April/May 2006 | Volume 57, Issue 2
A schedule of events, here and abroad, marking the birthday of the publisher, printer, writer, philosopher, scientist, inventor, statesman, humorist, and pre-eminent American
Through April 30: Some 40 Philadelphia hotels are offering the Ben’s Birthday Hotel Package, which includes one or two hotel nights, two tickets to the “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” exhibition (see below), and the “Little Book of BENefits,” a packet of coupons that offers discounts throughout the city. Book online at
All year long: Following in Franklin’s Footsteps. Self-guided walking tours covering Philadelphia landmarks known to the Founder in his time. Starts at the site of Franklin’s home, in Franklin Court.
Ongoing: If you’re game for a longer constitutional, take the Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia. Explore 33 places in the city involved in the founding of the American nation. You can stroll independently or hire a knowledgeable guide. Among the many gems in and around Center City, see where Congress convened when Philadelphia was the nation’s first capital, stand where the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and pay your respects at the Founder’s final resting place.
All year long: Franklin Court and the Underground Museum. This is the site of Benjamin and Deborah Franklin’s home, where only a suggestion of the original house still stands in the form of an excavated foundation framed by a metal outline. The subterranean museum offers interactive and interpretive exhibits.
All year long: Ben Franklin 300 Philadelphia. The city and environs celebrate his life. Find out how at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism site,
Through November 1: The National Liberty Museum, in Philadelphia, presents an exhibit of illustrated Maxim Mugs featuring Franklinisms and a themed tour.
Through September 24: Benjamin Franklin both charted the Gulf Stream and helped create our Navy. Discover all of his maritime adventures, and learn more about this early and important American seaport at Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum.
Through March 2008: “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.” This traveling show of some 250 artifacts and interactive displays honoring Franklin’s legacy forms the centerpiece of all his birthday events and makes its only East Coast appearance at the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia. The show includes Franklin family heirlooms displayed for the first time ever, as well as five founding documents all signed by him. Yale University Press is publishing a companion catalogue to the exhibition. Also visit the Frankliniana database, a virtual online collection of objects owned and used by Franklin:
After April 30: The 9,000-square-foot exhibition moves on to four other American cities and finally to Paris, where Franklin lived and worked as the first American ambassador. Make a virtual trip to the other destinations on the “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” traveling-exhibit itinerary:
June 8–September 4: Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri.
October 11–January 21, 2007: Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, Texas.
March 2, 2007–May 28, 2007: Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, Colorado.
July 4, 2007–October 14, 2007: Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, Georgia.
December 4, 2007–March 30, 2008: Franklin’s possessions revisit France after two centuries, finding temporary lodging at two Paris museums (n.b.: Web sites are in French):
Paris’s Arts and Occupations Museum is dedicated to the history of French industry and technological progress. Franklin’s inventions will fit right in here.
The Paris History Museum. Composed of two separate historical residences in the heart of the chic Marais district, the museum houses important decorative art, painting, and photographs. It also covers archeological discoveries, like the crypt below the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Catacombs, the real Paris underground. Franklin would approve.
Through May 31: Investigate Franklin’s relationships with colonial Jewish citizenry and explore his views on religious freedom at the National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia.
All year long: Toast Ben with specially brewed Poor Richard’s Ale, the winner of a competition judged by some of Franklin’s modern-day descendants: