250th Anniversary of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: copies of 24 articles by the United States Information Service (USIS) on Benjamin Franklin, his life and work; 8 off-prints and articles on Franklin produced by The Franklin Institute; and, 37 accompanying photographs (attached to USIS material) with captions.

Administrative / Biographical History

The American statesman, philosopher, printer, scientist, and writer Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, USA, on 17 January 1706. Franklin was the only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, but he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.

As a boy he worked as a printer for his father then brother, but went to Philadelphia to work in 1723. He visited London between 1724 and 1726 and then returned to Philadelphia in 1729. He became the owner and editor of the Philadelphia Gazette. He also sold books, established a circulating library, and set up a debating club that became the American Philosophical Society. In 1751, he also helped to establish an academy that eventually became the University of Pennsylvania.

Franklin also extended his own knowledge by the study of foreign languages, philosophy, and science. He repeated the experiments of other scientists and invented the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses, and a glass harmonica. Electricity interested him too, and in 1748 he turned his printing business over to his foreman, so that he could devote his life to science. He arranged a famous experiment of flying a kite in a thunderstorm, which proved that lightning is an electrical discharge. He went on to invent the lightning rod. As a scientist he won recognition from the leading scientists in England and on the Continent.

Franklin was also a diplomat and revolutionary leader. He was Deputy Postmaster General of the American colonies and he reorganized the postal system. He proposed a plan of union for the colonies, which was rejected by both the colonial assemblies and the British government. He was sent to persuade the people of Canada to join the cause against Britain, and in 1776 he was appointed to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, which he signed. In 1778 Franklin also did much to gain French support for the new republic. In 1781 he was chosen as one of the American diplomats to negotiate peace with Britain. He was also President of Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia on 17 April 1790.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Columbia encyclopedia. 6th edition. Columbia University Press, 2002. (2) Ketcham, Ralph. of Syracuse University, on Benjamin Franklin, in The encyclopedia Americana. International ed. Vol. 12. Franco-Goethals. pp.8-12. New York: American Corporation, 1977.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Accruals

Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Franklin related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter of Franklin to Dr. Lining of Charles Town, South Carolina, 1757, at Dc.1.67, pp.93-100; mention of Franklin in Dr. John Campbell's imprest account for the Province of Georgia, 1770, at Dc.1.67, p.700; photostat copy of a letter from Franklin to Dr. Benjamin Rush and Dr. Jonathan Potts, London, 1766, at Phot. 575; and, article of Rev. William Barry on Franklin's memoirs, circa 1913, in Sar. Coll.2.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and papers, American Philosophical Society Library, see NUC MS 61-910; correspondence and papers, 1747-1794, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, see NUC MS 60-1814; letters (21) relating to British politics, 1766-1788, University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Ref. Franklin letters, see Guide, 1978, pp. 41-42; miscellaneous MSS, Strathclyde University Archives, see ASLIB Directory of Literary and Historical Collections 1993; miscellaneous correspondence, 1725-1787, British Library, Manuscript Collections, see Index of MSS, IV, 1984; correspondence with Edmund Burke, 1774-1782, Sheffield Archives, Ref. WWM NRA 1083 Wentworth Woodhouse, see Copeland and Smith, Correspondence of Burke, 1955; letters (12) to Lord Kames, 1760-1775, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD24/562 NRA 29367 Stirling Home; and, correspondence with Granville Sharp, Gloucestershire record Office, Ref. D49, box 28 NRA 10000 Lloyd-Baker.