Benjamin Franklin's Legacy
The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is Benjamin Franklin’s living legacy in Boston. It evolved directly from his bequest of £1000 to “the Inhabitants of the Towne of Boston,” set forth in a codicil to his will dated 1789. Well over two hundred years after his death in 1790, his legacy continues to do great public good.
After working briefly with his father, a tallow chandler, Franklin became an apprentice to his brother James, one of only several printers in Boston, where he learned the trade. Eventually a bitter quarrel with James led to a split that resulted in Ben’s move to Philadelphia in his late teens after James warned his competitors not to hire Ben. Unlike so many of the Founding Fathers who came from the colonial gentry, Franklin belonged to the “leather apron” class. Although one of the most significant men of his era, he remained ever proud of his trade and specified that his gravestone be engraved “Benjamin Franklin, Printer.”
In his codicil, he wrote, “I have considered that among Artisans good Apprentices are most likely to make good Citizens.” Then noting that the kindness of two friends helping set him up in business had been the basis of his fortune, he continued: “I wish to be useful even after my Death…in forming and advancing other young men that may be serviceable to their country.”
In December 1904, the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who heralded Benjamin Franklin as one of his heroes, matched the money in the Franklin Fund to build the College on two conditions: that the new school be an industrial school similar to the Cooper Union and New York City’s Mechanics’ and Tradesmen’s School, and that the City of Boston provide the land. On Friday, September 25, 1908, the Franklin Union building was dedicated.
Fun Historical Facts:
Soon after Henry Ford introduced the Model T, the affordable car that would put average Americans on the road, the course in Gas and Gasoline Engines became so popular that the College had to establish a waiting list and people lined up around the corner of Berkeley Street and onto Tremont in order to get on the list.
On May 15, 1916, the first conference call was made at the college, linking San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. More than nine hundred people filled the Franklin Union auditorium to hear guest speakers from around the country via telephone, including Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and his assistant, Thomas A. Watson.
On November 14, 1927 the very first fax was sent from the college. W.E Harkness of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company gave the first public demonstration of the newly developed telephoto process, which could transmit a five-by-seven inch photograph anywhere in the country over telephone wires in seven minutes, a boon especially for the newspaper industry.