Frankly Speaking 2024

Literary Prize Winner & Runner-up announced!

2023 Winner and Runner-up

Each year a question or quote exploring Franklin’s relevance in our time is open for interpretation in 1000-1500 words. The competition is exclusively for young writers, aged 18-25, with a first prize of £750, and a second prize of £500.

In 2023, our quote for interpretation was;

“Government must depend for its Efficiency either on Force or Opinion.” From ‘The Colonist’s advocate’, VII. (Feb 1, 1770)

We received some excellent entries to our 2023 Prize and we are proud to announce the names of the two young writers that were voted as the winner and runner-up by our team of judges;

Winner – Ciara Griffiths

Ciara is a 21-year-old Philosophy graduate of Royal Holloway University of London. She is currently volunteering for Oxfam and works as a Social Media Ambassador for BucksVision, a local charity supporting visually impaired people living in Buckinghamshire.

Judges comments:

Wendy Moore: “A very stylish piece of fiction with lots of tension and echoes of A Tale of Two Cities.”

Rory Sutherland: “an ingenious link to the French Revolution.”

Runner-up – Angus Brown

Angus is 24 and currently a third year doctoral candidate in History at the University of Cambridge. 

Judges comments:

Lord Guy Black: “A compelling essay, expertly written.”

Huw David: “Well researched, brilliantly structured, and a thought-provoking conclusion.”

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If you would like to read their entries for the 2023 Prize, please click on their names to view their work.

In May 2024, the winner, runner-up and other shortlisted writers were invited to Benjamin Franklin House for a special award ceremony to receive their prizes and meet the judging panel for the 2023 Prize.

We would like to congratulate those on our shortlist as well as everyone who entered this year’s Prize.

2023 Literary Prize Shortlist Announcement

Each year a question or quote exploring Franklin’s relevance in our time is open for interpretation in 1000-1500 words. The competition is exclusively for young writers, aged 18-25, with a first prize of £750, and a second prize of £500.

This year, our quote for interpretation was;

‘Government must depend for its Efficiency either on Force or Opinion.’ From ‘The Colonist’s Advocate’, Vol VII. (1 February, 1770).

We received some excellent entries to our 2023 Prize and today we are proud to announce the names of the five young writers that have made it to our 2023 Shortlist. In alphabetical order, these are;

Angus Brown

Ciara Griffiths

Freya Graham

Georgina Arnold

Sam MacKley

If you would like to read any of the shortlisted entries for the 2022 Prize, please click on the writer names to view their work.

The winner and runner-up of the 2023 Literary Prize will be announced on the Benjamin Franklin House website on February 1st 2024, exactly 254 years since Franklin wrote this year’s quote.

In May 2024, the winner, runner-up and other shortlisted writers will be invited to Benjamin Franklin House for a special award ceremony to receive their prizes and meet the judging panel for the 2023 Prize.

The 2023 Literary Prize Judges are;

  • Dr. Márcia Balisciano, Director of Benjamin Franklin House
  • Lord Guy Black, Executive Director of the Telegraph Media Group
  • Wendy Moore, English journalist, author, and historian
  • Dr. Huw David, Development Director at Wolfson College, University of Oxford
  • Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group and Board Member of Benjamin Franklin House

We would like to congratulate those on our shortlist as well as everyone who entered this year’s Prize.

If you are interested in participating in our 2024 Literary Prize, please look out for announcements on our website. The quote for next year’s competition will be announced at the 2023 award ceremony and posted shortly after.

Attending MLB London Series 2023? Add Benjamin Franklin House to your to-do list…

St. Louis Cardinals face Chicago Cubs at the London Stadium June 24 to 25. Extend the excitement of your MLB London Series trip with our top tips and 10 reasons to visit Benjamin Franklin House:

 

  1. A new way to learn the story behind the man on the C-Note

    With a visit to the Benjamin Franklin House, history comes alive! We offer an immersive experience that tells the rich story of Franklin in London through live interpretation, sound, lighting, and visual projection.

  2. Connect with London’s past and present

    Entering Craven Street from the hustle and bustle of a 21st century Strand, you are immediately transported to Franklin’s 18th century London. A true hidden gem!

  3. Learn

    Franklin was a huge advocate of education for all! Benjamin Franklin House offers an accessible and enjoyable way to refresh all you learnt about Ben in High School. Connect with us on social media to learn more about Franklin’s life through short and digestible content.

  4. Get answers to the age-old question…was Benjamin Franklin a serial killer?!

    Find out why 1200 human bones were discovered buried in our garden…

  5. Americana

    Looking for a home away from home? Indulge those American roots and find out why Franklin loved this city so much.

  6. The heart of London

    Located in Westminster in the centre of London, Benjamin Franklin House is perfect for an off-the-beaten-track attraction amongst local tourist hotspots like the London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

  7. Original 18th Century architecture

    Experience an authentic 18th century London home! Built in 1730, the House retains a lot of its original features that Ben himself would recognise. On Fridays, our Architecture Tours dive deep into its fascinating history.

  8. Franklin Trail

    The Benjamin Franklin House is one exciting spot along the Franklin Trail in London. Central to the trail, come and learn how he lived, conducted experiments for his scientific inventions and negotiated with key figures of the day.

  9. Welcoming and insightful staff

    The staff at the Benjamin Franklin House are all Franklin enthusiasts and willing to ask any questions you have!

  10. Understanding and appreciation

    Learning history helps one reflect on the present day and why certain traditions and
    customs exist. Additionally, appreciating history allows one better understand the current
    state of affairs and recognise patterns for the future.

Benjamin Franklin: Cub or Cardinal?

Designed to keep Benjamin Franklin’s history alive in the minds of Chicago’s youth, a monument to him stands in the city’s Lincoln Park!
With a big ego and no direct link to the city of St Louis, it’s only fair to assume that Franklin would therefore be rooting for the Cubs.. sorry not sorry.

Top tips to make the most of your MLB London Series!

 

Transport

The MLB London Series is held at London Stadium, June 24-25. Public transport in London is accessible and easy to use and payment can be made using contactless debit/credit cards and mobile devices.

Downloading the app CityMapper makes directions easy for all IOS and Android users. For more directions, see Transport for London’s tube map, bus map, or guidance on cycling in London.

Visiting Benjamin Franklin House? Here’s some handy advice for getting here!

Hungry?

For ballpark inspired food, MLB London Series has partnered up with some great London establishments!

Representing Chicago Cubs, there’s Yard Sale Pizza.

And for St Louis Cardinals fans, check out Patty & Bun.

More fun on Benjamin Franklin House’s doorstep!

MLB London Series Trafalgar Square Takeover is a three-day celebration of baseball culture in one of the most iconic spots in the city (and a 2 minute walk from us!)
Visit the Fan Festival page to find out more.

A visit to Benjamin Franklin House is a real home run…

Literary Prize 2022 Shortlist

The History of Thanksgiving: An Introduction

Alice Hopkinson explores the history of Thanksgiving and challenges us to rethink the accepted narrative.

Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the ‘First Thanksgiving’ of 1621, something that holds a deep, traditional meaning, and has become enshrined in the American cultural conscience. Since George Washington’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, Presidents have used the holiday to convey ideals that lie outside the sphere of traditional religiosity and notions of simply ‘giving thanks’ for a bountiful harvest. Proceeding years saw successive Presidents devote their attention towards reaffirming the values of the Founding American Republic, discussing events of the previous year or addressing broader issues affecting the Nation. Whilst this is certainly indicative of a progressing American cultural identity, it is emblematic of Thanksgiving finding its own origin for tradition and subsequently evolving into something far greater and disparate from what it meant at its conception. 

Thanksgiving has developed from a solemn and simple Colonial observance of thanks into an enterprising celebration that encompasses a variety of values, yet holds a far more sinister meaning for the Native American people supposedly crucial to its founding legend. 

The ‘First Thanksgiving’ at Plymouth

Those who first settled in the Massachusetts Bay area were those who retreated from England following indignation and persecution for their religious practices. As a somewhat more extreme derivative group of Puritans, the Pilgrims sought to deviate from the practise of religion that had been reformed under King James I, and were therefore at severe risk of persecution if they were to remain in England. Fleeing to the New World in search of religious freedom, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and on Native Wampanoag territory- something that is frequently omitted from contemporary retellings.

Famine and disease had been rampant throughout the voyage, with these poor conditions only becoming worse as the Pilgrims struggled to provide for themselves and build a self-sustaining settlement in this new environment. After a particularly tough winter the Pilgrims received invaluable guidance and assistance from the Wampanoag tribe, who graciously taught the settlers how to live off the land. It is at this instance that the ‘myth’ around the story of the first Thanksgiving becomes increasingly prevalent. The Pilgrims in return thanked the Wampanoag people and, with the first harvest produced, held a dinner to acknowledge their kindness, enshrining in tradition the act of holding a celebration of thanks for instances of recognising gratitude.

File:The First Thanksgiving Jean Louis Gerome Ferris.png

Is this the whole story?

In reality, the peace between the settlers and Native Americans was short lived. Relations between the two groups quickly deteriorated and tensions became more aggravated, particularly with the rapid expansion of European settlements and the vast influx of migration that occurred from the 1630s. As a result, Native Americans were forced out of land that had once been theirs and have since been subject to rampant cultural erasure. This highlights the stark contrast between the seemingly peaceful relationship between the Pilgrims and Native Americans seen in portrayals of the ‘First Thanksgiving’, and the more sinister reality. 

The origin of tradition

Despite the 1621 Thanksgiving being famously recognised as the ‘first’, it is important to acknowledge that the tradition of giving thanks was a precedent that long predated the 1620 Mayflower voyage, and something that was essentially imported by the European settlers. Colonists observed thanksgivings regularly and even sustained this practice through the Revolutionary era, observing the celebrations for bountiful harvests, victory in battle or for acts of seemingly divine benevolence that had transpired. 

Thanksgiving as a holiday

With George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation offering gratitude for the recent ratification of the Constitution, formation of the American Republic and preservation of “safety and happiness… for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed”, it became possible to acknowledge the shift in meaning of Thanksgiving as a designated holiday held in the public conscience. Whilst Washington does acknowledge the religious sentiments of the occasion and gives thanks for fortune in harvest, he uses similar language to that found in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and spends the majority of his Proclamation affirming the founding values of the Republic- going to great lengths to ensure the people maintain the values enshrined in the nation’s founding documents. 

Presidents since Washington have used Thanksgiving as a means to address the nation in a manner that is somewhat more informal than through official Proclamations or speeches. In each Proclamation, traditional religious values are consistently affirmed, as is the notion of giving thanks to God for the fortunes of the nation. However, each address is unique to the President and is in many ways a way in which to trace the narrative of American history in accordance with the fundamental issues concerning the nation. Last year President Biden marked the 400th anniversary of the ‘First Thanksgiving’ by acknowledging the “generosity and support of the Wampanoag” and compared their actions to those who have dedicated their time to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. A very topical Proclamation, it is one that dedicates itself more to reaffirming familial and traditional values as opposed to those of the nation and Founding Fathers- fitting, considering the context in which it was written. 

Contemporary meaning

Culturally, Thanksgiving has shed much of its religious sentiment in recent years and has become almost unrecognisable from its origin. Maintaining its association to harvests, it has become more familial, with it being tradition for many families to hold a Thanksgiving dinner that incorporates much of the food typically found on the North American continent, the turkey being the most pertinent example of such.

Furthermore, it has evolved to accommodate America as a consumerist nation that thrives on business and a booming economy, with contemporary traditions such as the Macy’s Day Parade, American football games and the amusing White House turkey pardon being the focus of attention throughout the country.

File:President John F. Kennedy receives the 16th White House Thanksgiving Turkey 1963.jpg  File:Macys Thanksgiving Parade (37733875745).jpg File:Thanksgiving 1900.JPG

These new and emerging customs demonstrate how Thanksgiving as a cultural tradition has taken on a new meaning that has adapted and evolved in line with the changing American people. Yet aside from the jubilations brought on by the holiday, it is paramount to bear in mind that these traditions exist only for some. Many Native Americans choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, serving as a reminder that a whole representative body has been practically omitted from the mainstream teaching of Thanksgiving. This highlights the importance of preserving these narratives. 

To hear a continuation of this discussion, join us on November 25 2022, 5pm GMT/12pm BST.

Author: Alice Hopkinson

House Highlights: Summer Break @ Ben’s House

Here are some of the highlights from our incredible summer season of family events at Benjamin Franklin House!

Over the month of August we held a number of events as part of our Summer Break @ Ben’s House programme. We learned all about Benjamin Franklin, 36 Craven Street and Georgian Britain as well as getting creative with lots of arts and crafts activities.

In our first week we recreated Franklin’s famous Key and Kite experiment using a Tesla Coil in our Student Science Centre. We each got an opportunity to create a bolt of electricity using our Windhurst Machine before heading down to Franklin’s Parlour to build some decorative kites!

Our second week focussed on the art of calligraphy and the importance of letters in 18th century communication. We deciphered one of Franklin’s own letters before writing our own using dip pens and ink. The workshop was certainly the messiest of them all with inky fingers all round! We also created our own parchment paper with some good old fashioned tea-staining.

The focus of our third week moved away from Franklin and on to one of our other famous residents, the anatomist William Hewson, who lived in the House from 1770-1774. We learned about the anatomy school once located in the House and examined our collection of bones that were unearthed in our basement. We then became archaeologists for the day and explored our collection of archaeology tools and artefacts. To end the session we built model skeletons before creating our own skeleton diagrams using cotton wool buds and glue!

The final week of Summer Break @ Ben’s House explored the history of portraiture and saw us learn some valuable skills in art history. We deciphered the symbols in several famous portraits from history before examining a collection of Franklin portraits to learn more about the man behind the canvass. We then got our paint pallets out to create portraits of ourselves to take home and frame for all to see!

First Family Day of 2022! A Georgian Easter Celebration

On Tuesday 4th April 2022, we held our first Family Event of the year! As it was during the Easter Holidays, the theme for the day was a Georgian Easter Celebration.

Our families enjoyed a tour of the House that featured a Benjamin Franklin-themed Easter Egg hunt in each of our historic rooms. Children learned about Georgian Easter traditions alongside some interesting fact about Franklin and the years he spent at 36 Craven Street.

Following this, the families had some fun with Easter inspired arts and crafts. We made Easter bonnets, cards and decorations!

It was a fantastic day for all involved, pictures can be found below. Our next Family Event will be on Tuesday 31st May and is called ‘Inside Benjamin Franklin’s Georgian House.’ This day will teach families the architectural history of 36 Craven Street and Georgian homes. Check out more by going to our event page here.