February 17th, 2012 by Elizabeth Watts Pope
The first ever Chairman’s Commendation from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) was awarded to AAS staff member Philip J. Lampi in a ceremony yesterday afternoon. Local politicians, current and former AAS staff, and some of Lampi’s many friends and colleagues gathered to honor his lifetime of research into early American election returns.
Learn more by reading:
- the front page story in today’s Telegram & Gazette (be sure to check out the slideshow of images from the event)
- a blog post from current AAS fellow, Joseph Adelman, explaining the impact of Lampi’s work on historical scholarship
Here are quotes describing the significance of Lampi’s life work:
Back in 1987, Walter Dean Burnham referred to “the lost Atlantis of nineteenth century politics.” If that is indeed the correct description, then Phil is the Captain Nemo. — Erik Beck, A New Nation Votes project coordinator, in the AAS Annual Report for 2009-2010 [Download a PDF]
Indispensable for understanding politics in the early Republic is Philip Lampi’s monumental collection — Gordon S. Wood in Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Oxford University Press, 2009
One of the strangest and most heroic tales in the annals of American historical research — Jill Lepore in “Party Time,” The New Yorker, September 17, 2007
The Society issued the following press release written by director of outreach, James David Moran:
James Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, awarded Philip J. Lampi, a researcher at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), a Chairman’s Commendation in a ceremony at AAS yesterday. Leach cited Lampi’s life-long research into the voting records from 1787 – 1825 and his compilation of local, state and national election data from newspapers and archives from throughout the nation. The award “commends Philip Lampi for his diligence in collecting, collating and preserving the most basic records of American democracy.”
This award is all the more remarkable because Lampi possesses only a high school diploma. Lampi first became interested in election returns as a teenager while living in the Stetson Home for Boys in Barre, Massachusetts. When he could not get access to the television, he wandered off to discover a collection of yearly almanacs. The election statistics contained within them fascinated him as did the fact that no statistics were listed before 1825. What happened prior to that date became a lifelong obsession that took him to libraries and historical societies throughout the country. Supporting himself by various jobs including night watchman, Lampi suffered great privations including sleeping in his car in his quest of voting returns which he would discover in newspapers, deed books, and manuscripts scattered in repositories throughout the nation. Eventually his research brought Lampi to the AAS when in 1974-75 he was the recipient of an AAS Fred Harris Daniels Research Fellowship to mine the Society’s collection of over two million pre-twentieth century American newspapers. Lampi eventually joined the staff of the Society.
Today, Lampi is recognized by political scientists and historians as the most authoritative expert on early national election returns. Lampi’s research has been cited by numerous scholars including: George A. Billias, David Bohmer, James P. Broussard, David Hackett Fischer, Ronald P. Formisano, William J. Gilmore, Roy R. Glashan, Daniel P. Jordan, Kenneth Martis, Richard P. McCormick, Donald J. Ratcliffe, Andrew W. Roberston, and Jeremiah Slade, among many others.
The fruits of Lampi’s life’s work are now part of an online searchable database of early American voting records entitled A New Nation Votes created in collaboration with the American Antiquarian Society and Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives and with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Please join us in paying tribute to the remarkable achievements of this remarkable man.