The Franklin Lyceum

>In 1829 the students of a private school in Providence formed the Providence Lyceum to supplement their education. In April of 1832 they changed their name to the Franklin Lyceum, following a national fashion. The members engaged in formal debates to sharpen their oral delivery and logic, posing questions such as “which is the greater evil, slavery or intemperance?” (1840), or “Ought women be allowed to vote?” (1852). Guest speakers included such luminaries as Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, Edgar Allen Poe, Horace Mann, Sam Houston, Charles Sumner, Henry Ward Beecher, and even Emerson, who was brought back repeatedly and was very popular. The group published a journal which bore various titles over the years and contained poems, essays, editorials and stories. The Franklin Lyceum moved to permanent quarters in 1858, and in its heydey in the 1860s boasted over 700 members; its library held almost 8,000 volumes (a catalogue of the library was published in 1859, and is in the RI Collection at the PPL). The collection was sold to the Providence Public Library in 1890, and by 1917 the Franklin Lyceum had dissolved and given the rest of its material to the Rhode Island Historical Society.

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