At A Glance
A young Benjamin Franklin is depicted as an appropriate example to the students
Represents Franklin’s arrival to Philadelphia
Dedicated at the 10th reunion of the University of Pennsylvania Class of 1904
R. Tait McKenzie’s portrait of a young Benjamin Franklin was considered appropriate as an example to the students of the University of Pennsylvania, a school that Franklin helped to found. Commissioned in 1910, the figure was modeled in clay from a nude so that the rhythm of walking would be convincing, and the head is based on the bone structure of Houdon’s bust of Franklin.
McKenzie’s biographer, Christopher Hussey, describes the concept of the piece: “On leaving his brother’s employ in 1723, Franklin came to New York by water, and thence to Amboy, sleeping all night in the boat. In his autobiography he describes his walk from there to Burlington and his arrival in Philadelphia on Sunday morning.” Inscribed on the statue’s base (designed by Paul Cret) are Franklin’s words summarizing this: “I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, that you may compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there.” The other inscription on the base reads: “This memorial dedicated at the 10th reunion of the Class of 1904 is a tribute to the inspiration and example of the founder of the university to many generations of the sons of Pennsylvania.”