You might say Ben Franklin was the Big Daddy of Founding Fathers. His 300th birthday is Jan. 17 — and already the man has been feted...
You might say Ben Franklin was the Big Daddy of Founding Fathers. His 300th birthday is Jan. 17 — and already the man has been feted around the nation and world.
Founding Father, internationally acclaimed scientist, inventor, printer and author — he was the American da Vinci.
A look at his Founding Father accomplishments alone is eye-opening: six years of diplomacy in Paris garnering French support that helped us win our freedom as a nation, work on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Earlier, Franklin’s developments of an odometer to strap to wagon wheels and a Colonial post office were key to orchestrating Colonial grumblings about British rule.
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First Colonial fire department, hospital, library, insurance agency — Franklin’s sense of civic responsibility produced all.
But if you really want to talk life-saving inventions, the Franklin stove saved lots of kids from falling into the fireplace, and the lightning rod diverted home-torching lightning bolts.
• “Benjamin Franklin and China: An Exhibition of Franklin’s Efforts at Drawing Positive Elements from Chinese Civilization during the Formative Age of the United States,” through June 30, 2006. Exhibit shows Franklin’s correspondence and his diary and how he borrowed Confucius’ moral philosophy and Chinese technologies. Hollis Branch of Queens Borough Public Library, 202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis, New York. Call for open hours. 718-465-7355.
• “The Medical World of Benjamin Franklin,” through Jan. 29, 2006. The Royal Society of Medicine. Exhibit portrays Franklin’s important contributions to medicine, and is a collaboration between the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Royal Society of Medicine in London. The Royal Society of Medicine at Chandos House, 2 Queen Anne St., London. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
• “Franklin Footsteps Walking Tour,” through Oct. 31, 2006. Follow a National Park ranger to Carpenter’s Hall and Franklin’s secret meeting, Independence Hall, and Franklin Court. Independence National Historical Park at Franklin Court near the entrance of the museum. Daily at 2 p.m. Through Sept. 2. After that, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through October. Tours resume in April; call for times. Free. 800-537-7676.
And let’s not forget flippers for swimming: Franklin the athlete astonished Londoners by swimming the Thames River.
Pick just about any field, and this man was tinkering in it. And that’s why everybody’s jumping on his 300th birthday wagon. Events ranging from symphonies to kite-flying contests to medical events are being held in Paris, London, California, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania.
(For the complete listing of events, visit www.franklin300.com.)
Philadelphia is party central, with dozens of events, some continuing throughout next summer.
In Philadelphia, Franklin was highly identifiable, pursuing his civic visions and the study and philosophy that helped create our nation. Today, you can trace the footfalls of those parts of his life in Philadelphia.
BEN ON TOUR
“Benjamin Franklin: In search of a Better World.” Franklin’s walking stick, his signed copy of the Treaty of Paris, Poor Richard’s Almanac and the odometer that clocked horses’ road time and helped Franklin set up the Colonial Post Office will be among artifacts in this exhibit. The exhibit travels to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science Oct. 11, 2006, through Jan. 21, 2007. Catch it at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. March 2, 2007, through May 28, 2007. Next stop: Atlanta, at the Atlanta History Center July 4, 2007, through Oct. 14, 2007. Then on to Paris where it will be at the Musée des Arts et Métiers from Dec. 4, 2007, through March 30, 2008.
• Ben Franklin tercentenary events in this nation and elsewhere: www.franklin300.com
• Lots of Ben birthday information. You can also click on a walking tour that will take you to the many places in Philadelphia where Ben hung his hat or changed history: www.gophila.com/ben.
• A comprehensive virtual tour of historic sites in Philadelphia, many of which have a Franklin reference: www.ushistory.org/tour/index.html.
• The B. Free Franklin Post Office and Museum, Franklin Court, 318 Market St. This U.S. Post Office does not fly the American flag, because there wasn’t one in 1775 when Franklin was appointed postmaster general. But you can go in and mail your letter and they hand cancel it with “B. Free Franklin.” The Print Shop next door shows 18th-century printing equipment Franklin would have used. The nearby “Ghost Structure” is a frame that illustrates where Franklin’s now-demolished house once stood; the museum below has many of his inventions.
• Christ Church Burial Ground, Fifth and Arch streets. Franklin is buried here. It’s traditional to toss a penny on his grave, even though we all remember his advice that “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
• Independence Hall, Chestnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. The Declaration of Independence was written here, as was the Constitution.
• Carpenters’ Hall, Carpenters’ Court between Third and Fourth streets on Chestnut Street. The First Continental Congress met here to address their grievances to King George. Franklin’s initial instincts had been to both placate the British but establish colonial representation in British Parliament. To keep the peace, he had been willing to personally pay the British for the tea dumped in Boston Harbor.
• Philadelphia Contributorship, 212 South Fourth St. Franklin established the nation’s first insurance company.
• Fireman’s Hall, 147-49 North Second St. Franklin established the first volunteer fire department, writing about fire prevention in his Gazette, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
• Library Hall, 105 South Fifth St. Franklin founded the Library Company in 1731. It became the Library of Congress during the early years of the nation.
• Philosophical Hall, 104 S. Fifth St. Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society, an ongoing organization that established a foundation for science in this country.
• City Tavern, 138 S. Second St. Open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, 215-413-1443. A Founding Father hangout, with more than a few Founding Father schemes hatched here.
• National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St. Meet Ben Franklin among the statues of the framers of the Constitution. Interactive exhibits here are superb, giving a sense of the farsightedness of the Constitution. A special exhibit, “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” is on view through April 30, 2006, before moving on a traveling tour.