Charlottesville, VA.—The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a two-year $584,000 grant to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities’ Documents Compass, a program specializing in documentary editing in the electronic age. This grant supports further development of People of the Founding Era: A Prosopographical Approach, a project that creates a biographical glossary combined with a group study (prosopography) of nearly 60,000 native-born and naturalized Americans born between 1713 and 1815, as well as their children and grandchildren. This online resource addresses the problem of repurposing and distributing the significant scholarly research, especially the research that appears in the biographical narratives published in the volumes of the Founding Fathers over the last half century, and makes it more accessible and flexible for the use of scholars, students, and educators.
Using the official papers of the Founding Era, People of the Founding Era provides basic biographical information about well-known leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Mercy Otis Warren, and Henry Knox, and makes available facts about the lesser known people of the era including county lawyers and farmers, artists and writers, merchants and store keepers, wives and daughters, and slaves and Native Americans. This information will be gathered into a database that will allow the reader to explore the nature of these groups and how they changed over time. Who were the Virginia county lawyers; who among those born in Virginia stayed there and who migrated south, north, or west; where were the members of American Colonization Society drawn from, and what might we find out about the members of a literary society formed in Cincinnati in 1803? The third phase of the project will work on developing a tool to visualize social networks so that users can see the personal and institutional relationships between different people during this seminal period of our nation’s founding. Rotunda, the digital imprint of the University of Virginia Press will publish the first installment of People of the Founding Era this spring.