Benjamin Franklin’s Donor Story

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In his will, Benjamin Franklin set aside 2,000 pounds sterling to be given to the cities of Boston, where he was born, and Philadelphia, his adopted home. Dr. Franklin's small bequest grew to millions of dollars and has been used to support scholarships, educational institutions, symphonies, and many other worthwhile projects in both cities.

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
—Benjamin Franklin

Dr. Franklin did not leave his philanthropy to chance. Per his direction, for the first 100 years after his death, the money was used to make low-interest loans to young tradesmen getting their start in business. He knew his bequest would grow over the years and stipulated that after 100 years about one-quarter of the sum should continue to be used to make loans, while the remaining three-quarters could be used for public works in each city.

That money helped to create The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the hands-on science center that has delighted millions of visitors since its opening in 1934.

Franklin realized that his investments in Philadelphia and Boston would continue to grow and requested that after 200 years his bequest again be divided between Philadelphia and Boston and any restrictions on how the money could be used were removed.

Two hundred years after Dr. Franklin’s death, The Franklin Institute received a second gift of $850,000. This contribution supported the Institute’s 1990 Futures Center Capital Campaign, which resulted in the creation of the Tuttleman IMAX Theater, Bartol Atrium, and the Mandell Center. Dr. Franklin’s name can still be seen today on the donor signage adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, where he and other generous friends of The Franklin Institute are recognized for their loyal support.

 

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