Penn—and the nation—says 'Happy Birthday' to Ben

EXHIBITION/Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday is honored with celebrations all over town and on campus. We point you to the best.

Penn—and the nation—says ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ben


Penn helping rebuild schools in Banda Aceh

Penn—and the nation—says ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ben


Here at Penn we’re used to thinking about Ben, quoting Ben, bumping into Ben on campus. He’s our founder, after all. But this month Ben—Franklin, that is—tops the bill all over town in a host of events celebrating his 300th birthday.

The Constitution Center’s blockbuster traveling exhibit—”Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World”—which runs through April 30, forms the core of the city’s celebrations, which also include glass armonica recitals, colonial fare in the Pennsylvania Hospital cafeteria and special gifts for babies born from January 16 to 22.

Penn is hosting its share of Ben events, too, and you can get a full listing at Highlights for this month include a concert by Tempesta di Mare, a Philadelphia-based baroque orchestra, at Irvine on Jan. 28, an exhibit on Colonial schooling in Philadelphia at Van Pelt beginning Jan. 17 and a special commission from artist Brian Tolle commemorating Franklin at the ICA opening Jan. 21. What we’re most looking forward to, though, is “7-Up on Ben,” an event organized by Kelly Writers House that takes place on Jan. 17 in the Arts Café. Seven members of the Penn community will each spend seven minutes speaking, performing or singing about Penn’s founder. It should be an inspired and stimulating evening. Featured speakers are Penn History Professor Michael Zuckerman, Penn artist and print instructor Matt Neff, actress Sarah Giovaniello, poets Ben Filreis and Tom Devaney, Penn Professor of Religious Studies Ann Matter and poet Helen Sewell Johnson.

If you plan your day right on the 17th you can kick things off at the ICA in the afternoon, continue on to the opening celebration for the “Educating the Youth of Pennsylvania” exhibit on the 6th floor of Van Pelt at 5 p.m., wander over to the Writers House for the 6 p.m. event and finish off your evening at the Morgan Building, where a reception will celebrate the Franklin Press letterpress collaboration between KWH, the Fine Arts Department and Van Pelt with a press demonstration and treats. According to KWH program coordinator Erin Gautsche a Ben Franklin impersonator will participate in the program at the House and lead a procession over to the Morgan Building.

For a full listing of these Ben birthday events at Penn, go to

Originally published on January 12, 2006