Phily Trip Day 10 – American Philosophical Society and Atwater Kent Museum

June 10, 2008


This morning I toured the American Philosophical Society (APS) building and the Benjamin Franklin Library Hall. Pictures weren’t allowed in the APS building.

The following is quoted directly from the APS website because it gives a succinct description of its founding and purpose.

“The first drudgery of settling new colonies is now pretty well over,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1743, “and there are many in every province in circumstances that set them at ease, and afford leisure to cultivate the finer arts, and improve the common stock of knowledge.” The scholarly society he advocated became a reality that year. By 1769 international acclaim for its accomplishments assured its permanence. Franklin’s influence and the needs of American settlements led the Society in its early days to pursue equally “all philosophical Experiments that let Light into the Nature of Things, tend to increase the Power of Man over Matter, and multiply the Conveniencies or Pleasures of Life.” Early members included doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and merchants interested in science, and also many learned artisans and tradesmen like Franklin. Many founders of the republic were members: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Rush, James Madison, and John Marshall; as were many distinguished foreigners: Lafayette, von Steuben, Kosciusko.” (

The focus of the information on display in the APS building was entitled: Undaunted, Explorers of the American Philosophical Society, 1760-2007. The five explorers featured were: David Rittenhouse, John James Audobon, TItian Ramsay Peale Elisha Kent Kane, and Ruth Patrick.

Of the many items on display, I found the surveying tools and an original map of the Mason-Dixon Line survey interesting.  Rittenhouse actually completed the Mason-Dixon Line survey.

A visit to the APS Library Hall across the street followed. This is Franklin’s library.

This library has the only document with the signatures of the first four presidents. The document was for funding the Lewis and Clark expedition. Our guide said Washington put up $100, which was apparently a substantial amount.


This library is a history of science repository and it is the largest holder of Darwin materials outside of England. Franklin’s books are here also.


This is a picture of one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence.

I spent the afternoon at the Atwater Kent Museum. In the 1830s, it was a rental hall and the site of anti-slavery meetings. Frederick Douglas recruited here.


This picture has a heart-rending story. There was an earthquake in Port Royal, Jamaica June 7, 1692. Houses were sinking, people were literally up to their necks in water. The father in a slave family probably handed this silver bowl through a window to rescuers. Inside the bowl was his baby girl. The child lived and somehow it was figured out to take the girl to Philadelphia because of the Norris family crest engravings on the bowl. The Norris’ were somehow connected with the slave family in Jamaica.


 These shackles were used to subdue slaves.


Anti-slavery speakers carried shackles with them to illustrate the inhumanity of slavery. Actually seeing shackles was a powerful weapon the speakers used to excite the crowds to the abolitionist cause. The Anti-slavery Declaration was printed on silk and read in Philadelphia. The silk represented the growing coalition of using Free Trade Products.

If I were to use any of this information with my students, I would incorporate the story about the silver bowl and the baby girl, and the shackles,as visual representations to illustrate that slaves were people, not commodities. These people had families. They had hope and dreams. I’d also delve farther into Frederick Douglas’ abolitionist efforts and what he stood for. Students like to hear about Benjamin Franklin and I could also go into his abolitionist activities.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow morning I’ll be listening to two lectures. One about Benjamin Franklin and the other about slavery and black participation in the Civil War.

Until then…




  1. Sorry grandma that I haven’t been bloging you but I can’t wait to see pictures of Gettysburg! I am leavinitg tomarrow to go to W.T. That means I have to wait to see you witch makes me very, very, very sad! Any ways grandpa Kink said that Fay told him that there was a major storm in Philydelpha. 😦 Well I’ve got to go. BYE



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