Believe in Ben!

One of my favorite children’s authors wrote a great book about Ben Franklin that is fun to browse or read straight through and a perfect companion to the library’s exhibit. In Ben Franklin’s Almanac, Candace Fleming reminds us that Ben rose each morning and asked himself this question. “What good shall I do today?” Thank goodness for all of us that Ben Franklin lived to be 84 years old!

Benjamin Franklinstein LIVES!

Wherein is contained an Accounting of the Preparation, suspension, and eventual Reawakening of the Subject in Modern Day, and his Quest to discover the Great Emergency by Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury

Meet Victor Godwin, a young scientific nerd who says things like “That’s not what the science fair is about. You’re just messing around… A potato battery is a stupid project. It won’t win, Scott …”

Victor wants to win the science fair, so it’s a mixed blessing when Benjamin Franklin, preserved in suspended animation in a secret laboratory in Victor’s basement, accidentally wakes up and needs help navigating 21st century Philadelphia. Ben smells like a cave and burps sparks. Together Ben and Victor keep Ben charged up—but not too charged up—while searching for the Prometheans whom Ben believes may face an emergency. When Ben and Victor show up at the science fair, the results are unanticipated and very funny.

There are many things to like about Benjamin Franklinstein LIVES, including the warmth and scientific adventurism between Victor and Ben; all the lighthearted humor; and the clever, mock-18th century, black-and-white illustrations. Written for grades 4-6, the novel just might spark interest in the special traveling exhibit at the Downtown Library, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, on display through July 8.

Ben Franklin and John Adams

"[I]t is the frowzy corrupt air from animal substances and the perspired matter from our bodies, which, being long confined in beds not lately worn... [that] obtains that kind of putridity which infests us, and occasions the colds observed upon sleeping in, wearing, or turning over, such beds [and] clothes." -Benjamin Franklin in an argument with John Adams over whether to sleep with the window opened or closed in a room that they shared on a diplomatic trip to France.

"As time passed and his French improved, Adams further realized that Franklin spoke the language poorly and understood considerably less than he let on." -David McCullough author of John Adams.

If you think about the "Founding Fathers" as a serious group of men who only argued about the big picture ideas they needed to hash out in forming a new nation, learning a bit more about the relationship between John Adams and Benjamin Franklin may challenge that notion. Like anyone else, these were men with quirks, passions, and personal opinions about each other. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had vastly different outlooks on life. Adams was a frugal man who believed in simple accommodations. Franklin was interested in experiencing the world as evidenced by his travels, inventions, and discoveries. As a result of their different approaches to life, Adams sometimes saw Franklin as someone who was simply in France to enjoy himself. Like beauty, many things are in the eye of the beholder. Most contemporary people would not think of Ben Franklin as a slacker, but apparently, at times, at least one of his contemporaries sometimes did.

Or perhaps a bit of jealousy was involved. According to the John Adams biography by McCullough, while Adams was not impressed by Franklin's mastery of French, his French "admirers" found Franklin's "odd pronunciation...but another part of his charm." Adams, on the other hand, could never feel comfortable in France and was not as well-known or well-regarded as his countryman.

A Ben for All Seasons

"A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one." (Benjamin Franklin)
"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." (Winston Churchill)

Not that anyone's asking, but if I had to pick someone from the modern era most like Benjamin Franklin, I'd choose Winston Churchill--and not just because of their similar girth and hairlessness. Both Franklin and Churchill were irascible and irreverent; oddly stylish and surprisingly charming. Both were optimistic, despite a tendency toward depression, and fond of great wit. Above all, both had an uncanny gift for gab, from the spot-on one-liners, enduring puns, and elegant putdowns, to the stirring speeches and letters that defined the unique challenges of their respective generations. Though he wasn't the prodigious inventor that Franklin certainly was, Churchill was every bit the elder statesman whose singular character stamped a lasting impression upon his countrymen. Churchill's leadership style also drew on Franklin's. Both men--Churchill in World War II and Franklin in Paris during the American War for Independence--were brilliant politicians on their country's behalf, capable of navigating treacherous political and social waters with a jaunty ease that befuddled (in the case of John Adams with Franklin) or charmed (in the case of Franklin Roosevelt with Churchill) their contemporaries. And both were similarly rejected by their countrymen shortly after rendering their very considerable services to their country.

But history has been kind toward Franklin; and, as Churchill said with characteristic style, "History shall be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

More on Churchill: Mr. Chartwell takes on Churchill's "black dog" of depression; and although William Manchester died before completing The Last Lion, his epic biography of Churchill, his friend Paul Reid is finishing the third volume which will be out later this year or early 2012.

All About the Benjamins: The Art of Money


When one thinks of Ben Franklin, one thing that comes to mind is the fact that his face is on the United States $100 bill. Hence, the slang term for $100 bills is Benjamins (thanks to a track by Puff Daddy). But how did he end up there? What about the other faces on US and World currency? And what’s with all those colors?

The Art of Money: The History and Design of Paper Currency From Around the World is a beautiful book by David Standish. Those bank notes that pay your monthly bills are rich in history. The author discusses the history of money, and touches on money’s relation to Queen Liz, industry, agriculture, trains, and war. The book is easy to follow and is chock full of colorful images of various paper money, which is the focal point of the art side of money.

As for Benjamin Franklin… He created many things, but he did not create the first paper money. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1723, at the age of seventeen, the first year paper money was used there. As his career progressed, he ended up designing and printing paper money for various colonies over a long period of time. His face didn’t appear on the $100 bill until 1914. The first $100 bill had an image of a bald eagle, which was then followed by a version featuring Abraham Lincoln.

A new $100 bill was set to be released in April of this year, with slight changes to the bill, but problems with the printing have delayed the release.

To learn more about Ben Franklin and see what else is happening with Ben around AADL, including the BIG exhibit and special programming, see here.

The Philadelphia Bequest: Ben Franklin

Gift of MoneyGift of Money When Benjamin Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790, he left Boston and Philadelphia $2,000. He'd saved this money while he was Governor of Pennsylvania (1785 to 1788). The money was not to be distributed until 200 years after his death. In 1990, the bequest was worth $6.5 million and Philadelphia's portion of the trust was $2 million. There were several ideas about what should be done with the money: apply the money to government deficits, build low-income housing, gift the money to a university, or create scholarships for students who want to study a trade. After some debate, the money was shared between The Franklin Institute and several community foundations like the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation that helps fund technical education scholarships. Although Benjamin Franklin left the decision of how to spend the money for the city, he suggested the money should "provide funds for young artificers". Are you interested in researching grants and foundations? The Ann Arbor District Library can help, just click here.

Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, May 4 - July 8, 2011


The Ann Arbor District Library special exhibit, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, celebrates Franklin's 300th birthday and allows the viewer to experience the life and adventures of an extraordinary man. Scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential and remarkable Americans of any generation. His name evokes many qualities - imagination and curiosity, hard work and ambition, wit and entrepreneurial ingenuity -- qualities that have contributed to the formation of an American identity and American values.

Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World was organized by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, Philadelphia, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition for libraries has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life.

The traveling exhibition is based on a major exhibition of the same name mounted by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is a nonprofit organization established through a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to educate the public about Franklin’s enduring legacy.

Join us here as we celebrate Benjamin Franklin - the exhibit, the man, his ideas and his influence. Check out all our Ben Franklin events for a complete list of events and activities surrounding the exhibit.

Kid Bits - Amazing Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin is visiting Ann Arbor until July 2011!
If you want to meet him, you can find him in the DownTown Library.
If you have kids who like to learn more, you can use the public list Benjamin Franklin for Children.
The titles are in the Library collection.
The list is in order from simplest information ... to increasingly complex.
For "fun and games" go to Fun With Franklin and see how you do.
Then ponder his proverbs such as ....
"Genius without education is like silver in the mine."

The Morals of Chess: Benjamin Franklin

ChessChess On the way to work today I stopped to read and enjoy the special traveling exhibit, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. I learned that Benjamin Franklin LOVED to play chess. In fact, he wrote an essay about Chess for the The Columbian Magazine in 1786 entitled, The Morals of Chess. Benjamin Franklin is recognized as one of the earliest players of chess in America. Speaking of chess, did you know that we play chess regularly here at the library? The next Chesstastic event is scheduled Sunday May 15, 1 pm to 4 pm at the Traverwood Branch.

Franklin Family Fun

Read the entertaining novel Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, attend the book discussion/craft program, and then bring the whole family to the Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World exhibit. Amos the mouse, Ben Franklin’s “closest friend and adviser”, has quite the ego and sense of humor. His descriptions of Franklin’s inventions and adventures are filled with wisdom and warmth. The opportunity to explore the remarkable Ben Franklin from to fact to fiction, will be available through July 8th!

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