We all know that Benjamin Franklin is responsible for helping birth our nation, but you might not know that he is also one of the founding fathers of co-ops.
Franklin’s exploits with electricity — a key and a kite — are legendary, but his connection to modern energy cooperatives is no less powerful.
In 1730, disastrous fires swept Philadelphia. Franklin, noting in the Pennsylvania Gazette that “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure,” turned his busy brain to the intersection of democracy and public welfare.
In 1752, Franklin organized the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. It was the first property insurance company in what would become the United States, providing fire insurance for limited properties in and around Philadelphia. It was also the future nation’s first successful cooperative.
Inspired by a 1793 dictionary that defined “contribution” as “that which is given by several hands for some common purpose,” the logo of the still-operating Philadelphia Contributionship is four clasped hands coming together, echoing a principle of togetherness that runs strong in cooperatives today.