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This Year In Philadelphia

June 2024
2min read

A calendar of national events taking place in the bicentennial year appears elsewhere in this issue.

Travelers who visit Philadelphia in 1987 will be rewarded with a variety of special events designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the Constitution. The city began celebrating a year early with “Miracle at Philadelphia,” an exhibit that opened at the Second Bank of the United States on September 17, 1986. That exhibit will continue until December 31,1987, and future plans include the following:

MAY 23–25

A festival called “All Roads Lead to Philadelphia” will be held on Independence Mall, with colonial foods, crafts, and music. Visitors can attend mock trials and exercise their freedom of speech on a specially constructed soapbox.

JUNE 25–26

Art Buchwald, the syndicated columnist, and Mark Russell, the comedian, will host a conference on political humor around the world. One of the topics under discussion will be the degree of freedom allowed political humorists under various national constitutions.

JULY 3–5

The U.S. Army Band will perform at Convention Hall, marching bands from all over the country will parade down Ben Franklin Parkway, and a food festival will be held at Penn’s Landing. On July 4, recalling Philadelphia’s place in aeronautical history (the first balloon flight in American took off from the city in 1793), hot-air balloons will lift off from the Museum of Art.

JULY 16

Both houses of Congress will meet in a pavilion on Independence Mall to commemorate the Great Compromise, in which the large and small states agreed on a bicameral legislature, with representation by population in the House and equal representation in the Senate. This will mark the first time in our history that Congress has convened outside the seat of government.

AUGUST 7–16

“Only in America,” a national arts festival, opens on Independence Mall, with jazz and folk music, sculpture and murals, and theater performances.

AUGUST 22–23

Philadelphia will celebrate its maritime heritage with a festival on the Delaware riverfront. On the twenty-second, the U.S. Navy will commission a new Aegis cruiser, the USS Thomas S. Gates, named for a Philadelphian who served as Secretary of the Navy from 1957 to 1959.

SEPTEMBER 17

This is Constitution Day. In what is being billed as the largest parade ever in America, four separate processions will converge on Independence Hall. Among the floats will be a replica of The Federalist, the fifteen-foot miniature square-rigged vessel given to George Washington by Baltimore merchants in 1788.

Visitors to Philadelphia should save time to visit some of the city’s small, privately run institutions, many of which have been in existence since 1787 or thereabouts, including:

BARTRAM’S GARDEN,

planted on the Schuylkill River in 1728 by John Bartram, America’s first botanist. Washington and Franklin used to visit him there, and although Bartram had died by the time the Constitutional Convention met, his garden was so famous that on July 14, 1787, the delegates suspended their deliberations to visit them. To commemorate that event, this year on July 14 free buses will be available to pick people up at the Independence Park Visitor Center and take them to the garden.

THE LIBRARY COMPANY OF PHILADELPHIA,

founded in 1731 as America’s first subscription library—anyone who bought a share could borrow books. In 1787 it was located just a few blocks from Independence Hall, and the trustees voted to make the collection available to delegates. This year, in an exhibit called “The Intellectual Heritage of the Constitutional Era: The Delegates’ Library,” which opens May 15 and continues into early November, the Library Company will display books that were in the collection in 1787 and that the delegates might have consulted in the course of their deliberations, including works by Locke, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Jefferson, and Adams.

THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY,

founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 “for Promoting Useful Knowledge.” Its bicentennial exhibition, “Designing a Nation: Science, Technology, and the Constitution,” on view from April 30 through October 1, suggests that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Congress failed to foster the sciences. Diaries from the Lewis and Clark expeditions—a rare example of governmentsponsored research during this period—will be included in the exhibit.

THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE,

founded in 1824 in honor of Benjamin Franklin and “for the promotion of the mechanic arts.” A new, multimedia presentation here, on view through the end of 1987, celebrates Franklin’s scientific experiments.

THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA,

founded in 1824. An exhibit opening on June 18 and continuing until December 29, 1987, examines the Constitution after 1787, with memorabilia from the celebrations of 1887 and 1937.

THE ROSENBACH MUSEUM & LIBRARY,

founded in 1954, is an extraordinary collection of Americana in a nineteenth-century townhouse off Rittenhouse Square. An exhibit of letters and documents opening here September 15 highlights the ratification process.

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