WINNER of the 2022 Distinguished Book Award from The Society of Colonial Wars
“Van Doren has a knack for revealing relics of the Revolution as strangely, beautifully alive.”—Wall Street Journal
A tour through the original thirteen colonies in search of historical sites and their stories in America’s founding. Obscure, well-known, off-the-beaten path, and on busy city streets, here are taverns, meeting houses, battlefields, forts, monuments, homes which all combine to define our country—the places where daring people forged a revolution.
There is always something new to be found in America’s past that also brings greater clarity to our present and the future we choose to make as a nation. Author-artist Adam Van Doren traveled from Maine to Georgia in that spirit. There are thirty-seven landmarks included, with fifteen additional locations noted in brief. From the Bunker Hill monument in Massachusetts to the Camden Battlefield Site in South Carolina, this is a tour of an American cultural landscape with a curious, perceptive, and insightful guide.
The reader steps inside cabins at Valley Forge where nearly two thousand soldiers perished during a cruel winter, meets the chef at Philadelphia’s City Tavern where the menu is based on 18th century fare, seeks out the Swamp Fox in Georgia, visits the homes of Alexander Hamilton, John and Abigail Adams, the Joseph Webb House on the Connecticut River where French general Rochambeau made plans with Washington, and much more. An unvarnished view, we also see Philipsburg Manor, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where Blacks were once held as slaves to work in the Hudson River Valley.
For armchair travelers and anyone fascinated by Americana, Van Doren (The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents) has created an unforgettable journey through history. We see the Founders—both their stunning achievements and chilling moral failures—where they lived, fought, and agreed on a common purpose, to create a nation whose future—and it’s legacy—is continually evolving.
Critical Praise for In the Founder’s Footsteps
“An odyssey in words and pictures through landmarks of the American Revolution . . . Van Doren has a knack for revealing relics of the Revolution as strangely, beautifully alive.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Van Doren’s watercolors give the book visual appeal, and the window it opens on the lives of these places, past and present, makes it worth keeping around.”
—The New Criterion
“Van Doren’s project reminds us there is always something new to be found in America’s past that also brings greater clarity to our present, and to the future we choose to make as a nation.”
—Fine Art Connoisseur
More Praise for In the Founder’s Footsteps
“The historian’s task is to give unnecessary attention to a thousand and one things and still give warmth to the narrative. Van Doren fulfills this task in excess, and his inexhaustible supply of enthusiasm gives life to his stories.”
—DAVID MCCULLOUGH, author of 1776
“This is not just a pretty book—though Adam Van Doren’s many watercolors are pretty indeed—but is wise and fascinating too, reminding us of events and way-stations that we well knew—Concord to Yorktown by way of Bunker Hill and Valley Forge—and of places and happenings we have long forgotten. The seven years of the Revolutionary War are retold with a measured sympathy—no jingoism here!—and we must be grateful for the images and words of a supremely able historian and artist.”
—SIMON WINCHESTER, author of The Professor and the Madman
“In this gorgeous volume, Adam Van Doren illustrates with generosity and wise beauty those places and “gentle phantoms”—from Bunker Hill to the Georgia swamp, from Phillis Wheatley to Thomas Paine—that helped create an American republic and inhabit it still. In Van Doren’s delicious, brilliant retelling, and in these luminous pictures, history walks again, upright, complex, and humane: Not to be missed.”
—BRENDA WINEAPPLE, author of The Impeachers
“Adam Van Doren has succeeded where so many histories do not, in conveying a vivid sense of the different places that gave rise to our hard-won independence. John Adams famously argued that the Revolution had to be won in the “minds and hearts” of the American people; this lovely book appeals to both.”
—TED WIDMER, author of Lincoln on the Verge
“In the Founders’ Footsteps is a visual and narrative revelation. It invites you to join Van Doren on a journey that he quite happily and gracefully illustrates for you. For history and architectural buffs, this is a feast. For any reader interested in a rare and wide-ranging road trip, this is their book.”
—TIMOTHY L. O’BRIEN, author of TrumpNation
“Adam Van Doren’s charming watercolors and essays made me feel I was there. Through both pen and brush, Van Doren not only teaches us a good deal of American history but, more important, evokes it.”
—ANNE FADIMAN, author of Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader