Thursday, December 27, 2012

Visit to Philly 2: The Scratch of History

The little Goofs faced the trip to Philly with me with no small amount of trepidation. They know that when faced with historic sites I go into a bit of a frenzy and that my legendary sleep requirements disappear as I seek to vacuum up every possible instant of the past.

In facing the Independence National Historical Park, I told the little Goofs that we would see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and then we would see.  The little Goofs, dreaming of the hotel pool, acquiesced.

It was cold and blustery, but lines were short and much of the historic district is within a few blocks.  So complaints were minimal.  The liked seeing the Liberty Bell, one of the great icons of our nation and maybe they sort of kind of got the import of what happened at Independence Hall.  I also dragged them into the old Second Bank of the United States (now a National Portrait Gallery) which made me immensely happy and sated some of my obsession with the Age of Jackson.  When the Ranger asked the little Goofs some historical questions, they were remarkably knowledgeable about Vice Presidents, less so about the Presidents.  In discussing John Adams, after GoofGirl determined he didn't make beer, she remarked, "Wasn't he a Vice President?"

The Junior Ranger program is pretty neat for kids GoofGirl's age.  By asking about specific details, it helps kids pay attention to what they are seeing and hearing.  Another plus to the Independence National Historic Park is that it is a bunch of bite-size pieces.  Each building (and there are dozens) is not over-whelming on its own.  So a strategic parent picks and chooses a few, and avoids overwhelming their children.

Naturally, with all of the historic wonders in Philadelphia, the little Goofs were immensely taken with the extendable back scratchers that look like eagle claws.  Normally I reject these demands.  But the little Goofs then started scratching my back with them and well...
I may go months without having my back scratched, but once the process is initiated, it needs to be seen through with the entire layer of skin sloughed off.  So I had to give in.

"No, one for each of us!" This was so they could carry the back-scratchers around and duel with them.

I agreed after extracting an agreement to visit an additional site besides the previously agreed upon Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

I'm glad I did.

Here Comes Franklin
Also, because Franklin Court (the visit they conceded) was very cool.  The home of the future site of the Benjamin Franklin Museum, it includes the archaeological dig at a home built and rented out by Franklin and Franklin's print shop.

The dig at the home owned by Franklin revealed a wealth of artifacts that gave insight into life in the late 1700s, including toiletries - that caught GoofGirl's attention.

In the print shop we learned how a teen-aged Ben Franklin was an apprentice printer, so he worked long hours in the print shop.  Eighteenth century printing presses involved people physically pressing the paper onto the type - it was a job requiring strength and skill.

"Was he paid?" GoofGirl wanted to know.

"No," the Ranger explained, "He was given room and board and the opportunity to learn a skill."

"It would have been better if he had been paid!" GoofGirl declared.

I wonder if the 18th century maybe had a few things to recommend it.

We are still discussing what to do tomorrow.  There is plenty more to see at the Independence National Historic Site and we could always go back to the Franklin Institute.  But Philly has a plethora of buildings that have that "abandoned asylum" look, one we passed was re-purposes as a childcare center.  It would be neat to check one out and the opportunity exists: Eastern State Penitentiary (America's Most Historic Prison) is open for tours.  Looks interesting, plus on returning to school after break the little Goofs could report that over winter break, "Daddy took us to prison!"

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