American alliance with the editing and publication of the final 16 volumes of the Revolutionary War Series, covering the years from 1780 to 1783. These volumes will chronicle Rochambeau’s landing with a French expeditionary army in North America in the autumn of 1780; his strategic planning with Washington in the winter of 1780-1781; the Yorktown campaign of the summer and autumn of 1781; and finally, the protracted negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The Washington Papers project is proud to announce a major new partnership with the Florence Gould Foundation, ensuring that these documents chronicling the most important period in the history of Franco-American relations are edited and published in time for the project’s completion in 2024. With the Gould Foundation’s major and ongoing financial support, the Washington Papers will hire an expert scholar whose time will be fully devoted to editing these documents as well as carrying on important research in French archives.

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Completing the Transcription of the Barbados Diary

January 27, 2016

Though the project only began in July 2015, the Washington Papers is pleased to announce that our transcription of George Washington’s Barbados diary is complete! We’re excited to be closer to publishing a newly transcribed and annotated edition, the first in more than a century. Washington’s Barbados diary, written when he was 19 years old, records the only foreign excursion he ever took.

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National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Supports Three Washington Paper Projects

ledgeraAs part of the 212 grants announced by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on July 28, the Washington Papers will receive $318,000 in outright funding to support three of their current projects.

Two of those projects include the publication of volumes for the remaining two uncompleted Papers of George Washington series: the Presidential and Revolutionary War papers. For the Presidential Series, the grant will allow for the publication of volumes 20 and 21, volumes that will cover the final years of Washington’s second term. Similarly, the grant will prepare volumes 25-30 of the Revolutionary War series.

The funding will also support the completion of transcription for the financial papers of George Washington, a project that will create digital translations of Washington’s ledgers. In making these financial papers more accessible, the search engine will take viewers to the very line of where the searched item is mentioned.

Moving toward these goals, the Washington Papers remains grateful for the funding it continues to receive from the NEH, as well as from the federal matching program and private donors. For a full list of our current and past donors, click here.

Martha Set to Take the Stage at Washington Papers Project

April 29, 2015

1779letterNear the end of her life, Martha Washington described her most painful experience—aside from the death of her iconic husband—as being the day Thomas Jefferson came calling at Mount Vernon, ostensibly to pay his respects. Martha’s expression of distaste for the newly elected third president was both political and personal, and it hints at posterity’s loss when she burned nearly all of her correspondence with her husband upon his passing. Yet a substantial body of Martha’s general correspondence survives and is soon to be published in two annotated volumes.

The Papers of George Washington project is proud to announce a major new endeavor in partnership with the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Scheduled for launch on July 1, 2015, and for completion in 2020, this new project will publish the correspondence of Martha Washington, plus the correspondence of the greater Washington family (three volumes) and the Barbados diary of George Washington (one volume). All six volumes will be published in both print and digital formats. Work will be conducted at the University of Virginia, and funding is generously provided by the Smith Library.

Martha Washington is one of the most important women in the history of the United States. As the widowed Martha Dandridge Custis, she commanded one of the largest fortunes in Virginia. After she married George Washington in 1759, her wealth formed the bedrock of her family’s prosperity. Martha provided strength and support for George throughout his long military and political career, often joining him in camp at places like Valley Forge. She also adeptly managed many of Mount Vernon’s affairs during her husband’s long absences and was a devoted mother and grandmother. Transcending home and family life, she corresponded extensively with men and women throughout Virginia and the United States, forging important social, financial, and even political connections. While she burned most of her correspondence with George after his death, thousands of letters to and from her remain, perhaps half of them never before published. All will appear, fully edited and annotated, in this new edition.

The Washington (and Custis) family members appearing in the three-volume Washington Family edition include George Washington’s parents, siblings, stepchildren, step grandchildren, and nephew Bushrod Washington (1762-1829). It was a remarkably vibrant family, active in society, politics, and entrepreneurship, and its members all present fascinating character studies. Bushrod, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who managed Mount Vernon after George and Martha passed away, kept an exceptionally important collection of papers, of which only a portion has appeared in print. Almost none of the papers of the other family members have ever been published. The Washington Family therefore will present entirely new and intriguing insights into the lives of women, children, and men in colonial Virginia and the young United States, while also providing fresh perspectives on the Father of His Country.

George Washington’s diary of his journey to Barbados in 1751-52 is one of the most remarkable items in his collected papers. Previously published only in facsimile and in an outdated 1892 edition, it chronicles the only extended trip that Washington ever took beyond the coast of North America. He kept a formal log of his sea voyage, noting the weather and the sailors’ work as well as the capture of sharks and dolphins. During his stay on the island with his ill older half-brother Lawrence, George kept a full social calendar with the leading citizens of the island. His diary describes these events, revealing the intimate lives of the elites as well as something of the thousands of slaves who worked the vast sugar plantations. Apart from the round of dinners with various citizens, George attended a fireworks display, a play, and a rape trial, commenting on all. He made no entries during his illness with smallpox, from 17 Nov. to 11 Dec. 1751, but upon his departure George wrote several pages summarizing his impressions of the island and commenting on politics, agriculture, social customs, and class structure. Diary entries even include events after his return to Virginia, such as a dinner with Governor Dinwiddie and a cockfight. Although badly damaged in places, the diary (fully annotated in this edition for the first time) presents an entertaining and important resource for the study of Washington, the Atlantic trade, and the West Indies.

Work on this new project will be carried out by three new full-time editors and support staff. Project staff will conduct an extended international document search to identify and procure copies of all relevant correspondence. The editors then will transcribe the documents accurately according to modern standards and will research and write the same kind of thorough and enlightening annotation that has come to characterize The Papers of George Washington. Fully indexed letterpress volumes will be published by the University of Virginia Press and will appear alongside The Papers of George Washington digital edition in the press’s Rotunda digital imprint. In conjunction with this major new extension, the Papers of George Washington project will officially be renamed the Washington Papers. Be sure to check our website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed regularly for updates about this exciting endeavor!

“George Washington Day-by-Day” Project Featured by Jefferson Trust

By Caitlin Conley
February 21, 2015

Caitlin is a Research Assistant for the Bibliography Project and is part of the Papers of George Washington social media team.

You may have heard about the exciting new project that began at The Papers of George Washington just this year. Associate Editor William Ferraro received a grant from the Jefferson Trust to create an online database of what Washington did every single day from his birth to his death. Several teams of talented undergraduate students are now working hard to write, proofread, and fact-check concise entries, to improve workflow, and to design the website. In writing these entries, Washington’s letters and other documents are of course invaluable, but other contemporary accounts and newspapers are also vital to consult, especially for his earlier years.

Only one other similar project, The Lincoln Log, has been undertaken. Interestingly, even though Washington lived long before Lincoln, we actually know more about what Washington did every day. Remember, there are at least 135,000 Washington documents! While The Papers of George Washington editions give Washington’s documents in chronological order, the “Day-by-Day” project will make his activities even more accessible by providing succinct summaries of what he was doing. This new tool will work as a complement to the edited Washington documents in many ways; for instance, it will streamline the process of deciding which documents to consult. Even on its own, the tool will offer an entirely different depth of perspective to Washington’s life.

The “Day-by-Day” project has already overcome many challenges and has steadily progressed towards its goals. The Jefferson Trust has been very pleased with how the project is living up to the Trust’s stated mission:

“The Jefferson Trust provides discretionary funding for trustee-selected projects that enhance the University of Virginia as a preeminent global institution of higher learning.  The Trustees solicit and evaluate applications, and provide grants and stewardship towards the execution of stated project goals.  The Trust measures the success of a grant by its ability to encourage creativity, innovation and leadership, and ultimately by whether it enhances the University and/or the student experience.”

The Trust honored the project’s successes so far by featuring it on the front page of the February 2015 newsletter:

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You can read the full newsletter article here. Congratulations to everyone working on the “Day-by-Day” project!



The Financial Papers Project Visits the Library of Congress

By Erica Cavanaugh
January 23, 2015

Erica is a Research Assistant for the Financial Papers Project.

The Financial Papers Project at the Papers of George Washington focuses on GW’s numerous account books, which illustrate the financial aspects of his everyday life. We have primarily worked with scanned digital images from the Library of Congress website when doing transcriptions, and have been trying to gain a better understanding of Washington himself. Recently however, I was given the opportunity to visit the Library Congress with Senior Editor Jennifer Stertzer, in order to actually see, touch, and use the original financial documents housed there.

Upon arrival, we were able to walk through the closed stacks, seeing the vast number of volumes and documents, which are no longer open to the public. The documents covered a variety of topics, including a number of the presidents. Many of the documents have been microfilmed and are also available online for public use. After seeing the closed stacks, we made our way to the reading room for the manuscript archives. We were assigned a locker where our bags, jackets, and anything other than a phone or laptop were stored, and were then provided with paper and pencils. Once settled, a cart with the financial volumes we requested was brought out and we were able to begin.

Each of the financial documents and books were in different physical conditions. Some of the account books were in their original bindings and relatively easy to manage considering their age, while others were extremely fragile and delicate. Additionally, there were a few books that had been repaired and rebound by the conservation department at the Library of Congress. Due to the fact that a number of the books were in the original binding and were fragile we needed to take certain precautions. These precautions included the use of cradles to view a number of the materials. The cradles stopped the books from opening too far, preventing any additional cracking of the pages or spine of the books.

While viewing the original material and handwriting was interesting and allowed us to fully comprehend the various sizes of the account books, the purpose of our visit was to verify the order of the material online, which we were using for our transcriptions. Jennifer and I went through a number of the volumes page by page in order to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. By doing this, we realized that some of the material had been difficult to scan due to its fragile state. Because of this, numbers or text written towards the center of the book did not always show in the digital image. By using the original documents, we were able to update the transcriptions in the database with the previously unknown text.

Our final goal of visiting the Library of Congress was to gain some deeper insight into the material by conversing with Julie Miller, an Early American Historian at the Library of Congress who is also currently working on this material. By conversing with one another, we were able to see what we each thought about particular documents and account books. A number of questions were asked, some of which were as simple as “what is this,” and “why is it here.” Some questions we were able to answer for one another and others still remain unanswered.

Overall, our visit to the Library of Congress was both fascinating and insightful. We were able to handle the original documents, and update and correct some of our transcriptions. Additionally, we gained a better understanding of the numerous account books George Washington kept, how they may have been related to one another, and at times the purpose of particular books. As the project progresses, I hope we are able to visit again.