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Franklin Shop Ledger Data

Open historic data created from Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia shop ledger records in the collections of the American Philosophical Society.

What is this data?

Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah Read Franklin operated a print shop and general store in Philadelphia for many years. Of the many financial documents of the Franklins' held in the APS, three account books/ledgers details transactions in the shop from 1730-1748. The original volumes (Mss.B.F85.misc) from which these spreadsheets were made are in the collections of the American Philosophical Society and can be viewed in the APS Digital Library:

  • Ledgers A & B, 1730-1740 [APS Digital Library link] - This is the earliest known surviving Franklin account book. It was kept by Franklin and his wife, Deborah, and very few entries are in other hands. Paper was expensive and ruled books were especially dear: therefore, Franklin used the last half of this volume for Ledger B. "Leidger A" (Journal) is the front half of the book and the entries are records of sales, purchases, printing expenses, bills, etc., under the date of the transaction, and then they were posted under the name of the customer in "Leidger B" (Ledger). Beginning with page 169 the Ledger entries follow, recording individual customers' accounts. There is an eight page index which precedes this Ledger and Franklin, by November 1736 had used all of the pages in the back of the book, so he then used the blank pages between the Journal and the Ledger, and numbered the pages from front to back. Franklin noted that he had cancelled all of the accounts by March 5, 1757, that were either "settled or not like to be recovered." Some of these were "Carried to Ledger E."
  • Shop Book, 1737-1739 [APS Digital Library link] - This volume contains the same kind of entries as "Leidger A" (Journal) and most of the entries herein were made by Deborah Franklin. Since these entries overlap with those in "Leidger A" (Journal), it is sensible to assume that the entries were made in whichever volume proved more convenient at the time, with Franklin more likely to use the Journal and his wife the Shop Book. Most entries appear under date of transaction. From the Shop Book and "Leidgers A & B" a good picture of Franklin's business activities emerges. His printing ventures, goods sold over the counter in the shop and items for his business use or resale give an insight to the struggles to get ahead in the world, for he sold everything from ink and quills to printed legal forms and books.
  • Ledger D, 1739-1748 [APS Digital Library link] - This large (ca. 400 page) volume contains entries for credit sales but few payments, for legal forms, paper, ink, quills, etc., much like Ledgers A and B. Also, it contains records of dealings with many public officials of Philadelphia and the governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

Who created this data?

  • Bethany Farrell, Digital Franklin Fellow

How was this data created?

Please see each individual dataset's documentation for detailed information on its process, structure, and sources.

What these datasets are not

Open historic data is not a replacement for or an identical recreation of the original manuscript record from which it was created. Rather, it is intended to to make these volumes easier to use.

This dataset was created as part of the American Philosophical Society's Open Data Initiative (Learn more at http://diglib.amphilsoc.org/data). Although contributors took care to minimize mistakes and inconsistencies in the creation of these items, and have included any assumptions or choices made on their part that may affect interoperability or integrity of the data, APS cannot guarantee that they are free of instances of human error. They are offered "as is," and researchers are encouraged to consult the original records in digital or physical format in the event of uncertainty. If you have feedback or notice errors in the data, please contact us at digitalprojects@amphilsoc.org.

License

These datasets are available for anyone to evaluate, share, reuse, and remix as they wish under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License, and in accordance with the APS Open Access Policy. Please attribute APS Library & Museum. A sample citation can be found in the dataset documentation.

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Open historic data created from Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia shop ledger records in the collections of the American Philosophical Society.

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