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November 9, 2005

Library Exhibit Celebrates Tercentenary of Benjamin Franklin's Birth

Display to Open Dec. 12 in “American Treasures” Exhibition

The Library of Congress, which houses the second largest collection of Benjamin Franklin papers in the world, will celebrate the tercentenary of the statesman’s birth with an exhibition titled "Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words." This display will occupy the central portion of the larger "American Treasures" exhibition and will be on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday in the Southwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C., from Dec. 12, 2005, through June 17, 2006.

The display features 75 items drawn from the more than 8,000 documents in the Benjamin Franklin Collection in the Library’s Manuscript Division and other Franklin manuscripts in the Thomas Jefferson and George Washington papers. Also included in the display are books from Franklin’s personal library, maps and other visual materials provided by the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections, Geography and Map, and Prints and Photographs divisions.

Benjamin Franklin’s reputation as a writer, raconteur, wit, businessman and amateur scientist, propelled him into the front ranks of Philadelphia society and later made him a popular figure abroad. During his long life, Franklin achieved fame as a printer, author, scientist, philanthropist, inventor, politician and diplomat.

The exhibition contains manuscripts, prints and other artifacts attesting to Franklin’s eclectic talents and interests. These include his designs for bifocal glasses; his writings on electricity, fire prevention and cures for the common cold; cartoons and engravings espousing his political views; a religious treatise; and the first English-language imprint of his autobiography (London, 1793).

Benjamin Franklin was born on Jan. 17, 1706, in Boston. The 10th son of a candle maker, Franklin was educated at Boston Grammar School and subsequently apprenticed with his half-brother, Peter, a controversial printer. In 1723 Franklin found employment as a journeyman printer in Philadelphia. By 1730 he controlled his own printing shop, which published The Pennsylvania Gazette. His newspaper and "Poor Richard’s Almanack" (1732-57) made him known throughout the American provinces and England, where he served as an agent of Pennsylvania in London from 1757 to 1775.

After the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, Franklin served in the Continental Congress, where he helped draft the Declaration of Independence. He was appointed one of America’s ministers to France, where he became a popular figure in French society. He served until 1785, helping to obtain French military aid and negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783. This historic document, a copy of which appears in the exhibition, ended the Revolutionary War. Franklin returned to the United States in 1785 and was elected president of the executive council of Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in 1787 and signed the Constitution. Franklin died on April 17, 1790, just one month before Rhode Island became the last state to ratify the Constitution.

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PR 05-244
ISSN 0731-3527

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