Benjamin Franklin made his home in Philadelphia during much of his adult life. Franklin came to the city from Boston in 1723 at age 16 and began working as a printer. He later bought the Pennsylvania Gazette and wrote and published the popular Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732.
His interest in literature and philosophy led him to establish a circulating library and to organize a debating club that became the American Philosophical Society, which exists today. Franklin also helped establish an academy that eventually became the University of Pennsylvania.
As a scientist he invented such diverse items as the Franklin stove, bifocal eyeglasses, and a glass harmonica. He is more widely known for inventing the lightning rod.
Franklin also held numerous public offices including deputy postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 and 1774. His long career as a diplomat and statesman began as a state delegate to the Albany Congress in 1754. He was the state’s representative to the British Crown on various matters, and he considered making England his permanent home. But his love for his homeland and devotion to individual freedom drew him back to America in 1775.
Franklin went on to become one of America’s greatest statesmen and diplomats. A major final achievement was helping to design the first congress that crafted the Constitution of the United States.
The frame of Franklin’s home is outlined above the ground where it once stood in what is now called Franklin Court near Third and Market streets. Visitors can look through portals to see the privy pits and parts of the original foundation.
For a good overview of Franklin’s accomplishments, visitors should explore Franklin Court, which is on the historical walking tour described in the February 15 issue of Psychiatric News
. This is where Franklin and his wife, Deborah, lived. The outline of the house is represented by steel girders, and excavated sections are visible. Also on the site is a museum highlighting different stages of Franklin’s career and interactive exhibits that children will enjoy.
Also of interest to history buffs are the 1786 houses on Market Street that Franklin rented out, including the Printing Office and Bindery. The house at 322 Market Street is the restored office of the Aurora and General Advertiser, published by Franklin’s grandson. Visitors can cap off a visit by going next door and having a letter postmarked at the Benjamin Franklin Post Office.
The Library Hall, also on the historical walking tour, is the 1954 reconstruction of Franklin’s old Library Company, the first lending library of its type in the colonies. It contains a fascinating collection of documents including Franklin’s will and Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Across the street is the Philosophical Hall, home of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Franklin. The society continues to have an international reputation for promoting knowledge in the sciences and humanities. The interior is not open to the public.
Christ Church Burial Ground, located at Fifth and Arch streets, is where Franklin and his wife are buried, along with another of their famous contemporaries, Benjamin Rush.
Science lovers will enjoy visiting the Franklin Institute Science Museum at Logan Circle (20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway). The complex is divided into four sections. The first is the Franklin National Memorial, with a collection of authentic artifacts and possessions. The second section features science and technology from the 1940s to the 1970s, with hands-on displays. The third area features the IMAX and 3-D theaters and eight permanent interactive exhibits devoted to space, earth, health, and computers, among other topics. The fourth section features the 1995 CoreStates Science Park, an imaginative urban garden created in collaboration with Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum.
Basic admission to the Franklin Institute exhibitions and Mandell Center is $10 for adults and $8.50 for children. Combined fees for the IMAX theater, 3-D theater, and laser shows run from $3 to $7.50. All-inclusive fees are $14.75 for adults and $12.50 for children. Hours are approximately 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. The Franklin Institute Science Museum Web site is www.fi.edu, and its telephone number is (215) 448-1200. ▪