Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. records
Benjamin Franklin lived at 36 Craven Street, London, England, from 1757 to 1775. It is his only surviving residence. In 1978, The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House was registered as a United Kingdom charity to restore the house and open it to the public as a museum. In 1992, the Friends of Benjamin...
|Collection:||Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. Records|
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Materials Separated from the Resource: None.
Processing Information: Processing made possible by a generous donation from Mary Countess of Bessborough.
23.8 Linear feet 59 boxes, 3 volumes, 1 flat file
The collection is open for research.
Benjamin Franklin lived at 36 Craven Street, London, England, from 1757 to 1775. It is his only surviving residence. In 1978, The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House was registered as a United Kingdom charity to restore the house and open it to the public as a museum. In 1992, the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, U.S. was incorporated as a separate non-profit charity, based in Philadelphia, to support the work of the British organization. The Benjamin Franklin House museum opened to the public on January 17, 2006, Franklin’s 300th birthday. The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, U.S. closed its offices in 2008.
The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, U.S. records include correspondence, meeting minutes, financial records, administrative subject files, printed materials, clippings, scrapbooks, audiocassettes, videocassettes, and photographs.
The Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. records span mostly from the 1970s to the late 2000s. The collection documents many aspects of the project to restore 36 Craven Street through fundraising and planning correspondence, architectural drawings and plans, descriptions of the restoration work, business models, and informal discussions of museum philosophy. There is also substantial documentation on the sometimes difficult relations between the U.S. and London groups, both of which included heavy upper-class representation, and on the project's various sources of financial and political support. This collection would be valuable for those interested in learning about what goes into developing a historic house and the development of public history more generally. The collection is arranged into five series, with one series further divided into three subseries. Papers are arranged in the order in which they were found: Series 1 is arranged chronologically, while Series 2, 3, 4, and 5 are arranged alphabetically. The papers in Series 4 remain, for the most part, in their original folders. Throughout the collection and whenever possible, original folder titles have been transferred from old folders to new folders. Given that papers were routinely exchanged between FBFHUS, the London Friends, and the American Friends of Franklin Trust, there is some repetition of materials between series, particularly Series 1 and 4. The administrative papers in the first series document FBFHUS’s daily operations and interactions with various funders and the London Friends. The minutes cover both FBFHUS and the London Friends (noted in the Box and Folder list as “UK”) and provide not only information on the progression of the restoration of 36 Craven Street, but also insights into the relations between the two groups. The subject files are particularly rich with details on the restoration process and how the London Friends received the bulk of the monies for the project. Concomitantly, the second series of financial records, which were found separate from the bulk of the administrative files, also detail funds raised, used, and kept by both the London Friends and FBFHUS. Three boxes of audio cassette tapes and one box of video recordings have been placed at the end of subject files. Papers from the American Friends of Franklin Trust are in Series 3, though copies of their papers can be found in the subject files in Series 1 and scattered throughout Series 4. The papers are roughly divided into two chunks: administrative records including correspondence and financial records. These papers document the creation of the trust and its daily operations, its name change from a “committee” to a “trust,” and its relationship and importance to the London Friends as they attempted to establish the house project as an Anglo-American venture. The papers in the fourth series originated from two key FBFHUS members: Mary Bessborough and Robert Landseidel, who served as FBFHUS chairman. In these twenty-three boxes is a mix of personal and business files from the FBFHUS’s Philadelphia office. The business files are more extensive that the personal files, which mainly detail Bessborough’s travels between London and Philadelphia. The business files are quite similar to those found in the subject files in Series 1, though the papers generally focus more on the group’s fundraising work in the United States. They also document Bessborough’s attempts to persuade the London Friends to make 36 Craven Street into a traditional house museum, as well as the London Friends’ reactions to Bessborough’s suggestions. The final series contains a binder of individual photographs, disbound photo albums and scrapbooks, and a variety of published items related to Benjamin Franklin that FBFHUS collected for research purposes. The scrapbooks are made up of photographs, clippings, copies of letters, and other ephemera and provide glimpses into how the Benjamin Franklin House project came to be and progressed during the 1980s and 1990s.