Chambersburg's Benjamin Franklin statue turns 150

Ben Franklin Statue 3One hundred and fifty years ago marks the rebuilding of the courthouse after the burning of Chambersburg during the Civil War. With it came the replacing of a new Benjamin Franklin statue on the courthouse dome, since the original was burned along with the courthouse. Standing at 8 feet tall and weighing nearly 250 pounds of pure pine, the gold-leafed statue was made in 1865 by Frederick Mayer of Pittsburgh to pay homage to the man for which Franklin County is named.

Benjamin Franklin was the tenth son of Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger, born in Boston on January 17, 1706. Unable to afford more than one year of schooling, Ben began to apprentice for his older brother, who was a printer. After five years he ran away in 1723 to continue his life elsewhere, settling in Pennsylvania.

In 1729 he bought the Pennsylvania Gazette where he authored and printed the first political cartoon. Living for work, Ben also created Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1733 where he coined memorable phrases such as “a penny saved is a penny earned.” A few other achievements included helping establish the Library Company in 1731, creating the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia in 1736, launching the American Philosophical Society in 1743 and forming the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751. Most notably, however, Ben is known for being a colonial representative for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts until 1776 when he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and became one of our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Ben stood vigil atop the Franklin County Courthouse dome until June 14, 1991 when he was taken down for restoration and replaced by a weather-proof replica made of fiberglass. A group of volunteer craftsmen, Clarence Harbaugh, Emmert Whitaker, John McClellan and Elmer Young, put approximately 500 hours of work into the old statue to undo the damage time and weathering had caused.

Ben Pic Collage for Blog
Picture captions: Left photo - The damaged statue before repairs began; Middle two photos - Volunteer craftsmen carefully work on restoration of the statue; Right photo - The four volunteer craftsmen who worked on restoration stand proudly in front of the primed statue waiting to receive new gold leafing. 

Good Night Heritage CenterAfter replacing his feet, legs just below the knee, a few fingers and fifty pounds of wood putty, we now find the 1865 Ben statue restored to its full glory in the Chambersburg Heritage Center. During weekday business hours, you'll see Ben facing inside to watch over the Chamber of Commerce and Heritage Center. The rest of the time, Ben faces Chambersburg's Memorial Square to keep watch over the town through his own personal window (pictured right).

The Chambersburg Heritage Center, located at 100 Lincoln Way East in downtown Chambersburg, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding national holidays), and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays from mid-May through mid-October. Drop in to wish Ben and happy 150th birthday!

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