Brother Benjamin Franklin
Jan. 17, 2006 marks the 300th Anniversary of Bro. Benjamin Franklin's birth, and while commemorations will take place worldwide, his adopted hometown of Philadelphia will be throwing a birthday celebration unlike any other. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is preparing to join in the Tercentennial observance to honor Bro. Franklin's countless achievements, from the invention of the swim fin to the publication of "The Constitutions of the Free-Masons," the first Masonic book in America.
The campaign, organized by the federally-commissioned Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary group, will feature a multimillion dollar touring exhibition, "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World." It is extremely fitting that the exhibit debuted at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on December 15, 2005, where it will run until April 30, 2006. It was in the City of Brotherly Love that Bro. Franklin lived, worked, studied, politicked, and became known as a Mason and Founding Father.
Five treasures from The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania have joined hundreds of other rare and historic items from other institutions and private lenders in what is the largest, state-of-the-art display of original Franklin material ever exhibited. Some of the artifacts have never before been on exhibit. From Philadelphia the exhibit will travel to: St. Louis, Missouri Historical Society, June 8, 2006 - Sept. 4, 2006; Houston, The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Oct. 11, 2006 - Jan. 21, 2007; Denver, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, March 2, 2007 - May 28, 2007; Atlanta, Atlanta History Center, July 4, 2007 - Oct. 14, 2007; ending in Paris, Musée des Arts et Métiers and Musée Carnavalet, Dec. 4, 2007 - March 30, 2008.
This is not the first time such an impressive collection has been assembled. In 1906, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania launched the "Franklin Loan Exhibition," which celebrated the Bicentenary Celebration of Bro. Franklin's birth. During the rather short duration of the exhibition (March 6, 1906 until April 23, 1906), an overwhelming 47,287 visitors viewed the exhibit at the Masonic Temple. Another special commemoration took place in 1981, the 250th Anniversary of Bro. Franklin's Initiation into the Craft, as well as the formation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
The five objects from The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania (not yet acquired in 1906) included in the current "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World" exhibit are two "Fugio" (for tempus fugit - "time flies") coins, designed by Bro. Franklin; his calling card; a snuff box on which Bro. Franklin is pictured with Bro. Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; as well as the Masonic sash which is purported to have been Bro. Franklin's. Due to the fragility of the Franklin sash, it will return to The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania sometime after April 30, 2006, where it will re-join the other "Frankliniana" in the Museum.
Other rare Franklin objects on display in the collection of The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania include what is known as a Franklin jeton, or medal, dated 1783 and struck in honor of Bro. Franklin's Masonic career; several rare lithographs and engravings; Bro. Franklin's 1734 reprint of Anderson's "The Constitutions of the Free-Masons;" as well as the original subscription list for the erection of Freemasons' Hall in 1755, the first Masonic Hall in America and also where Bro. Franklin's Lodge met.
Now is an excellent time to visit Philadelphia and retrace Brother Franklin's footsteps in the city where he accomplished so much and influenced so many. A large variety of events will take place throughout the city during 2006 including Ben-themed exhibitions, concerts, special offers and themed restaurant menus. The Franklin Institute Science Museum will feature a permanent exhibit called, "Franklin ... He's Electric!" It will explore Bro. Franklin's contributions to scientific history in America in the areas of meteorology, electricity, optics and aquatics. Walking tours will allow visitors to follow Franklin's footsteps through the city where he lived, worked, socialized and was buried.
Other states will join Pennsylvania in honoring America's favorite overachiever. At Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J., guests will trace the evolution of swim gear back to Bro. Franklin's 18th century invention of swim paddles and flippers. At the Hollis Branch of Queens Borough Public Library in Hollis, N.Y., an exhibition will detail Franklin's efforts to integrate foreign cultural elements into American society and the influence it created. The Modesto Art Museum in Modesto, Calif., is hosting a Mail Art Event and has been accepting submissions of mail art commemorating the father of the U.S. Postal System to be a part of the exhibit, which will go on display Jan. 9.
Americans aren't the only ones who can claim ties to Bro. Franklin. While the Founding Father was born in Boston and journeyed to Philadelphia, his family came to America from England, and Bro. Franklin spent several years there on diplomatic business. Thus, the United Kingdom will also be celebrating the Tercentennial with, "The Medical World of Benjamin Franklin," an exhibit illustrating Bro. Franklin's contributions in the areas of health and medicine at The Royal Society of Medicine in London.
Visit www.benfranklin300.com for the latest information on the Ben Franklin Tercentenary and how Philadelphia's cultural institutions are playing a role in honoring one of our most influential and accomplished brethren. For information on visiting the National Constitution Center and purchasing tickets to "Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World," please visit www.constitutioncenter.org.
Bro. Franklin was a unique man of many achievements. He was the only Founding Father who signed all four of the documents that created our republic:
He is known as:
He also helped establish the first public
hospital and Pennsylvania's first university, as well as the local police and
fire departments, and a profitable fire insurance program.
Information and photographs were provided courtesy of The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, specifically through the efforts of Glenys Waldeman, Librarian, and Dennis Buttleman, Curator.
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