text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

Franklin Institute

Franklin institute exterior Franklin institute exterior Franklin institute exterior

Walking along this side gives us the opportunity to observe the buildings we saw on the way up in a different perspective. Pass the Rodin Museum and the Youth Study Center to arrive at the Franklin Institute on the right. Founded in 1824, in honor of Benjamin Franklin, by Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating, the institute's first permanent home was the present Atwater Kent Museum visited on the Historic District Virtual Walking Tour. In 1974 it marked its 150th anniversary. The cornerstone for the present building was laid in 1932, the Fels Planetarium opened the following year and the Science Museum a year later. The Franklin Institute is a museum-goer's paradise. It is a living, vital museum of energy, motion and sound. These qualities are transferred to the children who, presented with such a wealth of things to do, become frantic at times. They begin at one thing, see another and in great excitement rush off madly to have a go at that. The excitement is intense.

The trains and planes are part of the excitement. In all these exhibits the visitor participates. A Link Trainer in the Hall of Aviation can be used by anyone between the ages of 13 and 20, who is at least five feet tall. It is possible to clamber into a United States Air Force plane, sit behind the controls and get the feel of it. In the same vein we can climb aboard a 1926 Baldwin locomotive or an earlier American engine (1842) to the sound of train whistles and bells, although the "Rocket" — constructed in London in 1838 — is just for viewing and not for climbing into. The pilot house and the bridge of a ship in the marine museum are open in the same way, and the models of John Fitch's steamboat (1796) and Robert Fulton's Clermont (1807) are activated when a button is pushed. Fitch and Philadelphia have never gotten full credit for Fitch's having invented the steamship before Fulton.

The philosophy of the Franklin Institute, could easily be expressed in the words of Thomas Huxley inscribed around the lip of a basin which is in the museum: Sit down before a fact as a child, / be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, / follow humbly wherever nature leads, / or you will learn nothing.

Franklin Institute Website

Benjamin Franklin Parkway