National Constitution Center

Philadelphia
PA

A few of the 39 signers and three dissenters
at the National Constitution Center

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Opened in 2003, the nonprofit Center “illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires acts of citizenship” by providing a theatrical overview, multimedia history, interactive exhibits, and life-size statues of the signers of the Constitution. Includes periodic special exhibits.

Much of the information is general (for example visitors will not learn about the special role of James Madison at the Constitutional Convention of 1787), but the cumulative impact will be worthwhile for adults and older children.

Associated People

The French years provided Franklin’s detractors precisely what they needed: proof that the ur-American was un-American. Franklin was the Founding Father who had come the furthest, which makes him today the most compelling; he was also the Founding Father who traveled the farthest, which in his own century made him the most suspect. Few other homes in Philadelphia sported both Réaumur and Fahrenheit thermometers. The story goes that when Franklin proposed that Congress open its meetings with a prayer, Alexander Hamilton quipped that that body had no need of foreign aid. The story may be apocryphal but the sentiment was real. The expatriate patriot, Franklin was associated in many minds with the dependent chapter of American independence, one better expunged from the record.

Stacy Schiff
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005)