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Michael Meyer
University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA 15260-6133)
Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet: How a Founding Father's Daring Philanthropy Reshaped the American Will

A book on American philanthropy and founding father Benjamin Franklin, who bequeathed large sums to Boston and Philadelphia with the stipulation that they be paid in two installments only after compound interest had accrued for one hundred and then two hundred years. The book also addresses the implications of Franklin's legacy for contemporary charitable giving.

Before he died, Benjamin Franklin placed a bet on America. His will's final codicil ordered the deposit of funds to be cashed out, with the accrual of compound interest, by the cities of Boston and Philadelphia 100, then 200, years later - should they still stand. Franklin's wager, a response to a dare by a French writer urging him to show his citizens how to apply Poor Richard's example for posterity, did - remarkably - pay out, funding civic projects and vocational training. Leaving money to beautify cities and fund vocational training - usually credited to the likes of Carnegie and Rockefeller - was yet another of Franklin's inventions, and one all but forgotten today. This book will explain how Franklin was the Founding Father of American philanthropy (he also invented the matching grant), and how his example of small, targeted giving can inform the national conversation as the Baby Boom generation prepares to give away $30 trillion, the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
American Studies; Journalism; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017