American Philosophical Society — Library & Museum

Philadelphia
PA

Philosophical Hall in Philadelphia

QUICK FACTS
  • In 1766 Benjamin Franklin is elected the first president of the American Philosophical Society, serving until his death in 1790.
  • Astronomer and mathematician David Rittenhouse, who had been vice president of the Society, serves as its next president (1791 - 96) until his death.
  • In 1794 Philosophical Hall temporarily becomes home to the Philadelphia Museum, Charles Willson Peale’s museum of natural history and important personages, until 1802.
  • Thomas Jefferson is elected as the Society’s third president (1797 - 1815), serving while he is simultaneously Vice President (1797 - 1801) and third President (1801 - 09) of the United States.
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Founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram to promote Useful Knowledge, the Society was the first of its kind in America, and it quickly gained an international reputation, which it continues to have today.

Philosophical Hall, built in the Federal style to house the Society in 1789, is now the home of the American Philosophical Society Museum. Adjacent to Independence Hall, it features special exhibits of art, scientific instruments, rare books, original manuscripts, natural history specimens, and curiosities.

Across the street is the Library, which contains 350,000 volumes and bound periodicals, eleven million manuscripts, 250,000 images, and thousands of hours of audio tape related to the history of science, medicine, and technology. Rotating exhibits in the entrance highlight the Library’s rich collections.

In 1775 the British government was not the limited monarchy we know today. The King was in charge of the executive branch of the government and his duties and powers corresponded, roughly, to those the President now handles in the United States. ... Political parties as we understand them today had yet to be born. England was split into four or five factions, some revolving around a noble Lord such as Marquis of Rockingham, some around a class (the country squires) and roughly on-third of Parliament around the King who, through his executive power, had innumerable jobs, from cabinet post to lucrative sinecures, to dispense among those who supported him.

Thomas Fleming
Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill (1960; reissued 2010)