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Thomas Paine Foundation/Memorial Committee

Thomas Paine Foundation/Memorial Committee

The Thomas Paine Foundation/Memorial Committee began as a separate organization (formerly simply the Thomas Paine Foundation) created by Margaret Downey, which was then adopted by the Freethought Society as a standing committee. Through the committee, the Freethought Society conducts educational and entertaining programs promoting the ideals of Thomas Paine and freethought philosophy. The committee has received local, national and international recognition for its efforts.    

Thomas Paine Sites in Paris, France

If you are planning a visit to Paris, France and you have interest is visiting the places of significance to Thomas Paine’s work and life, please use the Thomas Paine-Themed Tour for Visitors to Paris, France document
  The document indicates addresses for each location that was visited during September 2017 Paris, France Thomas Paine-themed tour conducted by Margaret Downey, Julien Musolino, and Gary Berton. Downey portrayed Marguerite Brazier Bonneville. She was a French citizen and was very helpful to Thomas when he lived in Paris. Musolino portrayed Thomas Paine during the tour. In the following script, Julien quoted the words Thomas Paine uttered in Paris and conveyed some of the most famous statements made in Paine’s writings. Thomas Paine expert, Gary Berton was also a host of the tour. The document includes all the information about Thomas Paine that was conveyed by Downey, Musolino, and Berton. We hope you enjoy your time in Paris and will support the efforts of the Freethought Society.  

Thomas Paine Philadelphia Walking Tour

Philadelphia, Pennyslvania

Start at the Sheraton Hotel on Dock and 2nd Streets

If you would like to use the facilities in the Sheraton, please enter the lobby area and turn to your left. The facilities are located down the hall near the ballrooms.

Start your tour at the outside valet parking area

Thomas Paine TourBorn in Thetford, England, on January 29, 1737, Thomas Paine spent the first thirty-seven years of his life in obscurity. Having lost his job as a poorly paid tax collector for trying to obtain better conditions for his fellow workers, he immigrated to America in November 1774 

Arriving in Philadelphia with letters of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, whom he had met in London, Thomas Paine soon secured employment as an editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. The owner and printer of the magazine was Scotsman Robert Aitken. He set the policies for the newspaper, ensuring that all articles would, and I quote, “avoid the suspicion of prejudice on the controversial issues of religion and politics,” end quote.

Most of Thomas Paine’s early contributions to the Pennsylvania Magazine were light-hearted, informative essays – but his best works were those that violated Robert Aitken’s policy by lashing out at British rule. Thomas Paine wrote articles using pseudonyms such as “Atlanticus,” “Aesop,” and “Vox Populi.” One of his early articles was a scathing condemnation of the African slave trade, called “African Slavery in America.” He signed that article under the name “Justice and Humanity.”

Thomas Paine was a man ahead of his time and he had great observation and problem-solving abilities. You are standing in a place that was once the most filthy and unhealthy sections of the colonies. Thomas Paine noticed the dangerous disease spreading conditions, and he wrote about this area being the source of a potentially disastrous health crisis. He delivered his message to the Board of Health and entitled his cautionary essay, “Of the Cause of the Yellow Fever; and the Means of Preventing It in Places Not Yet Infected with It.” Soon the area was reconstructed, eliminating standing water, sewage, and trash.

A more catastrophic Philadelphia outbreak of Yellow Fever was averted and many credit Thomas Paine’s words of caution as the reason the cleanup action was taken. But more importantly, Thomas Paine arrived in America at the perfect time to advance his views and thoughts on revolution and injustice. When Paine accused the English government of limiting the social and political opportunities of American women and showed sympathy to Native Americans, Robert Aiken dismissed Thomas Paine as a writer for the magazine. In lively conversations and writings, Thomas Paine continued to promote the notion that America should not simply revolt against taxation, but demand independence from Great Britain entirely.

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine expanded this idea in a 50-page pamphlet entitled Common Sense. On your way to see the Common Sense historical marker, stop at the side of the theater to note a street named “Thomas Paine Place.” The Common Sense Historical Marker is located at 3rd Street and Thomas Paine Place.

Reference materials

See details at: https://www.hmdb.org/map.asp?markers=32264,137767,135462,31061,31068,1378 16,137817,31076,50804,192886,83445,137684,106433)

The publication of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a watershed of the American Revolution.

At the time, most colonists were still wavering about the idea of independence from Great Britain, but Thomas Paine’s pamphlet galvanized opposition to the Crown and served as the final catalyst for political separation. After the British attacks on Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775 evoked growing sympathy for the American cause, some of Congress’s greatest advocates of independence, including Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush used the writings of Thomas Paine to test public opinion before making a definitive commitment themselves.

When Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush encouraged Thomas Paine to detail his arguments in a single pamphlet, he obliged by writing Common Sense. From late autumn 1775 until the publication of the tract in January 1776, Thomas Paine spent his days in his rented rooms just a few blocks from this location, writing about revolution. At nightfall, he visited taverns to engage in political debate.

Thomas Paine was a painstakingly diligent writer. A brief paragraph might take him days or even weeks because he scrutinized each sentence. Common Sense is a forty-seven-page pamphlet that advocated American independence in language the common man could understand and, ultimately, defend. Only a few days before the release of Common Sense, King George delivered his opening speech to Parliament calling for suppression of the American rebellion.

Common Sense gave the Crown a direct and unequivocal response that was instantly copied, parodied, and translated into the language of every country that sympathized with the American cause. Nearly 120,000 copies of Common Sense were sold in the first three months after its release. By the end of the year, approximately 500,000 copies had found their way into bookstores, private libraries, and taverns in both Europe and America. Common Sense convinced many Americans who had previously been neutral about independence that they should separate from England. On July 2, 1776, when Congress voted for American independence, Paine’s efforts were realized.

Today, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is widely regarded as a powerful expression of the American mind, just a step-in importance below the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Paine’s greatest legacy, however, may well have been his faith in the ability of common people to determine their own political destiny.

You should now be walking towards the American Philosophical Society. The address is: 104 South 5th Street

The American Philosophical Society was founded in 1743 as a home for thinker about nature, machines, industry, and governance – the outgrowth of an idea fostered by Benjamin Franklin. It is the oldest surviving learned organization in the country. The name “The American Philosophical Society” is derived from the concept of “natural philosophy” which was the 18th century name for the study of nature.  The name has nothing to do with “philosophy” (political or otherwise), as we understand it today.  Early members were what we would today call “scientists” and “technologists.” 

Housed here is the largest collection of Thomas Paine memorabilia. 

The Colonel Richard Gimbel bequeathed the collection to the American Philosophical Society in 1971. He was a wealthy department store heir.      [In the Gimbel collection there are 65 letters or manuscripts in Thomas Paine’s own hand. One such manuscript is his notebook for the pamphlet Common Sense. Please follow me to see a beautiful work of art located in the office of the American Philosophical Society’s librarian. The Thomas Paine bust you see in the window in the side alley is made of white marble. Hopefully, the shades are open so you can see the bust. Visits to the office to see the bust are made by calling the American Philosophia Society at: (215) 440-3400

The bust is in the Directors private office and not for public viewing – a situation the Thomas Paine Memorial Association would like to rectify. On July 4, 1876, the Liberal League of the United States set aside $1,3200 to secure the services of a Boston freethinker, Sydney H. Morse, who sculpted the beautiful bust you now see in the window In 1905, the bust was on placed on display at Independence Hall. By 1926, the bust was refused a niche because according to the powers that be, Thomas Paine was “an infidel.” City Council members declared that Thomas Paine was “immoral.”

He was also hated because 1796, Thomas Paine wrote a scathing open letter to President George Washington. In the published letter he wrote: “…the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.” This harsh criticism of General George Washington was used as evidence that the bust should not be on display. You will also be hearing more about the many famous friendships that were enjoyed by Thomas Paine.

It is said that the writings of Thomas Paine were instrumental in the creation of the Declaration of Independence penned right here in Old City Philadelphia by Thomas Jefferson. You should now be heading toward the Second Bank and Portrait Studio.

The address of the Second Bank is: 420 Chestnut Street The bank building is modeled on the Parthenon in Greece. The history of the building can be read on this plaque, but most importantly, many of you may need to know that there is a bathroom facility in the basement area. The portrait studio is a self-guided tour, but if you have a cell phone, you can call the following number to hear all about the gallery.  Gallery Hotline: 267-519-4295, then press number 21

Thomas Paine Portrait information

The portrait of Thomas Paine was done in 1859. It is attributed to Bass Otis, but it derived by an English artist George Romney’s 1792 portrait. Dr. William Wright gave the portrait to the City of Philadelphia in 1859. You should now travel to the Print Shop and Benjamin Franklin Court.

The address of the Print Shop is: 318 Market Street The phone number is: 215-597-8974

Note that the Print Shop closes at 5:00 PM. The Franklin Post Office and Museum is also interesting and located near the Print Shop.

The address of the is: 316 Market Street Franklin Post Office and Museum is the only Colonial-themed post office operated by the United States Postal Service. It is a living portrayal of a bygone Colonial lifestyle, and it is the only active post office in the United States that does not fly the American flag because there was not yet one in 1775 when Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster General. The postmark “B. Free Franklin” is still used to cancel stamps. The museum on the second-floor features displays of postal history and memorabilia. We hope you enjoy your visit to Philadelphia! Questions? Call: Margaret Downey, President Freethought Society 610-357-9432  

See photos from the committee’s events and gatherings here!

You can help The Thomas Paine Memorial Committee continue to honor the life and legacy of Thomas Paine by supporting the newest efforts listed below:
  1. A Thomas Paine Sculpture (Being designed by the world-famous sculptor, Zenos Frutakis)
  2. A Thomas Paine Coloring Book for Children (written by Margaret Downey with original illustrations)
  3. A musical compilation of Thomas Paine themed songs written and performed by James Klueh.
Please make a donation to help us fund these wonderful Thomas Paine projects.
All donors are issued a receipt as proof of their tax-exempt donation to an educational, charitable 501(c)(3) organization.  There are three ways to donate:

1. Check or Money Order:

Send a check or money order payable to the “Freethought Society” to: The Freethought Society P.O. Box 242 Pocopson, PA 19366

2. Donate online via PayPal: 

3. Set up a recurring monthly donation through PayPal!

It’s easy and there are no service charges to you. Recurring donations guarantee a constant source of income for FS. Subscribe at the $10/mo. level or more and get a free t-shirt of your choice, chosen from our online store (see link at top of page). You will be contacted after we receive notice of your subscription. All recurring contributors will receive a thank you card at the end of their 12-month subscription which will report the total amount given that year. Additional receipts available at any time upon request.
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Thomas Paine, A Brief History

Thomas Paine arrived in America in 1774 at the request of Benjamin Franklin. On January 10, 1776, Paine published Common Sense, a remarkable and powerful republican pamphlet, which proved an immediate success. Paine served in the Revolutionary War under General Greene, and later in official congressionally-appointed positions and the Pennsylvania legislature. In his later publication, Age of Reason, Paine expressed that “all religions are in their nature mild and benign” when not associated with political systems; Paine was the quintessential Deist of the 18th century. Between March 1791 and February 1792 Paine published numerous editions of Rights of Man, in which he defended the French Revolution. The words of Thomas Paine inspired many to strive for political, economic and social advancement. He was among the first to call for an end to slavery and the establishment of human rights around the world.

In Honor of Thomas Paine

In appreciation, the Thomas Paine Foundation/Memorial Committee celebrates the birthday of Thomas Paine on January 29th, as well as a Thomas Paine Day proclamation on June 8 and other Paine-themed events during the year. The committee is a participant in the beautification project for the Thomas Paine National Historical Museum, located at what was once Paine’s farm in New Rochelle, NY.

Read all about the committee’s 20th anniversary Thomas Paine Day 2014!

Thomas Paine Educational Assemblies

Five Thomas Paine assemblies have been presented at elementary schools throughout the Delaware Valley region. Assemblies have also taken place in New Jersey and California. Urbana-Paine-Assembly  – Thomas Paine School in Urbana, Illinois Thomas Paine Assemblies – Charlestown Elementary School and Uwchlan Hills Elementary, PA

If you are a teacher or school administrator, you may apply for a Thomas Paine Assembly Grant. Send your completed application to Margaret Downey at the email address below.

Tax-Deductible Contributions

Donations towards the production costs and supplies needed for these assemblies can be made online at https://www.ftsociety.org/donate; just note your earmark for either Paine Assemblies or the Thomas Paine Committee in general in the message field at the PayPal payment page. All donors will receive a receipt. FS is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) educational, charitable organization*.           OR You may hire the Thomas Paine Foundation/Memorial Committee to conduct an assembly at your school. Simply contact Margaret Downey, Committee Director at: 610-793-2737 office 610-793-2561 fax E-mail: margaret@ftsociety.org