Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Franklin book programs
Franklin Book Programs Records
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
1920-1978 (mostly 1952-1977)
302 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Boxes 1-301; 66a


The Records of the Franklin Book Programs document the activities of the organization from its inception in 1952 to its dissolution in 1978. For 26 years, Franklin assisted developing countries in the creation, production, distribution, and use of books and other educational materials. Its efforts were based on the premise that through wider and improved education, underdeveloped nations could better utilize their human resources to help eliminate hunger, poverty, overpopulation, and economic paralysis.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Franklin Book Programs Records contain the administrative records of this non-profit, educational organization. The collection contains minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports, contracts, photographs and other audiovisual material documenting Franklin's twenty-six year existence. The material highlights the complexities of developing, managing and dissolving an organization that hoped to neutralize and overcome the effects of anti-American sentiment in the book publishing and distribution field.

The material within the folders is arranged in reverse chronological order unless otherwise noted. Researchers should be aware that Franklin was very inconsistent in regard to the placement of items. Although a particular subject, person, organization, etc. may have its own folder, it is highly recommended researchers check the general correspondence folders as well. Researchers will note in some instances there are A-Z correspondence folders as well as general correspondence folders. General correspondence usually contains internal correspondence, memoranda, etc. between the New York and field offices, while the A-Z folders contain external correspondence. However, at times the internal and external correspondence are combined and the folder is labeled general correspondence. There is also correspondence in Arabic, French, Persian, Spanish and Urdu.

Researchers should be aware that Franklin had two distinct sets of records. Duplicate copies of correspondence and cables to and from Franklin's field offices were made. Each was assigned a unique number and filed chronologically, while the duplicate was filed alphabetically by subject. The "chrono files" as Franklin referred to them, included all of the correspondence with the overseas offices during their service. Former executive director, Jack Kyle, admitted to many misfilings by the staff and having to use the chrono files to locate items. These chrono files are located at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. However, we do have an incomplete index of chronological cable summaries, which are located in Series 2, Subseries 1.


The collection is divided into five series that reflect the organization's arrangement of its files:

Collection Creator Biography:

Franklin book programs

Franklin Publications was officially incorporated in the state of New York on June 5, 1952 as a nonprofit membership corporation for publication and translation of American books to native languages for distribution abroad. A group of American publishers, librarians and educators who were concerned with the state of education in developing countries founded the organization and named it after America's first book publisher, Benjamin Franklin. This group hoped that by facilitating and encouraging the publication and reading of American books in translation, international ties would be strengthened. Franklin's official purpose as stated in its certificate of incorporation was to:

publish and disseminate the printed word to the peoples of the world outside the United States, to stimulate interest in and promote the freedom, dignity and welfare of mankind; and to convey to them the knowledge and information relating to the people of the United States; and to stimulate interest in the history, government, culture, economy, technology, science and learning of the people of the United States.

The United States Information Agency (USIA) provided a $500,000 grant for the establishment of Franklin Publications, Inc. The organization stressed it was not a distributor of American propaganda nor was it an extension of the United States government, although it was originally conceived as a way of offering the services of the book publishing industry to the Government's overseas translation program. Contention erupted between Franklin and the USIA over the agency's desire to have final approval over the selection of titles. Franklin resented the agency's attempt to apply the same measures to Franklin's title selection as it applied to its own translation program. Franklin believed this limited their flexibility in working with foreign advisors and publishers. A series of discussions took place between the USIA and Franklin, which resulted in the USIA stating it had no desire to interfere with the normal publishing operations of Franklin. Their direct interest was in those projects financed by USIA funds. However, the USIA stipulated selected books were to have the following objectives, once Franklin had decided to focus its initial efforts on Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East:

Franklin opened its first field office in Cairo, Egypt in June 1953 and by 1959 other field offices had opened in Tehran, Iran, Tabriz, Iran, Lahore, Pakistan, Dacca, Bangladesh, Djakarta, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad, Iraq. Franklin hired locals to staff its field offices and relied upon the advice of local advisors to select the types of books desired. The local advisors made the final decision on titles selected, but Franklin did supply American specialists to provide suggestions and comments if needed. Franklin did have the technical right to veto a title selection but rarely used it. It could not impose a selection on the local office but it would propose alternatives for out of date or low quality books. Once a title was selected and approved, Franklin secured the translation rights from the American proprietor, and then contracted with a local publisher and translator. Franklin paid for the translation, special editorial work, the introduction and artwork. The local publisher paid for paper (unless it was hard to secure, in which case Franklin would supply it), printing, binding, and all other normal publishing expenses. The publisher also agreed to pay Franklin ten percent of the local selling price. After the book was published, Franklin would aid the publisher in promoting, advertising and setting up jobber arrangements.

Franklin secured its first contract with a Cairo publisher in April 1953, and Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe was the first book published in Arabic on October 5, 1953. It was also the most popular, selling an estimated 30,000 copies in six months. Other early books included Bertha Parker's Basic Science Education Series, George Soule's Ideas of The Great Economists, Majid Khadduri's The Middle East in the Writings of Americans, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, Charles Leonard's Why Children Misbehave, Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and Herman and Nina Schneider's Your Telephone and How it Works. By June 1954, 132 titles had been published in Persian, Urdu, Turkish and Indonesian. Franklin did not maintain an office in Turkey but assisted its Ministry of Education with the publication of titles in the field of teacher training.

Franklin initially shied away from textbook publishing because "imperialist poisoning of the minds of children" was easy fodder for anti-American propagandists. However, at the request of the Ministries of Education of Afghanistan and Iran, Franklin began a textbook program in 1957. It supplied new design and artwork, carried out physical production of textbooks, and assisted in the improvement of content. It should be noted that many of Franklin's translated books made their way into local universities and were often used as "textbooks."

As the 1950s drew to a close, Franklin had gained the respect of the countries it served and thus survived a total of twenty-one changes of government in those countries. It prided itself in having no national or international political involvement, although it did receive funds and support from government officials in various countries. Its program had not only fostered intellectual development but also gave a boost to the developing country's local economy. By eschewing a "giveaway" policy, Franklin helped the local book industry instead of subsidizing the circulation of particular books.

The 1960s were a tumultuous time for Franklin. It continued to grow, expanding its programs to Africa and South America, but soon found itself in serious financial jeopardy. It began to redirect its activities from direct operational projects toward educational development. Specifically, it began to focus more on developing libraries and literacy campaigns, producing encyclopedias and dictionaries, developing textbooks, conducting training seminars in book publishing and writers' workshops, and technical assistance in printing, publishing and book selling. This redefinition also extended to a name change. Franklin Publications became Franklin Book Programs in 1964. The board felt the name Franklin Publications sounded too commercial and gave the impression it was a competitor to publishers. The organization's original name also failed to show its emphasis on books and that it was an international program.

This functional shift was also the result of dwindling financial support. The United States government as well as foreign governments were no longer interested in subsidizing traditional translation programs. Franklin did receive some financial support from a sister organization in September 1965. The members of the Council on Books in War Time, Inc. voted to dissolve the corporation and distribute its remaining funds to Franklin. However, by November 1967 Franklin was in a precarious financial situation. It reduced staff levels in all of its offices, eliminated marginal but relatively costly programs, confined the translation program to donor-supported titles, and established stricter budgetary controls. The president of Franklin stated in a November 1968 memorandum to the board of directors that although the translated book program had assisted local publishers, it had not had a major influence on the development of indigenous publishing, and was not a significant factor in educational and economical development. It was a relatively low-volume high-cost program that required a burdensome subsidy.

Franklin continued to redefine its mission to attract financial support, and in 1971-1972 established two task forces: one to consider a merger for Franklin while the other reviewed its programs, fundraising activities, and viability. The first task force recommended that Franklin remain independent if it could possibly do so while the other task force made several significant recommendations. It urged that "Franklin's role be expanded worldwide, it become an aggressive seeker of funds, and become a representative of a broad section of the American business and professional community in developing education, which is the key to the improvement of the quality of life in developing countries." Franklin continued to remain solvent and functioning until June 1978 when its board and members voted to dissolve the corporation after recognizing that for the most part Franklin's original mission had been achieved.

Collection History


Franklin Book Programs donated these records to the Princeton University Library in 1978 . Certain series deemed non-archival by the Princeton University Library were later acquired by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.


No appraisal information is available.


These papers were processed with the generous support of The National Historical Publication and Records Commission and The John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kristine Marconi in 1999-2001 with the assistance of Christine Kitto, Rosemary Switzer, Anneké Allen, Nicole Basta, Amy Bergbreiter, Everitt Clark, Priscilla Delgado, Patrick Gallagher, Antoine Grady, Hilary Matson, Nate Holland, Chris Hoyte, Rachel Koblic, Shantanu Mukherjee, Brooke Meserole, Stan Ruda, Noelia Sanz, Brian Schulz, Sid Smith, Laura Vanderkam, and Brian Weiss. Finding aid written by Kristine Marconi in 1999-2001.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Franklin Book Programs Records; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Boxes 1-301; 66a

Find More

Related Materials

The chronological files of the Franklin Book Program are housed at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The Library of Congress received copies of the translated works.

Subject Terms:
Authors and publishers -- 20th century.
Book industries and trade -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Book industries and trade -- United States -- 20th century.
Book selection -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Books -- Developing countries -- Format -- 20th century.
Books and reading -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Booksellers and bookselling -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Educational publishing -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Library surveys -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Nonprofit corporations -- United States -- 20th century -- Records and correspondence.
Publishers and publishing -- Afghanistan -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Africa -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Bangladesh -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Egypt -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Indonesia -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Iran -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Iraq -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Lebanon -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Malaysia -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Pakistan -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- South America -- 20th century.
Publishers and publishing -- United States -- 20th century -- Records and correspondence.
Publishers and publishing -- United States -- 20th century.
Textbooks -- Publishing -- Developing countries -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Book catalogs.
Book covers.
Benjamin, Curtis G., 1901-1983
Booher, Edward E., 1911-1990
Brett, George P. (George Plat), 1893-1984
Cameron, Donald S.
Crowell, Robert L.
Dandison, Basil Gray, 1900-
de Graff, Robert F. (Robert Fair), 1895-1981
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Goldschmidt, Arthur, 1938-
Harwood, Raymond C. (Raymond Charles), 1906-1987
Johnson, Malcolm, 1902-
Kyle, John H. (John Hamilton), 1925-1998
Lacy, Dan
Smith, Datus C. (Datus Clifford), 1907-1999
Spaulding, William E. (William Ellsworth), 1898-1979
Waller, Theodore
Wilson, Thomas James, 1902-1969
Developing countries -- Industries -- 20th century.
Developing countries -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.