Friday, November 25, 2005

BEN FRANKLIN: 300th anniversary celebration underway
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The celebration of the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth is underway, launched by the re-enactment of his arrival in Philadelphia and the December kickoff of a traveling museum exhibit and other events.

“Philly’s Got Benergy!” is the tagline for promoting the celebration, which officially started Oct. 9 at an event portraying Franklin’s arrival in Philadelphia as a 17-year-old runaway.The centerpiece of the plans to celebrate the Jan. 17 anniversary is an exhibit running from Dec. 15 to April 30 at the National Constitution Center called “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.”

“He’s a founder who still winks at us. He’s the most modern and contemporary of all the founders,” said Richard Stengel, the Constitution Center’s president and chief executive.Stengel said the exhibit includes a variety of opportunities to learn by doing, including a 25-foot sailboat that visitors can climb aboard to learn how Franklin charted the gulf stream. Besides such hands-on displays, it has more than 250 original Franklin artifacts and more than 40 video animations.

The exhibit will head to museums in St. Louis, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and Paris after appearing in Philadelphia. Notable in its absence is Boston, where Franklin was born and raised; Boston’s Museum of Science said it could not host the exhibit because it is opening a large “Star Wars” exhibit instead. Other events featured as part of the yearlong celebration will include an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a specially commissioned piece by the Philadelphia Orchestra and a special performance by the Philadelphia Ballet.

Franklin was born on Jan. 6, 1706. But in 1752, when the old Julian calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar by Britain and its colonies, time skipped ahead 11 days — making the old Jan. 6 the new Jan. 17.

The celebration is being led by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a consortium including the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania.

If You Go...BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TERCENTENARY: Go to and click on “Calendar” for a month-by-month listing of events, or call (215) 557-0733. Most events take place in 2006 but some concerts, lectures and exhibits are scheduled for November and December. At, click on “Quick biography” for an overview of Franklin’s life and achievements.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Real Story Behind Thanksgiving

Did you know that the first [Plymouth Colony Pilgrim's] Thanksgiving was a celebration of the triumph of private property and individual initiative?

William Bradford was the governor of the original Pilgrim colony, founded at Plymouth in 1621. The colony was first organized on a communal basis, as their financiers required. Land was owned in common. The Pilgrims farmed communally, too, following the "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" precept.

The results were disastrous. Communism didn't work any better 400 years ago than it does today. By 1623, the colony had suffered serious losses. Starvation was imminent.

Bradford realized that the communal system encouraged and rewarded waste and laziness and inefficiency, and destroyed individual initiative. Desperate, he abolished it. He distributed private plots of land among the surviving Pilgrims, encouraging them to plant early and farm as individuals, not collectively.

The results: a bountiful early harvest that saved the colonies. After the harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated with a day of Thanksgiving -- on August 9th.

See whole story at