In the fall of 1727 Benjamin Franklin and a group of friends founded the Junto Club also known as the Leather Apron Club. The 12 members were tradesmen and artisans who met Friday evenings to discuss issues of morals, politics or natural philosophy.
Franklin organized a group of friends to provide a structured form of mutual improvement. The group, initially composed of twelve members, called itself the Junto (from the Spanish word junta, or assembly). The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender. Although most of the members were older than Benjamin Franklin, he was clearly their leader.
List of questions
This is the list of questions Franklin devised to guide the discussions at Junto meetings (from Franklin’s papers, dated 1728, and included in some editions of his autobiography):
- Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? Particularly in history, morality, poetry, physics, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
- What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
- Has any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
- Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
- Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
- Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? Or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?
- What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? Of imprudence? Of passion? Or of any other vice or folly?
- What happy effects of temperance? Of prudence? Of moderation? Or of any other virtue?
- Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects?
- Who do you know that are shortly going [on] voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?
- Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? To their country, to their friends, or to themselves?
- Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? And what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?
- Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?
- Have you lately observed any defect in the laws, of which it would be proper to move the legislature an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?
- Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?
- Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? And what can the Junto do towards securing it?
- Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?
- Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?
- Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?
- In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honourable designs?
- Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?
- What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?
- Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?
- Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto, which might be amended?
Any person to be qualified as a member was to stand up, lay his hand upon his chest, over his heart, and be asked the following questions, viz.
- Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.
- Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do.
- Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No.
- Do you love truth for truth’s sake, and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes.
Members of the Junto Club
- Hugh Meredith – Employed by Samuel Keimer and business partner of Franklin.
- William Parsons – Shoe maker and amateur mathematician who became surveyor general.
- William Maugridge – Mechanic and cabinet maker.
- Steven Potts – Employed by Samuel Keimer.
- George Webb – Runaway Oxford student and apprentice with Keimer.
- Thomas Godfrey – Amateur mathematician and glass worker.
- Joseph Breintall – Poetry lover. Scrivener, writing or reading letters to court and legal documents.
- Robert Grace – Gentleman of fortune.
- William Coleman – Merchant with exacting morals.
- Nicholas Scull – Surveyor who became surveyor general.
- John Jones – Quaker and shoe maker.