Wrapping up Founders Online Early Access

Alexander Hamilton, Inspector General of the U.S. Army during the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800), was the subject of one our last Early Access projects.
Alexander Hamilton, Inspector General of the U.S. Army during the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800), was the subject of one our last Early Access projects.

Founders Online, a website giving free access to over 170,000 documents and letters from the founding period of the United States, has seen tremendous user growth since its launch in the summer of 2013. With well over one million visitors to date, it has proven to be popular and useful for academics, government researchers, and the general public alike. Getting first-hand insight into the minds of men such as John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington is something that was not easy for many living far from Washington, D.C. or not working at the nation’s premier research universities. The ability to learn more about our nation’s founding in the words of the men who first led it is due in large part first to the dedicated work undertaken since the 1950s of many documentary editors at the leading Founding Fathers projects that comprise Founders Online and second to the National Archives for funding the free publication of the editors’ authoritative work online.

As an assistant editor at Documents Compass, it has been my privilege to work with our director, Susan Perdue, and my former colleague, Laura Baker, in making available Early Access versions of over 50,000 letters that have yet to be published by the documentary editions mentioned above. These temporary documents will remain on the site until they are replaced by fully-vetted and professional annotated letters published by the Founding Fathers documentary editing projects. We owe our ability to have obtained copies of manuscript images, transcribed, and proofread so many letters since the beginning of 2012 to a dedicated crew of nearly fifty different individuals, both temporary employees and graduate students, who worked on the project.

Published in print in 1997 by Princeton University Press, both volumes and their index will soon be available online at Founders Online.
Published in print in 1997 by Princeton University Press, both volumes and their index will soon be available at Founders Online.

Now that we are finishing our last two projects, the transcription of over 2,600 Alexander Hamilton letters from the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800) and the digitization of Thomas Jefferson’s Memorandum Books,[1] the early access project will finally end on December 31, 2015.

I would like to thank all of our partners at UVA Press’s Rotunda, our former employees, my colleagues at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the many editors of the documentary editions who generously helped us, and Kathleen Williams and everyone at the NHPRC for making this project possible. Most of all, I will miss working on this project with Sue and Laura most, but consider myself very fortunate that I will still be able to help Sue in a reduced capacity on The Papers of Patrick Henry Digital Edition.


[1] Both of these projects will soon be available on Founders Online in early 2016. You can explore for yourself some examples of Jefferson’s original handwritten memorandum books at the Library of Congress.