PJ and I got back from Philadelphia yesterday evening. Since he was busy at his conference most of the time we were there, my goal was to check out a few museums and other attractions around the city.

This was the fourth time I’ve visited Philadelphia since 2000. My first visit was to present a paper at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The conference organizers emphasized how many eighteenth-century-related sites there are to see in Philly, but I didn’t actually see many of them while I was at that conference. In 2003, PJ and I went to Philly for vacation. We spent most of that trip seeing Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin sites, and the Philadelphia Art Museum. In 2004, we went back for a meeting of the North American Conference for British Studies. We were there with a couple of friends, so we spent most of our time on that trip hanging out with them.

So, I wanted to take the opportunity to see more of the eighteenth-century sites and to learn more about eighteenth-century Philadelphia on this trip. I didn’t get to see everything I wanted — I had a habit of showing up when things were closed or when a long line of school children had just lined up at the door. But I go a little taste of eighteenth-century Philadelphia, and I know what I want to see when I go back.

Benjamin Franklin (1785)One of my first stops was the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which has a very good, if small, museum. I especially enjoyed seeing works by members of the Peale family. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and his brother James Peale (1749-1831) were painters. Charles Willson Peale studied under British painter Benjamin West and then taught his brother and several of his children to paint. These children included Raphaelle Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Rubens Peale, Titian Peale, and Angelica Kauffman Peale. His portrait of Benjamin Franklin in 1785 (right) is just one of his famous portraits, a genre in which he excelled. This painting is on display at the PAFA. Rembrandt Peale become one of the most important American painters of the early nineteenth century.