Benjamin Franklin Papers

Joseph Breintnall to Directors of Library Company, 8 November 1731

Joseph Breintnall to Directors of Library Company

MS Minute Book: Library Company of Philadelphia

The Library Company of Philadelphia was Franklin’s “first Project of a public Nature.” He drafted its plan, rules, and articles of agreement; the latter were signed July 1, 1731, naming ten directors, a secretary, and a treasurer, and announcing that the Company would be organized when fifty subscriptions were obtained. With the help of the Junto, this took about four months. The secretary then prepared this call to meeting, and Franklin had copies delivered to all concerned.

[November 8, 1731]

The Minutes of me Joseph Breintnall Secretary to the Directors of the Library Company of Philadelphia, with such of the Minutes of the same Directors as they order me to make. Begun the 8th Day of November 1731. By Virtue of the Deed or Instrument of the said Company dated the first Day of July last.

The said Instrument being compleated by fifty Subscriptions I subscribed my Name to the following Summons or Notice, which Benjamin Franklin sent by a Messenger. Vizt.

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hopkinson
William Parsons, Philip Syng Junr.
Thomas Godfrey, Anthony Nicholas
Thomas Cadwalader, John Jones Junr.
Robert Grace and Isaac Penington6


“The Subscription to the Library being compleated You the Directors appointed in the Instrument are desired to meet this Evening at 5 o’Clock, at the House of Nicholas Scull to take Bond of the Treasurer for the faithfull Performance of his Trust, and to consider of, and appoint a proper Time for the Payment of the Money subscribed, and other Matters relating to the said Library.

Joseph Breintnall, Secy.”7

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6William Parsons. See below, p. 359.

Thomas Godfrey. See above, p. 190.

Thomas Cadwalader (c. 1707–1779), physician, apprenticed to Dr. Evan Jones, studied medicine in London. Later burgess of Trenton, N.J., physician to the Pennsylvania Hospital, trustee of the Academy, vice-president of the APS, member of the Philadelphia Common Council, member of the Provincial Council, author of An Essay on the West-India Dry-Gripes, printed by BF in 1745. DAB.

Robert Grace (1709–1766), an original member of the Junto, lent BF money to set up independently as a printer, proprietor of the Warwick Iron Works, where the Pennsylvania fireplaces were cast. Mrs. Thomas Potts James, Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior (Cambridge, Mass., 1874), pp. 375–92.

Thomas Hopkinson (1709–1751), lawyer, member of the Junto, St. John’s Lodge, and Union Fire Company. Later clerk of the Orphans Court, Master of the Rolls, Prothonotary of Philadelphia County, Judge of Vice-Admiralty, member of the Philadelphia Common Council, member of the Provincial Council, trustee of the Academy. Thomas H. Montgomery, A History of the University of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1900), pp. 100–2.

Philip Syng (1703–1789), silversmith, member of the Junto, St. John’s Lodge, Union Fire Company, and the Fishing Company of the Colony in Schuylkill; engraved the seal of the Library Company. Later trustee of the Academy, treasurer of the APS, vestryman of Christ Church, warden and treasurer of Philadelphia. DAB.

Anthony Nicholas, or Nichols (d. 1751), blacksmith; built a fire engine and other equipment for Philadelphia, 1735. Harrold E. Gillingham, “Philadelphia’s First Fire Defences,” PMHB, LVI (1932), 362, 365.

John Jones, Jr., cordwainer.

Isaac Penington (1700–1742), a large property-owner in Bucks County. Later justice of Bucks County Court and sheriff of Bucks County. DAB, under “Edward Penington.”

7At the meeting the Directors decided to collect twenty-five of the pledges—40s. subscription and 10s. annual payment—at once; this was done by December 14. The remaining twenty-five were solicited after the New Year. With a capital fund of £100 and an annual income of £25, the Library was able to send its first book order to England, March 31, 1732. Austin K. Gray, Benjamin Franklin’s Library (N.Y., 1937), pp. 8–9. The MS draft of the list of books ordered is in Pierpont Morgan Lib.

Index Entries