The Franklin Club was organized in December 1906. Dr. A. J. Ladd, professor of education at the University of North Dakota, served as first president. According to the Franklin Club Constitution, "Its purpose shall be to promote the social and intellectual lives of its members and the community. Recognizing that the interests of the State University and the people of the city of Grand Forks are interwoven and that the importance of fostering cordial relations and a mutual understanding of the problems and aims of each, all in the general public interest, the membership shall be divided as equally as practical between those directly connected with the University and those not so connected."
The first official meeting was held January 14, 1907, in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Ladd. From the first meeting, membership consisted solely of couples and was limited to 60. The maximum number was later increased to 75. The group met every third Thursday evening from October through April. Meeting often consisted of a lecture given by a member of the club, but plays and music were sometimes performed.
The name Franklin was chosen not only in honor of Benjamin Franklin, but also as a recognition that the members are "franklins" of freeman, neither slaves nor of noble birth.