About the Institute
December 22, 1926 was the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s arrival in Paris to negotiate a Treaty of Alliance between the United States of American and France. On this same day in 1926, a certificate of incorporation was signed and granted in Washington, D.C. to establish the Institut Français de Washington. The names of the incorporators were Thomas H. Healy, Louis T. Rouleau, and James Brown Scott, who became the Institut’s first president. General John J. Pershing was named Honorary President.
The scope and purpose of the Institut Français de Washington was then, and is now as the Institut Français d’Amérique, to promote the study of French civilization, history, literature, and art in the United States, and to preserve the memory of contributions to the history of modern civilization in North America by French missionaries, educators, explorers, settlers, scholars and artists. To encourage the work of scholars in these areas, the Institut has established the following awards: the Gilbert Chinard Historical Prize, awarded annually to the best American book on the history of French-American relations (on the recommendation of a committee of the Society for French Historical Studies); the Harmon Chadbourn Rorison, the Edouard Morot-Sir Fellowship in French literature, and the Gilbert Chinard research fellowships, awarded annually to doctoral candidates and untenured junior professors who need funds to pursue research in France on French culture and history. In carrying out its objectives, the Institut Français de Washington has been aided by donations, gifts and bequests. A bequest of $50,000 in 1972 from Chicago industrialist Henry C. Morris was of particular importance for the continuation of the Institut’s endeavors.