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Ben Franklin - Behind the Scenes

Only two weeks until the anticipated exhibition Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World opens at the Bowers. Our Registration and Collection staff members began uncrating and inspecting the condition of the 18th century items that belonged to and shaped the ideas of prolific inventor, civic leader, diplomat, profound thinker, printer and humorist Ben Franklin.
Handling artifacts and works of art takes concentration and the skill of trained professionals. Staying focused and remembering the task at hand is sometimes difficult when you have Ben Franklin’s personal wallet (still holding a note to buy rum and tea) or a founding document of the United States in your hands. In the picture above Director of Registration, Jennifer Ring, inspects A pocket amanack for the year 1757 and another from 1759. Near her is a copy of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734) and the Catalog of Books Belonging to the Library Company of Philadelphia (1741), the earliest surviving list of the 375 holdings of the first lending library (one of many civic improvements implemented by Franklin).
Above, Bowers’ staff along with exhibition Registrar Kathy Hill make detailed reports on the condition of the first uncrated artifacts. In the foreground is the famous Unite or Die (1754) woodcut cartoon published by Franklin. The cartoon, illustrating a rattlesnake cut into several parts, urges for the colonies to join together against the French. The same cartoon would be used again to drum up support and emotion in the period preceeding the Revolutionary War. Also in view is a copy of Poor Richard’s Almanac (1749), a published series compiled and printed by Franklin containing useful information related to astronomy and meteorology, in combination with entertaining proverbs, humor and poetry. Below, Collections Assistant, Laura McGovern inspects Plain Truth; or Serious Considerations On the Present State of the City of Philadelphia, and Province of Pennsylvania (1747), also printed by Franklin. Inside, “The Waggoneer and Hercules” (an illustrated representation of one of Aesop’s Fables, and considered the first American political cartoon) is printed as Franklin’s attempt to urge western Pennsylvanians to defend themselves against Indian attacks.
Many more artifacts remain to be seen, each directly relates to an aspect of Franklin’s extraordinary life. Bowers is pleased to be the only venue on the West Coast to host the exhibition of national treasures and the personal belongings of a true American icon. Visit for more information. All text and images under copyright. Please contact Collection Department for permission to use.
Mrs. Ada E. Bowers and her Memorial Fountain
Wells Fargo Strong Box


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Thursday, 30 November 2023

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