Contosta, David R. 1945- (David Richard Contosta)

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Contosta, David R. 1945- (David Richard Contosta)


Born February 3, 1945, in Lancaster, OH; son of Miles R. (a banker) and Betty J. (a teacher) Contosta; married Jessica Hawthorne (a writer), July 29, 1972 (marriage ended); married, wife's name Mary E.J., August 4, 1984; children: (first marriage) Nicole, Alexandra, Jessica; (second marriage) David II, John. Ethnicity: "White European." Education: Miami University, Oxford, OH, A.B., 1967, M.A., 1970, Ph.D., 1973. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian.


Home—Plymouth Meeting, PA. Office—Department of History, Chestnut Hill College, Germantown and Northwestern, Philadelphia, PA 19118. E-mail—[email protected].


High school history teacher in Lancaster, OH, 1968-70; Miami University, Oxford, OH, instructor in history, 1973-74; Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA, assistant professor, 1978, associate professor, 1978-86, professor of history, 1986—. Saint Joseph's University, visiting research professor, 1998-2000; Cambridge University, visiting scholar, 2006.


American Historical Association, American Studies Association, Urban History Association, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi.


Fulbright fellow in France, 1972-73; grants from Pennsylvania Council for the Humanities, 1975, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1979-80, American Philosophical Society, 1981, Pew Foundation, 1986-88, Copernicus Foundation, 1987, Eli Lilly Trust, 1996, Philadelphia Preservation Alliance, 1999-2000, Levitties Foundation, 1999-2001, and Ohio Humanities Council, 2000.


(Also narrator and producer) Nineteenth-Century Architecture in Lancaster, Ohio, broadcast by Miami University Broadcasting, 1971.

Henry Adams and the American Experiment, edited by Oscar Handlin, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1980.

(Editor and author of introduction) Rise to World Power: Selected Letters of Whitelaw Reid, 1895-1912, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.

(Coauthor) America in the Twentieth Century: Coming of Age, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1988.

A Philadelphia Family: The Houstons and Woodwards of Chestnut Hill, foreword by E. Digby Baltzell, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia. PA), 1988.

(Coauthor) Ever Ancient, Ever New: Villanova University, 1842-1992, Villanova University (Villanova, PA), 1992.

Suburb in the City: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1850-1990, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1992.

The Private World of James Bond, Sutter House (Lititz, PA), 1993.

(Coeditor and contributor) Henry Adams and His World, American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1993.

Villanova University, 1842-1992: American-Catholic-Augustinian, forewords by Theodore M. Hesburgh and John Lukacs, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1995.

Philadelphia's Progressive Orphanage: The Carson Valley School, 1918-1993, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1997.

Lancaster, Ohio, 1800-2000: Frontier Town to Edge City, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1999.

Saint Joseph's: Philadelphia's Jesuit University, 150 Years, Saint Joseph's University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2000.

(Coauthor and contributor of narration) Lancaster, Ohio: The Birth of an American Culture (based on his 1999 book), produced for public television, 2001.

(With Gail C. Momjian) Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships, Arcadia (Charleston, SC), 2003.

The Philadelphia Cricket Club: America's Oldest Country Club, 1854-2004, Philadelphia Cricket Club (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.

A Parish Journey, 1856-2006: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, privately printed, 2006.

Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2008.

Author of exhibition catalogs. Contributor to books, including Stained Glass in Catholic Philadelphia, St. Joseph's University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002; Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002; Catholic Colleges for Women in America, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2002; and The Place that Loves You Back: Community and Social Capital in Philadelphia, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2006. Contributor to history journals.


Henry Adams, great-grandson of President John Adams and grandson of President John Quincy Adams, is the subject of David R. Contosta's biography, Henry Adams and the American Experiment. A central figure in U.S. politics, Henry Adams left little record of his troubled personal life, and Contosta is "wisely unwilling to speculate about Adams' psyche," observed Alden Whitman in the Los Angeles Times. Contosta examines the development of Adams's increasingly pessimistic political views "as if he were delivering an expository lecture," Whitman noted. "All the known facts are there, but there is not much fire in the belly. Nor was there, for that matter, in Henry Adams."

Contosta once told CA: "I am intrigued both by the patterns and relics of the past, and by the dramatic or quite casual ways these patterns affect our lives. Recently I have become fascinated by architectural history. As an amateur photographer I find it relaxing to record man's dreams by the buildings he's erected and the materials he's used."

Contosta later added: "I have become increasingly interested in the causes and consequences of major paradigm shifts. This preoccupation has led me to write Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin."



Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1980, Alden Whitman, review of Henry Adams and the American Experiment.

New Yorker, March 2, 1981, review of Henry Adams and the American Experiment, p. 124.

New York Times, November 4, 1980, John Leonard, review of Henry Adams and the American Experiment, p. 22.

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Contosta, David R. 1945- (David Richard Contosta)

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