The material on display in the Benjamin Franklin exhibition is drawn from the Library's various collections in the Manuscript, Prints and Photographs, Rare Book and Special Collections, Music, and Geography and Map divisions. However, the Library's largest assemblage of Franklin materials is housed in the Benjamin Franklin Papers in the Manuscript Division. This collection of nearly 8,000 letters, journals, letter books and documents is the second largest collection of Franklin Papers in the nation (after the American Philosophical Society).
The Library acquired the Benjamin Franklin Papers in 1903 through transfer from the U.S. Department of State—but not before the collection had made two transatlantic voyages. The bulk of the collection was first brought to London by Benjamin Franklin's grandson William Temple Franklin, who had plans to profit from the publication of his grandfather's papers. Most of the collection consists of journals, records, articles, letters and other materials, which William Temple Franklin thought would be valuable for publication. However, after the collection was brought to London, Henry Stevens, an American book dealer, acquired it and subsequently sold the collection to the U.S. government in 1882. Stevens had acquired the collection from H.A. Pulsford, who had received it from William Temple Franklin's widow.
Benjamin Franklin's personal library was sold after his death. Some annotated books from the Franklin library were purchased by Thomas Jefferson and came to the Library of Congress when it acquired Jefferson's library in 1815 to replace its own collection that had been largely destroyed by the British army in 1814.
Since the initial acquisition of the collection, the Library has acquired a variety of Franklin papers and documents by gift and purchase. A major addition of Franklin material to the Library of Congress came in 1999 when the Library obtained the Marian Carson Collection. In it was a small trove of Franklin imprints and documents, including many fine examples of currency designed and printed by Franklin, autograph manuscripts and a copy of Franklin's famous self-styled epitaph. The Library has also acquired many books, broadsides and newspapers printed by Franklin.
The Library's Franklin collection is too extensive to display in its entirety. However, the complete collection is available on microfilm and it is hoped that it will one day join the papers of fellow founders, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the Library's American Memory Web site at http://memory.loc.gov.