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The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute Frankliniana collection


Held at: The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute [Contact Us]222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA, 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1824, in honor of America's first scientist, Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest and most important science institutes in the nation. Its mission is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology.

On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. The original purpose was to honor Benjamin Franklin and advance the usefulness of his inventions. In addition to conducting scientific inquiry, the Institute fostered research and education by running schools, publishing the influential Journal of The Franklin Institute, sponsoring exhibitions, and recognizing scientific advancement and invention with medals and awards. The Franklin Institute Awards program, begun in 1824, is America's oldest and most prestigious recognition of achievement in science and technology.

From 1826 to 1933, The Franklin Institute was housed in a Greek Revival building on South Seventh Street in Old City Philadelphia that was built for the Institute by noted architect John Haviland. (The building is now home to the Philadelphia History Museum.) On January 1, 1934 the new Franklin Institute science museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway opened to the public, one of the first museums in the nation to offer a hands-on approach to learning about the physical world. Capital campaigns in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century enabled major physical and programmatic expansion to the facility, which contains over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, two auditoriums, the Tuttleman IMAX Theater, the Fels Planetarium, and the Karabots Pavilion. The museum is also home to the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, one of only a handful of national memorials owned by a private institution.

As of 2016, The Franklin Institute offers twelve world-class permanent exhibits that provide hands-on learning experiences that introduce and reinforce key science concepts in creative and engaging ways. The Institute also hosts major traveling exhibits that draw local, national, and international visitors to the museum. As an American Association of Museums-accredited organization, the Institute holds curatorial collections that are considered national treasures.

The Institute's programmatic offerings serve a range of audiences, with a focus on underserved youth in Philadelphia and beyond. It also presents public lectures, academic symposia, and opportunities for discussion of current science events. The Institute is a founding organizer of the Philadelphia Science Festival, which was established in 2011, and has been a lead or partner in more than a dozen federal grant-funded programs through agencies including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was one of the premier figures of early America and a founding father of the United States. Often called America's "First Citizen," he was world-renowned as a scientist, statesman, inventor, and writer. Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 and in 1723 settled in Philadelphia, where he established a printing business. By the mid-eighteenth century Franklin was one Philadelphia's leading citizens, active in business, government, education, and arts and letters. He founded important literary, scientific, medical, and educational institutions and played a prominent role in political and civic affairs. He signed the United States's Declaration of Independence and Constitution and played a key diplomatic in Europe role during the Revolutionary War. He died in Philadelphia in 1790.


The Franklin Institute. "Mission & History." 2016. Accessed August 22, 2016.

The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute Frankliniana collection, 1718-2006, consists of prints, drawings, photographs, and a variety of ephemera and secondary-source materials relating to Benjamin Franklin and his activities. There is a small amount of 18th century materials signed or printed by Franklin.

There are several prints, drawings, and postcards depicting Franklin, as well as reproductions of portraits of him. Additionally, there are several photographs of sculptures of Franklin, including the Franklin Memorial at The Franklin Institute, and photographs and invitations from a 296th birthday celebration for Franklin. There is a book featuring mural depictions of Franklin by Charles E. Mills, as well as images of objects depicting Franklin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection. There is also a portion of correspondence relating to artwork featuring Franklin.

The collection contains a number of articles and other published materials relating to Franklin, including articles from modern publications, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, booklets about his life and activities, and reprints of booklets printed by Franklin. Other printed matter and ephemera available in the collection include stamps featuring Franklin, currency and designs for currency featuring Franklin, a piece of linen with maxims from Poor Richard's Almanac printed onto it with a wood block, and prints using woodblock designs by Franklin. There is also a reproduction of design plans by Franklin for an electrical machine.

There are some materials printed by Franklin in the collection, including a pamphlet, 1718, and an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1743. Materials signed by Franklin include a receipt from the Library Company, 1769; a letter written by Franklin; a legal document appointing Franklin a co-guardian of a boy; and property documents. Also in the collection is Franklin's second of three wills, circa 1757, as well as a day book, 1761-1792, from Franklin's son-in-law, Richard Bache (1737-1811). An inventory is available on-site.

Materials from various sources collected over time

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute directly for more information.

The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact The Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

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