In 1727, Benjamin Franklin—aged at the time twenty-one and finding his niche in a newly adopted city—created a club. He was youthful, ambitious, and above all else, eminently industrious, but he wasn’t yet the quintessential polymath we exalt today. He hadn’t yet captured lightening on his rod, nor the attention of nearly every serious scientist abroad (including James Watt, who solicited Franklin’s advice for his steam engine).
He was decades away from boarding a ship and, as a lay oceanographer, discovering the warmed Floridian waters known to us today as the Gulf Stream. Bifocals were an ingenious spectacle he would construct in good time. The fire departments and libraries weren’t yet passing thoughts. The glass harmonica, odometer, and his namesake stove also awaited their day.
Before any of these gadgets, insights, and paradigms came to be, Franklin had his club. He named it the Junto, which today is a relatively recondite term. In Franklin’s time, however, a “junto” was well-known to be a political faction or group sharing common interests. Franklin named his newfound club the Junto to capture the ideal he wished to realize. He recruited and gathered Philadelphia’s finest men; they were an eclectic hodgepodge from each corner of society.
Franklin’s earliest members included cobblers, land surveyors, mathematicians, printers, and politicians. Their professions varied, but between them was an inescapable link. All were stimulated beyond repression by an insatiable inquisitiveness and a lust for learning. It was a club of “mutual improvement”, whose goal was not only to be inclusive, but to be ameliorative. They tasked one another with presenting topical questions and pursuing their ends. The original twelve members discussed and wrote on “any subject he pleased”, whether it be morality, politics, ethics, or natural philosophy.
The spark was in one another’s company, the fire in their inquiry, and the light shone through their discoveries.
Revering Franklin as I do, I took this as a chance to capture his Junto’s essence. I chose the name “The Juntoo” in homage to his quaint, pre-Revolutionary club. The terminal “o” neatly pegged at the Juntoo’s end brings with it a hope that we can continue what Franklin began. Just like Franklin, this site seeks always to favor eclecticism over dogmatism, disinterested inquiry over constrained ideology, and ideas that are pointed, as opposed to those that are merely sharp. I hope you’ll enjoy being part of this club.