Ben Franklin Slept Here

Historic Philly: I venture out to see the sites.  The weather is gorgeous—sunny and not too hot.  Old Town, the historic area of about one square mile, is a short walk from the hotel.  I see quite a few things, including Betsy Ross’s house, Christ Church, and Mikveh Israel.  The old buildings are great, and I love the actors in period costumes who wander around and tell stories.  Some of them have mastered the knack of using present tense, as if they are still in their own era.  I learn the following interesting bits of trivia:

  • Betsy Ross was an upholsterer.
  • George Washington wanted six-pointed stars, as those in his family crest.  Betsy held out for five-pointed stars, as they are “easier to cut and sew.”  Would the nation’s history have been different had the flag been adorned with a bunch of magen david
  • Mikveh Israel, one of the nation’s oldest b’tei knesset, is Sephardi.
  • Philadelphia was considered the most free and liberal city, with an unusual tolerance for different religions.  Compare that to what was going on at the time in the Puritanical New England area, where people could be jailed for not attending church!
  • Despite being a Quaker, Betsy made ammo in her cellar to help the Revolutionaries.
  • I knew about the bifoculs, but I didn’t know that ol’ Ben invented swim flippers!

The oddest part of the day defitely has to be going into a discount store run by Rastafarians, and hearing the sales clerk speak Hebrew on the phone.  She freaked a bit when I talked to her, then grinned. 

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