French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia records

The French Benevolent Society was founded in Philadelphia in 1793. The society serves indigents of French descent and provides scholarships to local students of French extraction. The records include minutes, correspondence, financial and membership records, case files, histories, and uncataloged...

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Collection: French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia Records
Collection Number: MSS141
Corporate Authors: French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia (Creator)
Format: Manuscript
Language: French
Subjects and Genres:
Online Access: Link to finding aid
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LEADER 11602ntc a2200301 u 4500
001 ead-MSS141
008 161020i xx fre d
040 |e dacs 
041 0 |a fre 
099 |a MSS141 
110 2 |a French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia  |e creator 
245 1 |a French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia records  |f 1804-1977 
300 |a 12.3 Linear feet  |f ; 29 boxes 
351 |b Series I. CorrespondenceSeries II. Financial recordsSubseries II. a. PropertiesSubseries II. b. Treasurer's reportsSubseries II. c. General accountingSeries III. Lettered EnvelopesSubseries III. a. Series "K"Subseries III. b. Series "L"Subseries III. c. Series "M"Subseries III. d. Series "N"Subseries III. e. Series "O"Subseries III. f. Series "P"Subseries III. g. Series "Q"Subseries III. h. Series "R"Subseries III. i. Series "S"Subseries III. j. Series "T"Subseries III. k. Series "U"Subseries III. l. Series "V"Series IV. AdministrationSubseries IV. a. General history and constitutionsSubseries IV. b. Annual reportsSubseries IV. c. Membership informationSubseries IV. d. Meeting minutesSeries V. Fundraising eventsSubseries V. a. Annual French Society BallSubseries V. b. Other eventsSubseries V. c. MemorabiliaSeries VI. Case filesSeries VII. Printed and other ephemera 
500 |a Processing Information: This collection consists mainly of ledgers and correspondence in English and French. The correspondence is generally arranged chronologically but was also sorted by subject. The chronological arrangement was sometimes sacrificed, as the method in which the society kept its records was such that subjects of correspondence were housed in envelopes or document containers which were labeled by handwriting. This original arrangement was strictly preserved, and is reflected in the final formal arrangement. The original envelopes still exist as a part of the correspondence collections but the condition in which they are in is very unstable. Whenever possible, the envelopes were kept, clipped between two pieces of acid free paper. When the condition was too fragile, a photocopy was made and the original discarded. Some of the correspondence was also done on this type of paper. The brittle paper was photocopied onto acid free paper and the original is clipped between this photocopy and another piece of acid free paper. This treatment was also necessary for some of the correspondence from the Depression era. Newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid free paper if they did not pre-date 1850. The Scrapbooks in Series V; Box 24; Folders 17 and 18 were NOT disassembled, nor were they photocopied, although the newspaper clippings are post-1950. In an effort to preserve the true nature of the scrapbooks and the clippings and items within them, they were instead lined with acid-free paper. In this collection the scrapbooks have more meaning as a unit and the destruction of them would mean a loss to some researchers 
506 |a The collection is open for research. 
520 |a The French Benevolent Society was founded in Philadelphia in 1793. The society serves indigents of French descent and provides scholarships to local students of French extraction. The records include minutes, correspondence, financial and membership records, case files, histories, and uncataloged photographs. 
520 |a The French Benevolent Society was founded in 1793, but there are no remaining records from this original charter period. The organization was re-chartered in 1805 and then re-chartered again in 1835. The materials from the period between 1804 and 1835 are mainly the correspondence of Jean Claude Laval (the first president under the 1805 charter). Much of this correspondence is with a book seller, James McCoy and has little to do with the activities of the society. The 1804 constitution is housed in Series IV; Box 16; Folder 5. Beginning in 1835, the collection becomes rich in materials. It is assumed that this is when a formal record retention policy was instituted, and it is the earliest date on a formal ledgeŕthe History of the Society Ledger (Series IV, Box 16, Folder 2) dates from 1835-1875. The correspondence dating from the 1830 through the 1850s is again mostly correspondence of Jean Claude Laval. There are also society notices and meeting announcements and society condolences in this period as well. The bulk of the material begins in the 1850s. The correspondence between 1848 and 1864 is held in the Lettered Correspondence Series III, Sub Series A, in the ́Ḱ and ́Ŕ sequences. The French Benevolent Society hosted an annual Ball that began in 1847. Series V; Boxes 24 and 26 contain the Ball correspondence and scrapbooks. The Financial Records of the Benevolent Society mostly contain the Property records. The Society generated revenue through investments in properties. They collected rent on these properties and it is these records which are housed in Series II. Treasureŕs Reports can also be found in the Lettered Correspondence Series III, but remain there because of the original order of Lettered envelopes (see Series Notes below). There are financial records and Income/Expense reports covering the years 1843-1941. There are Membership lists and Meeting Minutes from 1830-1941. (Administrative Series IV; Boxes 18-23). The Case Files, cover the years 1914 through 1941. Most cases records are in this period which encompassed World War I, the Depression, and the beginning of World War II. The Fatherless Children of France adoptee records are contained in this series, and the photographs removed from the collection were removed from this Box (27). The List Helped Ledgers contain records from 1874-1913. For the continuation of the French Benevolent Society Records, see the Francis James Dallett Papers (Collection 3046). This collection also contains background on French families in Philadelphia, with a special emphasis on the families of the members of the French Benevolent Society. There are notes on the French influence in Philadelphia, Maryland and New York. 
541 1 |a Gift of Francis J. Dallett, archivist of the French Benevolent Society, 1992.Accession number M92-30. 
544 |a At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:Francis James Dallett Papers (Collection 3046)French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia photographs (PG306)ĹAlliance Francaise de Philadelphie (Collection 3165) 
545 |a The French Benevolent Society was founded on February 6, 1793́the anniversary of the alliance between France and the United States in the Revolutionary War. Although its existence was threatened in 1798, the organization developed a Constitution in 1804, was chartered in 1805, then re-chartered in 1835. It adopted new Articles of Incorporation in 1986 and became an incorporated charity in 1987. Francis Dallett, the honorary Vice President and Archivist of the Society donated the Societýs materials to the Balch Institute in 1993 where they exist today. The Society was founded to offer moral or financial assistance to those of French descent. This tradition started in 1793 to aid those fleeing the Revolution in France and the West Indies. When an outbreak of yellow fever occurred in the City of Philadelphia in August of 1793, the Societýs existence was sealed. Twenty-two percent of the population affected were new comers from Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and of French descent. The Society assisted the survivors and new arrivals from Saint-Domingue who were also fleeing revolution. Among the members of the first Society were diplomat Jean de Ternant, Philadelphia lawyer Peter Stephen du Ponceau, dentist James Gardette, ship broker and notary public Benjamin Nones and Consul General Antoine de la Forest. Nineteen others helped to co-found the Society. The Society was predominantly Catholic, but membership was open to all, and there existed both Protestant and Jewish members. In 1798, the Society faced a slump, as the political scene became stable and French emigres were once again able to return to France. The Society had invested its money wisely, though, and was able to regroup in 1804. In that year, its members numbered one hundred and fourty-four. Jean Baptiste Marie Dubarry, Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, and Stephen Girard were all influential members of the ́neẃ Society, now faced with the next wave of French emigratiońthe Bonapartists in 1815. The Society continued to aid needy persons throughout the 1800s. Between the years 1847-1861, an annual ball was given to raise money. It became the toast of the season, selling out the Musical Fund Hall and generating hundreds of dollars for indigent French persons. When World War I left many French children without Fathers, the Benevolent Society was quick to sponsor these children, sending money so that they could remain in school. It helped on the homefront, as well, by assisting the wives of Frenchmen who enlisted as soldiers. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the Society had many investments in properties throughout Philadelphia. The moneys generated through these investments enabled the Society to continue to help those who applied to them for assistance, whether it be for a job, for funeral expenses, or for transport back to France. Through much of its existence, membership in the Society cost only three dollars. These annual subscriptions added to the revenue, along with money and properties they inherited from members and others who were deeply appreciative of the work the Society did for the French in the City. Architect and former President of the Society Paul Cret, Lucy Kille, Jules Kerle all left legacies to the Society affirming the need for it and the love and support of its members. The Society often honored those whom it felt were deeply deserving. A portrait was made and a banquet held for H.A. Pintard, a long time member of the Society. A medal was engraved for the first President of France, M. Thiers, and was presented to him by the American Consulate in France. Telegrams were sent to Woodrow Wilson regarding American involvement in foreign wars. Letters of condolence were sent to the families of Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley. These efforts were always acknowledged by the distinguished recipients demonstrating the respect the Society generated both in the United States and in France. The Members of the Board met monthly to go over the disbursements made, but the full membership met only once a year at the Annual Assembly. At the assembly, the President gave a report. These reports were often printed and always dictated into the papers of the Society. There are few materials in this collection post 1941. The Society has slowly suffered a loss in membership and what remains of the more recent materials can be found in the collection of Francis Dallett, also held by the Balch Institute. His extensive research on the history and origins of the members of the Society blossomed into a vast collection of the French influence in Philadelphia and the French families who lived there. 
555 |a Finding Aid Available Online:  
546 |a The papers are in the French and English. 
650 0 |a Charities--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia. 
650 0 |a French Americans--Charities. 
650 0 |a French Americans--Societies, etc. 
852 |a The Historical Society of Pennsylvania  |b French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia Records  |c MSS141 
856 4 2 |y Link to finding aid  |u