When Evangelist George Whitefield began preaching the Great Awakening Revival in Philadelphia in 1739, he inspired the idea that the city should have a school for blacks and poor orphans.
A short-lived Charity School was formed, but it struggled for lack of funds. It was purchased by Ben Franklin in 1749 who expanded it into a secondary school for boys called the Academy of Philadelphia, opening in 1751. In 1754, it expanded again with the College of Philadelphia, later being renamed the University of Pennsylvania.
Twenty-one members of the Continental Congress graduated from there. Nine of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were either trustees or alumni from there. A statue of Evangelist George Whitefield is located in University of Pennsylvania’s Dormitory Quadrangle.
Hugh Williamson, born Dec. 5, 1735, was a student at the College of Philadelphia. He was in the college’s first class to graduate, May 17, 1757. Five days later, his father died. While Williamson had been a student, he instructed younger students at the Academy of Philadelphia in English and Latin.
Another person who taught at the Academy of Philadelphia was Charles Thomson, who became the Secretary of Congress, signed the Declaration, designed the Great Seal of the United States, and signed Congress’ authorization for Robert Aitken to print the Bible. Upon retiring from Congress, Charles Thomson spent 19 years compiling the “Thomson Bible” (printed in 1808), which contained the first American translation of the Greek Septuagint. (Read more from “The Scriptural Foundation for Declaration of Independence” HERE)