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Franklin’s Legacy – The Irwins Across the Pacific

Welcome to our series on Franklin’s legacy, the Irwins across the Pacific, a family history of the first 150 years of U.S.-Japan relations, featuring the little-known story of Benjamin Franklin’s Japanese descendants. The podcasts featured in this series were created for History 2998, an undergraduate course at Villanova University titled, Podcasting the Family History of U.S.-Japan Relations.

The stories you will hear in this series begin in 1860, only seven years after the U.S. opened Japan. They end almost 150 years later in the 21st century. As the title of the series suggests, we have chosen a single family, the Irwins of Philadelphia and Tokyo, as the focus of our podcast. Robert Walker Irwin, or RWI as we came to call him, was the patriarch of this extraordinary family. He was also a descendant of Benjamin Franklin.

Introduction – Professor Marc Gallicchio with Yukiko Irwin audio clip


Episode 1: Grace Maresca, Being Japanese American: The Story of an Ainoko



Episode 2: Jacob Marscola, Discovering RWI



Episode 3: Martin Sanchez, Stairway to Heaven



Episode 4: John Sharbaugh, Homefront Soldiers.



Episode 5: Jack Turula, Transformations



Episode 6: Jeanelle Opoku, Yukiko’s Search for a New Life in America



Episode 7: Laura Norwood, Yukiko’s Spiritual Journey


Bonus: Grace Maresca, Interview with Leslie Helm


Class Epilogue


* Special thanks to Franny Murphy for preparing the images for this web site.

Sources used can be accessed here.