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...

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Collection:Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. Records
Collection Number:3118
Format: Manuscript
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Online Access:Link to finding aid
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LEADER 14188ntc a2200517 u 4500
001 ead-3118
008 120924i19562008xx eng d
040 |e dacs 
041 0 |a eng 
099 |a 3118 
245 1 |a Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. records  |f 1956 - 2008  |g 1976 - 2005 
300 |a 23.8 Linear feet  |f 59 boxes, 3 volumes, 1 flat file 
500 |a Materials Separated from the Resource: None. 
500 |a Processing Information: Processing made possible by a generous donation from Mary Countess of Bessborough. 
506 |a The collection is open for research. 
520 |a 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.  
520 |a 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.  
524 8 |a Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. records (Collection 3118), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 
541 1 |a Gift of the Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S., 2008. Accession number 2008.023.  
545 |a From 1757 to 1775, American statesman, inventor, and publisher Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) lived at 36 Craven Street in London, England, while serving as a representative of colonial Pennsylvania in Britain. In practice, the house became the first overseas American embassy where Franklin fought for the colonists’ rights and protested British taxes against the colonists, such as those imposed by the Stamp Act of 1765. When not consumed by political matters, Franklin focused on his inventions and created the glass armonica, bifocal glasses, and what became known as the “Franklin stove.” He also performed his famed experiments with electricity by flying kites along the Thames River during thunderstorms. Additionally, Franklin published several scientific papers and pamphlets, the Craven Street Gazette, and The Way to Wealth. Though he was happy in London, Franklin was frustrated by the crown’s heavy-handed dealings with the colonies. With revolutionary fervor growing in the states, Franklin left Craven Street and returned to Pennsylvania. He later went back to Europe and worked in France from 1776 to 1785, but never again visited London. Franklin’s London residence at 36 Craven Street is his only surviving home in the world. At present, it serves as a museum and educational facility; but just several decades ago it was little more than a decrepit shell of a house. Philadelphian Mary (Munn) Bessborough and her late husband were the first to champion the cause of restoring and reopening the house. In the early 1970s, the Bessboroughs and other London-based parties raised funds to restore the house. In 1976, a generous grant from SmithKline of Philadelphia allowed for the purchase of a 150-year lease for 36 Craven Street. In 1978, the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House (London Friends) was officially registered as a United Kingdom charity. Even at this early stage, the group recognized the profitability in establishing ties to the United States, and Mary Bessborough served as the organization’s first overseas liaison. She also agreed to serve as president of an American organization once it was formed. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the London Friends worked tirelessly on several fronts that included renovations to and restoration of the house, fundraising and associated events, and creating an American friends organization. The group received a major publicity boost in 1987 when then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the house, where she received the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Service. About a year later, the British government granted the London Friends freehold (total possession) to the property. 1987 also saw the creation of the American Friends of Franklin Committee with Bessborough at its helm. The committee shared the same goal as the London Friends, to restore and preserve 36 Craven Street, and raised money in the United States that was used by the London Friends to meet that goal. The committee was based in Washington, D.C., and over several years, successfully garnered funds and strengthened the London Friends’ cause in the United States. As the committee continued to raise funds and hold fundraising events, some American donors came to mistakenly believe that the committee co-owned the Benjamin Franklin House, which was not the case. In response, and to distinguish themselves as a fundraising organization, in 1993 the committee changed its name to the American Friends of Franklin Trust. While the trust worked in Washington, D.C., another non-profit fundraising group was being raised in Philadelphia. In 1992, the Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. (FBFHUS) was incorporated as a separate charity that assisted the London Friends not only with fundraising, but also with surveys and feasibility studies of the house and planning the phases of the restoration. At this point, plans were in place to restore the house with period furnishings and decorations to make the house appear as it had when Franklin was its resident. Bessborough played a key role in this effort and firmly believed that the house’s most appropriate role in modern society was that of a historic home and cultural center that furthered Benjamin Franklin’s legacy. This idea was solidified in 1995 when the London Friends formed a partnership with the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture, and Commerce (RSA). With this partnership came plans to restore the house “as a museum, library/archive and educational centre celebrating Franklin’s life and times.” Additionally, the RSA sought to expand the facilities to include the neighboring house at 35 Craven Street. This proved favorable with Bessborough and members of the American Trust. In this same year, the trust was closed and FBFHUS in Philadelphia became the sole overseas fundraiser for the London Friends. The 1990s brought about new leadership to the London Friends, a new million-dollar grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (an organization comparable to America’s National Endowment for the Humanities), and new plans for the Benjamin Franklin House. Despite protests from Bessborough and FBFHUS, the decision was made to turn the house into an interactive “historical experience” (including concealed theatrical lighting and sound equipment) with a library and educational center rather than a traditional museum. This decision on the part of the London Friends created a contentious rift between it and FBFHUS, and the two organizations did not see eye-to-eye over the project for several years. Restoration work on the Benjamin Franklin House began in 1997 and took almost ten years to complete. During this time, FBFHUS held several successful fundraisers and promoted the London Friends’ cause in America. Even though Bessborough did not agree with the house’s fate, she still believed in the history of 36 Craven Street and supported the London Friends’ efforts. But she continued to offer suggestions on how to make the house historically accurate up to its opening to the public in 2006. Once the house opened, FBFHUS turned its attention toward raising money for the long-term maintenance of the house. But the strained relationship between the London Friends and FBFHUS proved too much for Bessborough and her supporters, and membership within and outside support for FBFHUS declined throughout 2006 and 2007. In early 2008, the decision was made to dissolve the organization, and the final board meeting was held in March of that year.  
555 |a Finding Aid Available Online:  
600 1 7 |a Bessborough, Mary  |c Countess of.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Dye, Alan.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Hunter-Jones, Evangeline.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Landseidel, Robert.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Sinnott., Stephen  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Sloat., Jane de Graff  |2 Local Sources 
610 2 7 |a American Friends of Franklin Trust.  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a Donald W. Insall and Associates.  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. K.  |2 Local Sources 
610 2 7 |a Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S.  |2 Local Sources 
610 2 7 |a Heritage Lottery Fund (Great Britain).  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture, and Commerce (Great Britain).  |2 NACO Authority File 
650 0 |a Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790--Homes and haunts--England--London. 
650 0 |a Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790. 
650 0 |a Fund raising consultants. 
650 0 |a Fund raising--Great Britain. 
650 0 |a Fund raising--Management. 
650 0 |a Fund raising--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.  
650 0 |a Fund raising--Washington (D. C.) 
650 0 |a Historic house museums--England--London. 
650 0 |a Historic house museums--Furniture, equipment, etc. 
650 0 |a Historic house museums--Interpretive programs.  
651 7 |a 36 Craven Street (London, England).  |2 Local sources 
852 |a The Historical Society of Pennsylvania  |b Friends of the Benjamin Franklin House, U. S. Records  |l 3118 
856 4 2 |y Link to finding aid  |u