The University of Pennsylvania Founded by Franklin in 1749
"It has long been regretted as a misfortune to the youth of this province that we have no academy in which they might receive the accomplishment of a regular education," observed Benjamin Franklin in 1749. By way of comparison Harvard had been established in 1636 and Virginia's William and Mary in 1693.
To rouse interest in a college, Franklin published an anonymous pamphlet entitled Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. The pamphlet argued for the necessity of a college and urged concerned citizens to donate money toward its end.
Then Franklin did what came naturally: he gathered up a group of his friends and did something to rectify the problem. Franklin's associates in this college-creating endeavor included ten patriots who would go on to sign the Declaration of Independence and seven signers of the Constitution. The Academy of Philadelphia opened in 1751 in the building which once housed George Whitfield's charity tabernacle on Philadelphia's Fourth Street, near Arch.
The first provost of the college was Anglican clergyman, William Smith with Franklin serving as the first president of the board of trustees. The pair helped to create the curriculum which focused on the sciences, history, logic, mathematics and geography. Smith was one of the few who would become an enemy of Franklin. In 1763, Franklin wrote of Smith:
I made that Man my Enemy by doing him too much Kindness. Tis the honestest Way of acquiring an enemy. and since 'tis convenient to have at least one Enemy, who by his Readiness to revile one on all Occasions may make one careful of one's Conduct, I shall keep him an Enemy for that purpose..."
Ironically, Smith would give the eulogy at Franklin's funeral.
The Academy established the country's first medical school in 1765 and would also establish the nation's first teaching hospital. By 1792, the Academy was known as the University of Pennsylvania.
Penn, as the school is popularly known, is today home to the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. Penn was also a pioneer in computer technology, helping to development Eniac.
To its dubious credit, the university opened the country's first law school too.
The university which had relocated to 9th and Chestnut Streets in 1829 found themselves needing more space in the years following the Civil War. So in 1872, the college relocated to West Philadelphia and the open lands on the far shore of the Schuylkill River.
Looking at the spectacle that today is the National Football League, it is hard to believe that professional games were ever conducted in stadiums as modest as Franklin Field. The grass- field stadium was home to the Philadelphia Eagles for nearly four decades before the team moved away from its intimate venue with to the concrete bowl that is Veteran's Stadium. The Eagles won their last NFL championship at Franklin Field in 1960.
Franklin Field is still home to the Penn Relays, as it has been since 1895, making it the longest-running annual college and high school track competition in the nation.
The campus features three marvelous Franklin sculptures.
In 1899, John J. Boyle, a famed Philadelphia sculptor created a large bronze sculpture of Franklin. Some wags cracked that the paunchy pundit was so big he might pop a button. (This inspired sculptor Claes Oldenburg and artist Coosje van Bruggen to create a massive aluminum button which now sits in from of Penn's Van Pelt Library.)
Another sculpture depicts Franklin walking up Philadelphia's High Street after the 17-year-old runaway had arrived from Boston. The morning of his arrival he strode up Philadelphia's main drag with but three pennies and one Dutch ducat in his pocket. He bought some bread and then walked passed Deborah Reed, the woman who would one day be his wife. The sculpture was a gift from the class of 1904 and was created by R. Tait McKenzie.
A third, whimsical sculpture depicts a friendly Franklin sitting on a bench reading an issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. On the top rung of a bench, a bronze pigeon looks on with interest. The bronze sculpture by George Lundeen was a gift of the Class of 1962, given in 1987.