The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in New York City by businessmen-philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman in 1994 to promote the study and interest in American history.
The Institute serves teachers, students, scholars, and the general public. Its activities include the following:
The institute maintains a website to offer educational material for teachers, students, historians, and the public, and to provide up-to-the-minute information about the institute's programs and activities. The Web site offers learning modules on major topics in American history, podcasts from noted historians discussing their work, online exhibitions of primary source documents, and information about the institute's programs.
The institute publishes a quarterly online history journal, History Now, featuring articles by historians, teacher lesson plans, interactive activities, and advice from the archivist.
The collection contains more than 60,000 documents on deposit at the New-York Historical Society detailing the political and social history of the United States. The collection's holdings include manuscript letters, diaries, maps, photographs, printed books and pamphlets, ranging from 1493 through modern times. It is particularly rich with materials in the Revolutionary, Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
Highlights of the collection include signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, a rare printed copy of the first draft of the Constitution, and thousands of unpublished Civil War soldiers' letters. Letters written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass et al. vividly record the issues and events of their day. The writings of such notable women as Lucy Knox, Mercy Otis Warren, and Catharine Macaulay discuss a variety of military, political, and social issues.
The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition was established at Yale University.
In 1990 the $50,000 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize was established by the institute and Gettysburg College.
In 1999 the $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established by the institute.
In 2005 the $50,000 George Washington Book Prize was established by the institute, Washington College, and George Washington's Mount Vernon.