Virtual Talk: The Trials of James Graham in the Revolutionary Atlantic World

Monday 17 May, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.  

During the final years of the American Revolution, the Royal Navy tried to impress a formerly enslaved man named James Graham into military service. Graham’s legal battle to avoid conscription made its way to the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court, where the judges had to decide whether or not Graham’s past life as an enslaved mariner could be used to justify service as a free man to king and country.

In this talk, Dr. James P. Ambuske, Digital History at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and co-director of the Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive Project at the University of Virginia Law Library, will discuss Graham’s journey from slavery to freedom and the questions that his case raised in an increasingly complicated revolutionary world.

Franklin in Portraits: Charles Willson Peale after David Martin

Thursday 20 May, 12pm ET/5pm GMT. Register here.

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits. We continue our series with a discussion on the differences between two versions of the same portrait: Benjamin Franklin by David Martin and the copy made by Charles Willson Peale in 1785, given to the American Philosophical Society. The original portrait by Martin was commissioned by Robert Alexander of the firm of William Alexander & Sons, in Edinburgh. It is meant to represent Benjamin Franklin as an Enlightenment figure and English gentleman. It is also one of the rare portraits done during his time in London while he was living at 36 Craven Street (Benjamin Franklin House). Join Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt and Dr George Boudreau for a discussion on the differences between the two paintings and what these differences symbolize for Early American portraiture.

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Dr. Janine Yorimoto Boldt is art historian and cultural historian specializing in early American visual culture. She is currently the Associate Curator of American Art at the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2018-2020 she was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society where she was the lead curator for the exhibition Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist and co-curator for the 2019 exhibition Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic. Boldt received her PhD in American Studies from William & Mary and her scholarship focuses on the social and political functions of colonial portraiture. She is the researcher behind ColonialVirginiaPortraits.org, a digital project produced in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture. Her research has been supported by fellowships from Colonial Williamsburg, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Winterthur Museum and Library, the Decorative Arts Trust, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

House Talk: Benjamin Franklin and the Art of Diplomacy by Dr Márcia Balisciano

Wednesday 28 April, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.

Printer, philosopher, author, scientist and inventor.  These are among the guises of the famous Dr. Franklin.  But Benjamin Franklin House Director, Dr. Márcia Balisciano, will argue his role as a diplomat was among his most important and lasting contributions. She will trace the beginnings of his diplomatic career in Philadelphia, to his presiding over the first de facto American embassy at 36 Craven Street, before leading at the French Court and building consensus, toward the end of his life, at the Constitutional Convention. 

House Talk: The Life of Polly Hewson

Thursday 15 July, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.

Polly Stevenson Hewson was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin’s landlady at 36 Craven Street. A surrogate daughter to Franklin, they had an enduring friendship that remained even after he left London in 1775.  In fact, all Polly’s descendants became American thanks to Franklin as House Operations Manager, Caitlin Hoffman, will reveal.  Discover how this little-known, yet important figure in Franklin’s lifeis central to our Historical Experience.    

Benjamin Franklin and the Lightning Rod

Thursday 10 June, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here

To celebrate the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite and key experiment, join Benjamin Franklin House in partnership with Christ Church Philadelphia, Franklin’s parish church, for a transatlantic panel discussion on the lightning rod and why it was one of the greatest inventions of the 18th century.  

Virtual Talk: Sarah Pomeroy, Children’s Author in Residence

Monday 24 May, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here

Join us for a presentation by our inaugural Lady Joan Reid Children’s Author in Residence, Professor Sarah B. Pomeroy, who will interviewed by Lynn Sherr about her book for young adults, Benjamin Franklin, Swimmer (American Philosophical Society Press 2021), inspired by Franklin’s love of swimming, and one of his first inventionsswimming fins! 

Professor Pomeroy, a Distinguished Professor of Classics and History Emerita at the City University of New York, is an accomplished author of numerous books, articles, and reviews on the topic of Women in Antiquity, including the classic Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. She has won many awards, including the Ford Foundation Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and a Mellon Foundation Fellowship. Her pioneering work has been instrumental in our understanding of women in history.

Lynn Sherr is an award-winning broadcaster and author who spent more than thirty years at ABC News. She reported on the NASA space shuttle program from its inception in 1981 through the Challenger explosion in 1986. Sherr’s numerous awards include an Emmy, two American Women in Radio and Television Commendation awards, a Gracie Award, and a George Foster Peabody Award. Her books include SwimOutside the Box, and America the Beautiful, among others.

Franklin in Portraits: Benjamin West

 

To accompany our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for the second in a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits over the years. Find the exhibition on the free Bloomberg Connects app.

This portrait commemorates Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite and key experiment and the invention of the lightning rod but was painted after Franklin’s death in 1790. It was originally meant to be part of a larger piece for the Philadelphia Hospital, an institution founded by Franklin. West met Franklin when he was in London as the second president of the Royal Academy of Arts.  

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Carol Eaton Soltis is Project Associate Curator in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of American Art. Focusing on its collection of antebellum portraiture and portrait miniatures from the 18th to the 20th century, she also oversees the museum’s remarkable collection of the art by America’s first artistic dynasty, the Peale Family.

She received her doctorate in the History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania with a dissertation titled, “‘In Sympathy with the Heart,’ Rembrandt Peale, an American Artist and the Traditions of European Art.” As author of the first substantive catalogue and exhibition on Rembrandt Peale, Rembrandt Peale, A Life in the Arts (Historical Society of Pennsylvania), she later joined the Smithsonian’s Peale Family Papers, where she assembled a catalogue raisonné of Rembrandt’s work and co-curated the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition, Rembrandt Peale, 1778-1860, In Pursuit of Fame.

Her most recent book, The Art of the Peales, Adaptations & Innovations, published by Yale University Press, is an in-depth catalogue of PMA’s unparalleled Peale Collection, which contains oil portraits, watercolor on ivory miniatures, still life pictures, landscapes, drawings and prints by fifteen different Peale artists spanning the 1770’s into the 20th century. Written as a narrative, to highlight the connections between the individual artists and their work, it was honored in 2018 by The Athenaeum of Philadelphia as an “outstanding work of non-fiction by a Philadelphia author.” Her most recent article, “Yarrow Mamout and the Charles Willson Peale Portrait of 1819,” appeared in The Muslim World, A Journal Devoted to the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Special Issue: Black Muslim Portraiture in the Modern Atlantic, Guest Editor, Zain Abdullah, v. 110, no. 3 (Summer 2020).

Aside from lectures and articles on a variety of nineteenth century American artists, she co-curated and co-authored the exhibition and catalogue, Thomas Sully, Painted Performance (Milwaukee Art Museum and Yale University Press, 2013). The first major exhibition of Sully’s work in thirty years, it examined his portraiture in the context of his life-long interest in the theatre and integrated his subject pictures into a consideration of his career and artistic production.

As part of the team that has been working on the re-interpretation and dramatic re-installation of PMA’s new American galleries prior to 1840, she is anxious for their scheduled opening this May. Dr. Soltis has served as a trustee of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and is a trustee emerita of the Library Company of Philadelphia, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. She is also a partner in the digital database project, Reconstructing Philadelphia’s Earliest Museums, 1774-1827 with Dr. John Van Horne, Emeritus Director of The Library Company of Philadelphia. Their project will document the contents of the museums of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière and Charles Willson Peale and is hosted by the American Philosophical Society, another Philadelphia Institution founded by Franklin (1743).

House Talk: The Story Behind Benjamin Franklin’s Infamous Pen Name, Silence Dogood

Thursday 24 June, 12pm ET/5pm BST. Register here.

In 1722, at the age of just 16, Benjamin Franklin adopted the persona of Silence Dogood, an elderly widow, in order to publish something in his brother’s newspaper. The 14 letters which followed, filled with satirical wit, were extremely popular with New England Courant readers and are an early indication of Franklin’s brilliance. Join Education Manager, Eleanor Hamblen, for an exploration of the works of Silence Dogood! 

Franklin in Portraits: Robert Feke

Thursday 11 March, 12pm ET/5pm GMT. Register here

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for the first in a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits over the years. We begin our series with a discussion on what is widely believed to be the earliest known portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted by Robert Feke in 1738-1746. This lesser known portrait, currently part of Harvard Museum of Art collection, depicts Franklin as a traditional gentleman typical of the period. Dr George Boudreau will be in conversation with Professor Zara Anishanslin to discuss the significance of this early portrait and the wider context of 18th century portraiture.

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Professor Zara Anishanslin specializes in Early American and Atlantic World History, with a focus on eighteenth-century material culture. Anishanslin received her PhD in the History of American Civilization at the University of Delaware in 2009, where her dissertation won the prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities.  In 2011, it also won the University of Pennsylvania’s Zuckerman National Prize in American Studies, and was the basis for her book Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World (Yale University Press, 2016), which was a Finalist for the Best First Book Prize from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Inaugural Winner of (Benjamin Franklin’s own!) Library Company of Philadelphia’s Biennial Best Book Award. In 2019-20, she was a Barra Sabbatical Postdoctoral Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She also held postdoctoral fellowships as a 2014-15 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and the Patrick Henry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University in 2009-2010. In 2018-19, Anishanslin was the Mount Vernon Fellow at the Georgian Papers Programme of King’s College University of London and the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She also served as Material Culture Consultant for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: The Exhibition in 2018-19. She is currently a fellow at the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, working on her new monograph, London Patriots: Transatlantic Politics, Material Culture, and the American Revolution.

 

Ben’s Book Club: ‘Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence’ by Harlow Giles Unger

Wednesday June 9 2021, 5pm BST/12pm ET. Register here. 

Join us for the June instalment of Ben’s Book Club, a monthly virtual gathering looking at themes relating to Benjamin Franklin, the 18th century, and American history. 

This month we will be talking to Harlow Giles Unger about his book ‘Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence’, which chronicles how Thomas Paine became the most widely read political writer of his generation, proving that he was more than a century ahead of his time, conceiving and demanding unheard-of social reforms that are now integral elements of modern republican societies. 

An Englishman who emigrated to the American colonies, he formed close friendships with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, and his ideas helped shape the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. 

Harlow Giles Unger is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator, and historian. He is the author of 27 books, including 10 biographies of the Founding Fathers—among them, Patrick Henry (Lion of Liberty); James Monroe (The Last Founding Father); the award winning Lafayette; and The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life. 

You can purchase a hardcopy of Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence’ here. 

Join us even if you don’t have a chance to read the book by the event date! 

This event is free of charge but please consider making an online donation here to support the work of Benjamin Franklin House.