History

About

© The Hagley Museum and Library
“Tell the truth and trust the people” Joseph Newton Pew Jr. 1946
© Getty Images/Minden Pictures

Pew’s conservation work includes Canada’s boreal forest, a largely unspoiled wilderness of interconnected forests, lakes, river valleys, wetlands, and tundra stretching across 1.2 billion acres of North America.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent nonprofit, is the sole beneficiary of seven individual charitable funds established between 1948 and 1979 by two sons and two daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph Newton Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. Honoring their parents’ religious conviction that good works should be done quietly, the original Pew Memorial Foundation was a grantmaking organization that made donations anonymously.

Early priorities included cancer research, the Red Cross and a pioneering project to assist historically black colleges. The foundation became the Pew Memorial Trust in 1956, based in Philadelphia, the donors’ hometown.

Between 1957 and 1979, six other trusts were created, representing the personal and complementary philanthropic interests of four committed siblings: J. Howard Pew, Mary Ethel Pew, Joseph Newton Pew, Jr., and Mabel Pew Myrin.

Throughout our 65-year history Pew has maintained the energy and optimism of our founders and constantly adapted to new challenges.

© Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Families standing in a Red Cross chow line. Mary Ethel Pew took a particular interest in supporting the American Red Cross in Philadelphia and other nearby cities. The first check written by The Pew Memorial Foundation was for $30,000 to the American Red Cross.

Our interest in federal policy began in 1986, with the establishment of a program on economics and national security. And in 1994 we began working on a robust research portfolio examining state policy, including landmark reports on education, state prisons and election administration. Through our non-partisan reporting and research, advocacy, and technical assistance we help cities and states deliver better results by investing in programs that provide the strongest returns.

Pew’s public opinion research began in 1995 when the Times Mirror Center became the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In 2004, the Pew Research Center was created as a separate operating subsidiary, bringing together all of our work on public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. As a neutral source of data and analysis, the center does not take policy positions

In 2002, The Pew Charitable Trusts became a public charity, giving us more flexibility to engage in new initiatives and operate programs for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. Expanding our work internationally, with new partners and an emphasis on action, we created projects to strengthen environmental and energy policies; protect our oceans and wild lands; improve health through investments in child nutrition; increase the safety of foods and drugs; provide consumers with better information about financial products; and help states invest in programs that provide the strongest returns.

© Henryk Sadura

In Kentucky, Pew’s technical assistance helped create cost-effective changes in public sector pensions, home visiting, and corrections policies.

After opening a small office in Washington, D.C. in 2003, we moved to a larger space in 2009 to allow for more collaboration with other non-profit organizations and facilitate educational programs for policymakers and the public. The building includes state-of-the art conference facilities available to outside organizations.

Over the past six decades, we have remained committed to the civic life of Philadelphia. Inspired by the founders’ belief in the importance of an informed democracy, we provide timely, impartial research and analysis that helps Philadelphia’s citizens and leaders understand and address key issues facing the city. We also support the best of the regional cultural community, in large part through the efforts of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. And we work with the region’s leading health and social service organizations to serve some of the most vulnerable members of the community – disadvantaged children and families; adults with multiple complex issues such as those related to homelessness and mental health problems; and the frail elderly.

Today The Pew Charitable Trusts is a global non-governmental organization with three broad goals:

  • Improve public policy by conducting rigorous analysis, linking diverse interests to pursue common cause and insisting on tangible results;
  • Inform the public by providing useful data that illuminate the issues and trends shaping our world;
  • Stimulate civic life by encouraging democratic participation and strong communities. In our hometown of Philadelphia, we support organizations that create a thriving arts and culture community and institutions that enhance the well-being of the region’s neediest citizens.

Get Involved

Stay informed through our newsletters, join the conversation on social media, or learn about partnership opportunities—just a few ways you can help us make a difference.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Get our latest facts, photos, and survey results.