Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Charu Suri
4 World’s First Benjamin Franklin Museum Opens in Philadelphia
When I was a child, I loved the idea of earning any money that I could, and the $100 bill always seemed elusive to me. And so I grew up thinking that Benjamin Franklin must be some sort of demigod, with his face all over perhaps the most unattainable version of the dollar.
Today, Benjamin Franklin is widely renowned for not only being one of America’s Founding Fathers, but also for being one of the world’s most famous tinkerers. As someone who couldn’t simply sit still, Franklin was a private citizen, the first U.S. Postmaster General, statesman, diplomat, inventor, philosopher and most importantly an emblem of perseverance.
Born in 1706 in Boston to a soap and candle maker, Franklin and attended the Boston Latin School. He would have 17 children (almost as many as famed composer Johann Sebastian Bach) and worked in his father’s trade as a candle maker before he decided that wicks and tallow did not stir his unbridled creativity and imagination. The turning point in his career came when his father Josiah sent Franklin as an intern to his brother James’ print shop, and he furthered his love for printing when he moved to Philadelphia. Franklin was a modern-day Bill Gates: a philanthropist, visionary, political activist.
Above: “Benjamin Franklin” walks to the museum’s entrance
A constant innovator, Franklin gave the world the first bifocal spectacles, furthered our understanding of electricity (most kids will remember never to fly a kite attached to a key during a thunderstorm), a map of the Gulf Stream, swim fins that one could wear on the hand rather than the feet, a mechanized glass armonica, his own version of the odometer, and more. He did not however invent Daylight Savings Time, contrary to popular belief.
To honor the inventor, the world’s first Benjamin Franklin Museum opens in Philadelphia on Saturday August 24th, so that visitors can take a deeper visual delve into all aspects of the inventor’s life. The museum is built on Franklin Court, right next to where Franklin lived in the mid -1700s, and it was an underground version originally built for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. There are so many buildings named after Franklin that it would be a laundry list detailing them all, but Philadelphia is the place to look at Ben’s footsteps. From the public art that he inspired like the Bolt of Lightning to the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia is completely Ben’s city.
All photos by R. Kennedy for GPTMC
A Philadelphia museum dedicated to Franklin makes complete sense: his watermark and legacy are everywhere. It itself offers hands-on experiences to children and adults with personal artifacts, computer animations, and interactive displays. Kids especially will love to learn about the various roles Franklin filled during this jam-packed lifetime schedule, including his work as a printer, scientist, diplomat and founder of civic institutions.
The museum will be open year-round from 9:00 am – 5:00pm. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for kids aged 16 and under. For those who want to walk in the footsteps of the visionary giant, Visit Philly has prepared a handy itinerary here. After you visit the museum, you can soak in Franklin’s legacy and follow his throughout the Philadephia area to visit a few landmarks you may know and love:
Independence Hall: This is where Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence and was one of the framers of the Constitution. His stomping grounds were on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. (215) 965-2305
Franklin Court: This houses Franklin’s home and also the printing office of his grandson. As a nod to Franklin’s Postmaster General vocation, you’ll find a post office there as well. 314-322 Market Street, (215) 965-2305
At the post office you can get postcards hand-stamped just as one would have when Franklin was the first postmaster. How cool is that?
Christ Church: Franklin sat in pew 70 and worshiped at this church, and had his children baptized here. If all his accomplishments were not enough, he supervised the lotteries that financed the Church’s tower and steeple. Talk about multitasking! The church is located on 2nd & Market Street.
Bartram’s Garden: John and William Bartram, both American naturalists renowed for their botanical drawings gathered a lot of plant specimens, and Franklin supported their endeavors in this impressive garden. Relax and read a book here and gaze at the floral splendor. The Franklinia alatamaha tree was planted in honor of Franklin. 54th Street & Lindbergh Boulevard, (215) 729-5281
Free Quaker Meeting House: Although a devout Christian, Franklin permitted people to worship as they wished, and this house was one of the houses of worship that was possible because of Franklin’s financial support. 5th & Arch Streets, (215) 965-2305
Carpenter’s Hall: This is the site of the First Continental Congress and once the home of Franklin’s Library Company and the American Philosophical Society. 320 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-0167
Benjamin Franklin Museum
317 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106