The APS holds about 70 percent of the known Benjamin Franklin manuscripts, around 15,000 separate items. The collection touches upon every aspect of Franklin’s life: his printing career, his emergence as a prominent man of science, and his career as a statesman and diplomat. While the bulk of the papers came to the APS through the Fox Family in the 1840s, other additions were made in the later 19th and 20th centuries:
Early American History Collections
The APS was an important early repository for historical material in the late colonial and early republic periods. Through the generosity of donors like Thomas Jefferson, the collecting savvy of long-serving librarian John Vaughan (1803–1841), and the planning of the Society's Historical and Literary Committee (1815–1820), the Society gathered an immense number of manuscript and printed sources relating to the new nation. By 1840, the APS had a large collection of Benjamin Franklin’s manuscripts, the Lewis and Clark Journals, and more than 11,000 books in its library. In addition, the Society’s own archive is an important source for understanding early American science. Future collecting efforts built upon this base during the 20th century when the APS acquired the papers of the artist-entrepreneurial Peale-Sellers family, the papers of the naturalist Benjamin Smith Barton, and the Thomas Paine Collection of Richard Gimbel.
A few of the collections are highlighted below.