Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bostonian History

I've been reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson over the past few months purely for my own edification.  A few weeks ago I finished it.  In the epilogue, I found one entry that was simply amazing to me.  Beside the American persona he has become, he was first and foremost a business man.  Of course, history tells us he resided mainly in two cities during the course of his lifetime ... Boston and Philadelphia.  At the time of his death in 1790, he left an unusual provision in his last will and testament.

He noted that, unlike the other founders of the country, he was born poor and had been helped in his rise by those who supported him as a struggling artisan.  "I wish to be useful even after my death, if possible, in forming and advancing other young men that many be serviceable to their country."  So he designated the £2,000 he had earned as President of Pennsylvania - citing his often expressed belief that officials should serve without pay - to be split between the towns of Boston and Philidelphia and provided as loans, "at 5 percent per annum, to such young married artificers" who had served apprenticeships and were now seeking to establish their own businesses.  Isaacson, Walter; Benjamin Franklin, An American Life; pg 473 & 474.

Isaacson goes on to say that these funds were not completely exhausted until 2001!  For some reason that fact stuck in my mind and I put the book away on my library shelf

Well ... jump to a few weeks later ... I have been going over the Winnek Genealogy again.  As I was reading the notes regarding John Winnek, my 4th Great Grandfather, in Kelly McGean's "Genealogy of Some Descendants of Frederick Winnek ..." (*), I came across the following note.

"Boston City Document 81" is a report of the Trustees of the Franklin Fund and their efforts in support of young mechanics.  On page 20 of that document the following is written.  "It appears from the Book of Applications to the Franklin Fund that the following young mechanics, many of whom were enrolled among Boston's most honored citizens, applied in the year 1791 for the benefit of this donation, and were its first recipients ... May 31, 1791, John Winnek, Saddler, granted 120 dollars."

It seems that my great grandfather was one of the first recipients of Benjamin Franklin's gift to the city of Boston!  Who knew?!

John Winnek

* on a sad note ... as I was interested in knowing more information regarding this publication, I reached out to contact Kelly McGean.  Unfortunately, as of late March, he and his wife were traveling in Europe and died in a plane crash.  On behalf of the family, I have sent our condolences to his son James and family.