Founding Father of Invention

March 21, 2012

Ben Franklin in 1762, probably hatching another big idea.

Ben Franklin wrote drinking songs. That’s one of the many bits of trivia provided by “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World,” which makes its final stop of a three-year, five-museum tour at the National Archives.

Backstory: The exhibit, an outgrowth of 2006’s tercentenary celebrations of Franklin’s birth, showcases the head-spinning number of achievements made by the man known as “The First American.” He was driven by the desire to comprehend and improve the world, and “In Search of a Better World” highlights his many inventions.

What’s on: View Creations such as bifocals, the Franklin stove, a glass “armonica” and a microscope share space with documents and devices related to Franklin’s firefighting, postal service, education, diplomacy, government and publishing endeavors. Plus, there are more than 40 hands-on demonstrations, games and scientific activities.

Good to Know: The famous kite-flying experiment? It probably never happened — though Franklin did write up a proposal for it, and he certainly devised the lightning rod, which led to conductivity tests.

Don’t Miss: The 1776 “Pennsylvania Constitution” (a model for the U.S. Constitution), featuring Franklin’s handwritten annotations. (He was the only American to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris and the Constitution.)

National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; through May 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., free; 866-272-6272. (Archives)
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Rudi Greenberg · March 20, 2012