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Archives and Special Collections

About the Collection

The George W. Franz Historical Research Collection of 1,836 volumes represents a great depth and breadth of resources in early American history. Biographies and personal papers of prominent individuals, diverse perspectives on the American Revolution, examinations of colonial life in urban and agricultural settings, and in-depth exploration of the birth of American political parties, including especially the impact of Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, together offer students a wealth of research materials on this foundational period.

Dr. George W. Franz served Penn State Brandywine for three decades. During his career, he received several teaching and advising awards, including the 2004 Madlyn Hanes Award for outstanding contributions to the university as teacher, scholar, advisor, and leader. In addition to his role as a faculty member, Franz also acted as a Penn State administrator in various capacities He was director of academic affairs at the Brandywine campus for ten years, prioritizing the recruitment of highly qualified, innovative faculty. In 1994, Penn State presented him with the McKay-Donkin Award for his contributions to the welfare of the faculty. Franz's efforts in this area precipitated the creation of the George W. Franz Advising and Mentoring Award, given to faculty or staff who “excel in mentoring others...advising, facilitating, encouraging and/or paving the way for others to recognize and realize their potential in their personal and professional endeavors." One of Franz's long-time colleagues, Elizabeth Buckmaster, describes him as "funny and kind, honest and principled" and "always willing to listen as well as give good advice.” Franz also served as interim chancellor for the Brandywine campus in 2013-2014.

Franz's research into the pre-conditions of the Paxton Boys' vigilante attack on a Conestoga Indian settlement--Paxton: A Study of Community Structure and Mobility in the Colonial Pennsylvania Backcountry--became a landmark study in the growing field of community history.

Franz was instrumental in directing the Papers of Martin Van Buren project at Penn State Brandywine. He began on the project as associate editor (1975-1976), then oversaw completion of the project as editor (1976-1986) and project director (1976-1988). Under his leadership, the project produced 55 microfilm reels containing approximately 13,000 documents from over 260 different repositories. Since 2015, Franz has served on the advisory board of the Papers of Martin Van Buren at Cumberland University, which is producing print and digital editions of the eighth president's papers. His donation of books to Cumberland University is intended to assist this project, as well as to provide the university's students with more resources for historical research.