About Us: Welcome Letter to Members

March 1st, 2009
Upon returning to Philadelphia in the fall of 1727 at the age of 21, Benjamin Franklin assembled a group of "young workingmen… that was commonly called the Leather Apron Club and officially dubbed the Junto" (all quotes from Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life). They congregated every Friday evening, first at a local tavern then at a rented house. "There they discussed the issues of the day, debated philosophical topics, devised schemes for self-improvement, and formed a network for the furtherance of their own careers." Out of this weekly gathering of young tradesmen — which included a printer, a clerk, a scrivener, and a glassworker among others — came some practical ideas that profoundly shaped the burgeoning community in which they lived: the first volunteer fire force, the academy which would become the University of Pennsylvania, and others. Members pooled books, "which later formed the foundation for America's first subscription library."


Needless to say, it's hard not to be inspired by this earnest group of young workingmen and the practical ideas which emerged to improve living standards in 18th century colonial Philadelphia. Additionally, it seems like it must have been a lot of fun — lively discussion amongst friends on the issues of the day over cider or Madeira (or both!) at a local tavern.


Jason Karp and Lance Rosen were introduced by mutual friends who knew we shared an interest in conceiving and putting together a modern-day Junto. After our first meeting it was clear to both of us that this was more than just a flippant diversion for two hedge fund managers. In a series of subsequent email exchanges, we put forth an endless stream of potential topics for future discussion. The list is large and growing. We thought the group should be large enough to allow for diversity of perspectives, yet small enough to maintain intimacy. Although there are no tradesmen (unless you count stocks), cobblers, or carpenters in our ranks, we did strive to choose individuals who are not only friends and leaders in their respective fields, but who are also as much a reflection of 21st century Manhattan as Franklin's cohorts were of 18th century Philadelphia. So, while it's not surprising that individuals with a financial background may be overrepresented, we also have a politician and educator, a world-class sportsman, a media entrepreneur and a film producer. What everyone has in common, however, is a natural intellectual curiosity, a strong interest in personal development, and a proclivity to adhere to one of Benjamin Franklin's more famous maxims of "doing well by doing good."


The mission of The Junto Society is to convene quarterly to explore, through active participation of it members, a particular topic chosen for discussion. Topics can range from the practical to the philosophical, from the mundane to the worldly. They can run the gamut from business to public policy to philanthropy or the sciences. The only requirement is that it makes for an evening of enlightened conversation and contributes to the edification of its members and, if luck would have it, to the community at large. Franklin took great care to cultivate a positive culture and an earnest but gentle tone to the dialogue at his Junto gathering. "Discussions were to be conducted without fondness for dispute or desire of victory." It was a worthy goal and a culture we would like to replicate at The Junto Society.


Your Friends,


Jason Karp                                       Lance Rosen