Workshop Overview

As a part of our summer workshops, the directors of the Benjamin Franklin and the Americans program seek to create a rigorous learning environment in which Summer Scholars will emerge themselves into the world of eighteenth-century America.

Benjamin Franklin witnessed and influenced many revolutions in his eighty-four years.  He saw the rise of the American middle class, the battle against old aristocracies, the transformations of American material culture, and of course he played critical roles in the War for American Independence and creation of the Constitution of the United States.

We like to imagine Franklin and the people he would have encountered as he walked the streets of Philadelphia from 1723 through 1790: rich, poor, and ‘middling sort’; men and women; white, black, and Native American; women and men; young and old. How did these people interact? How did they experience events like revolutions, wars, political controversies, the Enlightenment, religious transformations, and economic changes?

To conduct this exploration, we partner with a variety of historic preservation organization in greater Philadelphia, so we can literally walk in Franklin’s footsteps. Get to know more about some of the faces and places Franklin encountered.

Following the 2016 summer workshops, NEH Summer Scholars will be ask to prepare lesson plans based on the lectures, tours, and resources studied during the intensive, immersive July workshops.

A note on the final day’s program: Organizing departure times for a large number of visiting teachers presents numerous logistical challenges, to put it mildly.  Some areas of the country can only be reached from Philadelphia International Airport by flights that leave in the early afternoon.  In the first of the NEH/Franklin workshops, program staff added the optional Friday afternoon tour for those workshop participants who were at loose ends, with flights later that evening or later in the weekend.  It quickly became one of the most popular aspects of the workshop.  As word of mouth spread, teachers who knew earlier participants wrote to ask if it could be repeated. Eventually, we added it to our regular schedule.

Likewise, the “wake” after we retrace Franklin’s funeral procession developed out of popular demand.  Teachers who had grown from colleagues to friends over the preceding five days demanded one more chance to gather, celebrate, exchange ideas.  In the years since, the event has been joined by costumed interpreters, leading scholars, former workshop participants, and NPS rangers.