John Marshall's affiliation with Franklin & MarshallOn June 6, 1787, amidst a crowd of distinguished faculty, founders, and trustees, the institution that would one day become Franklin & Marshall College was born. With a contribution of 200 English pounds from Benjamin Franklin, then the President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, the college bearing solely his name was officially dedicated with the belief that it would become a major intellectual force in American higher education. Among the renowned scholars and prominent citizens who conceived and founded Franklin College were three members of the Constitutional Convention (George Clymer, Robert Morris, and Thomas Mifflin) and four of the signers of the Declaration ofIndependence (Clymer, Morris, Thomas McKean, and Dr. Benjamin Rush). The faculty, which included four German-educated professors, taught their students such subjects as Latin, Greek, German, and mathematics in a former brewery in downtown Lancaster. However, the College experienced financial difficulties and flagging community support and soon became little more than an annual meeting of the board of trustees.
One hundred miles away and more than 40 years later, in Mercersburg, Pa., another small college began to take shape. Having grown from a Reformed Church academy, Marshall College, named upon the death of Chief Justice John Marshall, officially opened in 1836 with a well-established reputation. During its first year, 18 students were taught by Frederick Augustus Rauch and hisassistant, Samuel A. Budd. Rauch, an acclaimed young scholar and theologian from Germany who authored the first American textbook in psychology, also served as the College's president. The faculty grew in both size and status with the addition of John Williamson Nevin and another German scholar, church historian Philip Schaff. Nevin became the college's president upon Rauch's sudden death in 1841.
Like Franklin College, though, Marshall experienced growing pains. By the late 1840s, financial support and enthusiasm amongthe local community had virtually disappeared, despite a growing reputation that attracted students from as far away as the West Indies.
Back in Lancaster, Franklin's board of trustees, in their continued effort to bring a formidable liberal arts institution to central Pennsylvania, soon realized that the college could not progress alone, and Franklin and Marshall united to become a single college in 1853. Based in Lancaster, the merger created a Reformed Church institution that combined the resources of both schools. James Buchanan, four years shy of becoming the 15th president of the United States, was named president of the first Franklin & Marshall board of trustees.