Benjamin Franklin Papers

Subscription to Christ Church, 7 May 1739

Subscription to Christ Church

MS not found; reprinted from Benjamin Dorr, A Historical Account of Christ Church, Philadelphia (New York and Philadelphia, 1841), pp. 71–2.

Philadelphia, May 7th, 1739

Whereas, the Episcopal church of Philadelphia, having been long built, and much out of repair, as well as too small for the convenient seating of the congregation, it was therefore resolved, by two several vestries, in the year seventeen hundred twenty-seven, that a sum of money should be raised by subscription, for erecting a new, larger and more commodious building; which good design, with much care and industry hath been carried on, the foundation of a steeple laid, and the body of the new church on the outside almost finished;7 but the said subscription falling short, and insufficient to complete the same, the inside of the church remains unfinished, and many of the congregation yet unprovided with pews for themselves and families; which makes it necessary that some pews, a gallery, and other conveniences, should yet be added, as well as the whole finished; for which pious and good purpose, we whose names are hereunto subscribed, do promise to pay to the church wardens of the said church, or such others as shall be appointed to receive the same for the use aforesaid, the sums of money by us respectively subscribed. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our names the date above written.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For reference to events in the earlier history of the construction of Christ Church, see Dorr, Historical Account, pp. 58–67. A note on the location of BF’s pew is in PMHB, III (1879), 230.

8The subscription was signed by over 200 persons, of whom Dorr mentions only Governor George Thomas (£50), the rector Archibald Cummings (£20), William Till, Thomas Bourne, John Kearsley, Thomas Leech, Charles Willing, Peter Evans, Andrew Bradford, Thomas Lawrence, William Hellier, Samuel Hasell, William Bell, Richard Peters, BF, George McCall, Robert Assheton, James Humphreys, Richard Nixon, Joseph Shippen, and Joseph Redman. The amount of BF’s subscription is not stated. For the connection of the Franklin family with Christ Church, see above, p. 188 n.

Four years later, so slowly did the subscriptions come in, the vestry ordered, April 16, 1743, “that, for the better accommodating the congregation with seats in the church, the west end gallery be forthwith run out, and built entirely over the west aisle.” On August 27, 1744, the wardens reported that the church was “now happily finished” and that materials had been purchased and a contract made to rebuild the pews to provide additional seating. Dorr, Historical Account, pp. 83, 86.

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