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Although Thomas Jefferson may get credit for being the Colonial era's premier renaissance man, an equally compelling case could be made for Benjamin Franklin - writer, printer, inventor, newspaperman and a general font of practical wisdom.

'Benjamin Franklin: Ne a Boston, dans la Nouvelle Angleterre, le 17 Janv. 1706,' 1778 Franklin's Reception at the Court of France, 1778

The Library of Congress, which houses the second largest collection of Benjamin Franklin papers in the world, is celebrating the tercentenary of the birth of a great American statesman with the exhibition "Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words."

The display features 75 items drawn from the more than 8,000 documents in the Benjamin Franklin Collection in the Library's Manuscript Division and other Franklin manuscripts in the Thomas Jefferson and George Washington papers. Also included in the display are books from Franklin's personal library, maps and other visual materials provided by the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections, Geography and Map, and Prints and Photographs divisions.

Benjamin Franklin's reputation as a writer, raconteur, wit, businessman and amateur scientist propelled him into the front ranks of Philadelphia society and later made him a popular figure abroad. During his long life, Franklin achieved fame as a printer, author, scientist, philanthropist, inventor, politician and diplomat.

The exhibition contains manuscripts, prints and other artifacts attesting to Franklin's eclectic talents and interests. These include his designs for bifocal glasses; his writings on electricity, fire prevention and cures for the common cold; cartoons and engravings espousing his political views; a religious treatise; and the first English-language imprint of his autobiography (London, 1793).

Benjamin Franklin was born on Jan. 17, 1706, in Boston. The 10th son of a candle maker, Franklin was educated at Boston Grammar School and subsequently apprenticed with his half-brother, Peter, a controversial printer. In 1723 Franklin found employment as a journeyman printer in Philadelphia. By 1730 he controlled his own printing shop, which published The Pennsylvania Gazette. His newspaper and "Poor Richard's Almanack" (1732-57) made him known throughout the American provinces and England, where he served as an agent of Pennsylvania in London from 1757 to 1775.

This display occupies the central portion of the larger "American Treasures" exhibition and will be on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday in the Southwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C., through June 17, 2006. You can also view a virtual presentation of this fascinating exhibition if Washington, D.C., is not in your travel plans.

Franklin left his imprint on so many facets of American life, as evidenced by the number of parks, colleges, schools, streets and other things named after him. You can get an excellent feel for the extent of his reach by searching the American Memory collections of more than 10.5 million items of American history and culture. If you type "Ben Franklin" in the search box in the upper-right corner, you will get nearly 300 hits on Franklin-related materials. From "Ben Franklin's Waltz" to "Ben Franklin: Printer," a brief history of Franklin's life in verse.

A. Juste Chevillet [after a painting by Joseph Duplessis (1725-1802)], "Benjamin Franklin: Ne a Boston, dans la Nouvelle Angleterre, le 17 Janv. 1706," 1778. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: LC-DIG-ppmsca-10080

B. John Smith, "Franklin's Reception at the Court of France, 1778." Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: LC-DIG-pga-01591