At age 18, he entered Fairbanks Scales, the family business which manufactured platform scales. He became president of the company in 1888. Fairbanks was also an officer and director in a number of railroad, mining, manufacturing, banking, and telegraph businesses.
During the Civil War Fairbanks served on the staffs of Governors Hiland Hall and Erastus Fairbanks with the rank of colonel, responsible for raising, equipping and training troops for the Union Army and dispatching them to the front lines. In addition, he supervised Fairbanks Scales' production of matériel for the war effort, including artillery harness irons and other horse tack.
A Republican, he was a longtime member of Vermont's Republican State Committee. He was Town Meeting Moderator in 1871, 1873, 1880, 1882, and 1884. He was also a member of the Vermont House of Representatives and served as Speaker from 1872 to 1874. In 1877 he received an honorary Master of Arts (M.A.) degree from Dartmouth College.
Fairbanks was a trustee of St. Johnsbury Academy. He donated the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium to the town of St. Johnsbury., along with his collection of natural science specimens and related artifacts.
Fairbanks came to Winter Park, Florida, in 1881 with his friend and business associate, Charles Hosmer Morse, who was also from St. Johnsbury. Fairbanks was one of the founders of the city, and was one of the first investors to purchase lakefront property. Fairbanks was one of the first trustees of Rollins College and contributed towards its founding.
Death and burial
The annual Franklin Fairbanks Award is presented to individuals who have made positive contributions to the operation and direction of the Fairbanks Museum.
- Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont, by Hiram Carleton, pages 111 to 113
- Men of Vermont Illustrated, compiled by Jacob G. Ullery, 1894, pages 127 to 128
- Winter Park Founder's Biographies Archived 2008-07-20 at the Wayback Machine
- Political Graveyard entry, Franklin Fairbanks
- The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, published The Biographical Society (Boston), 1904, Fairbanks -- Fairbanks page
- A New Awakening Recovery Path Today in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, by Dick B. and Ken B., Alcoholics Anonymous website, 2008
- St. Johnsbury Community Archives Guide to Historic Records Archived 2008-05-18 at the Wayback Machine, by Selene Colburn, Archivist, undated, pages 5 to 6
- Winter Park in Vintage Postcards, by Robin Chapman, 2005, page 7
- Death notice, Franklin Fairbanks, Farm Implement News Daily magazine, published by National Association of Agricultural Implement Manufacturers, October 22, 1895, page 17
- Franklin Fairbanks at Find a Grave, retrieved January 12, 2014
- Franklin Fairbanks House page, Landmark Hunter.com website, accessed January 29, 2012
- Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association, Franklin Fairbanks Award Celebration, March 9, 2013
Charles Herbert Joyce
| Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives
H. Henry Powers