Essay Contest

You could win $200 for writing an essay!

About the Contest

Revisiting the Founding Era is a three-year national initiative of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presented in partnership with the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Benson Memorial Library was selected as one of only 100 public libraries across the country, and one of two in the state of Pennsylvania, to be awarded this grant. The library has the opportunity to use historical documents to spark public conversations about the Founding Era’s enduring ideas and themes and how they continue to influence our lives today.

As a part of the grant events, Benson Memorial Library is holding an essay contest to encourage people to consider how the founding era of our nation intersects with the present day. There will be one contest for adults and a youth contest for people 21 years old and younger.

The two grand-prize-winning essays will be featured at our Moderated Discussion Program on June 25, 2019, on our website, and will receive a monetary prize. The two runners-up will also receive a prize.

Runners-Up Announced: June 11 at Town Hall Program

Winners Announced: June 25 at Moderated Discussion Program

Adult Prompt:

Images were important in the Founding Era and remain important today. Imagery is especially useful in politics as visual aids can stimulate conversation, illustrate points, and spur people into action. How were images important in politics in the Founding Era (use at least one example from the Reader to support your point)*? Compare that use of imagery to the use of images in politics today. How do shocking images travel through social media to galvanize political movements? Does social media help or hurt political participation?

*The Reader refers to the book called “Revisiting the Founding Era” by Carol Berkin. Five (5) copies are available for checkout on the essay contest stand at Benson Memorial library. The reader can also be accessed online at *


Youth Prompt:

History helps us understand not only the past, but impacts the present and helps us make decisions about the future. The Founding Era of our nation was a tumultuous period of growth, change, and debate. Many key characters of this period have been immortalized in the Broadway musical, Hamilton. In an essay, answer the following questions: How do history and popular culture tie together? Can we learn about history through dramatic art, such as Hamilton? How is the Founding Era still relevant in today’s world?

Important Information

Starts: March 1

Deadline: May 17

Adult Contest Rules:

1,000 words min, 2,500 max

Runner-Up Prize: $50

Winner Prize: $200

Youth Contest Rules:

500 words min, 1,500 max

Runner-Up Prize: $50

Winner Prize: $200


Essays can be submitted in person or via email to