The Franklin Institute

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In my latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, my hero, Darius Thornton is determined to discover the possible causes of steamboat boiler explosions by conducting various experiments. In his quest for greater scientific understanding and to keep abreast of the latest scientific discoveries in the area, he subscribes to the Journal of the Franklin Institute, an actual publication that is still in print today.

The Franklin Institute Today

The Franklin Institute Today

The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824 for the promotion of the mechanic arts and the exploration of science. It is housed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and yes, it was named for the great Benjamin Franklin. It maintained a museum, and in 1826, started publishing a scientific journal which focused on the field of engineering and mechanics.

Darius turned to this journal to read up on the latest scientific theories regarding boiler construction and safety protocols. However, this journal also contained accounts of many of the explosions themselves, steamboats destroyed by an exploding boiler.

In my research, I found some wonderful old scans of the Journal from back in the same period in which my story takes place. In fact, articles in these old journals inspired many of the ideas I had for ways in which Darius could run his own experiments.

In the January 1850 edition of the Journal, I ran across an article describing the explosion of the Louisiana, the very tragedy that Darius experienced firsthand. Here’s the opening paragraphs:

FullSteamAhead Cover FinalI love that the Franklin Institute is still alive and well today and that it is still centered on scientific education and investigation. Maybe someday I’ll get to see it in person. If they had old journals on display, I’d probably find myself looking for the article that Darius and Nicole submitted somewhere among their 1852 collection.

  • Do you have a museum close to your home that you enjoy visiting?
  • What scientific invention are you most grateful for?
Karen Witemeyer
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

18 Comments

  1. Do you have a museum close to your home that you enjoy visiting?

    Unfortunately, no.

    What scientific invention are you most grateful for?

    Computers and the internet. 😀 I wouldn’t be writing or published if it wasn’t for computers and the internet.

  2. Wow. I should probably say that I am grateful of the telephone and computer. I am, however, I think my favorite invention is an invention that occurred well before any of those, it is the printing press. Getting the printed word to the masses is probably for what I am most grateful. My other would be indoor plumbing and a functioning sewage system.

  3. Faith – I’m with you on that one. When I went to college, I was still using an electric typewriter even though computers were becoming much more common. And the Internet? Wow, I couldn’t do my research half as thoroughly without it. I still love a good research book from the library, but having so much information readily at hand wherever I happen to be is a huge blessing!

  4. Dora – The printing press. Yes! I couldn’t agree more.

  5. I love visiting museums, all kinds of museums. One of my favorites is the Museum of the Fur Trade in western Nebraska.

    My favorite invention? I think because my favorite pastime is reading I would have to say the printing press but the computer would have to be on the short list because most all of my reading is in the form of ebooks.

  6. Hi Karen, I think I am most grateful for modern antibiotics. Would have lost our baby girl to meningitis otherwise. (oh, and tampons LOL.) As for the bigger picture…probably telephone.

    I love museums of any size, any sort. One recent amazing place was the Mining Museum in Leadville, Colorado. Wow, mining destroyed SO much…

  7. Hi Karen great post! I enjoy visiting history museums of all sorts and usually make it one of my stops when I’m traveling to a new city. As for favorite inventions, it would hard for me to pick just one (though labor-saving appliances like washing machines would definitely be on the list). While I love reading about the 19th century and early twentieth, I’m too fond of modern conveniences to ever want to actually live in those times.

  8. Connie- that fur traders museum sounds fabulous! I’d love to see that someday.

  9. Tanya- Angibiotics are a wonderful blessing. Great choice.

  10. Winnie-Amen! I love imagining the romantic version of the west. But living without modern conveniences would get old fast. Air conditioning alone would be seriously missed.

  11. Hi Karen, I didn’t know that the Franklin Institute is that old. I live by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and we love it. Of course, living in Southern California we have a feast of museums. My favorite is the Getty Museum.

    My favorite invention is the computer. I started out writing books on a typewriter and I never want to do that again.

  12. Margaret-That library sounds wonderful. I still lived in California when Reagan was president.

  13. We have a few small museums in our area. Our town is the oldest in the state of TN and the visitors’ center has a small museum. Neighboring towns all have history museums, the college has an art museum, and there is a museum at the Gray Fossil SITE. When we travel, we try to visit local museums. It is a good quick way to get to know the area a jet

  14. There is a small museum, The Rahr-West Museum in the neighboring city to my hometown. Last year it featured Frank LLoyd Wright. I was able to tour a home in Two Rivers which he designed. They have a piece of a Sputnik rocket that fell in Manitowoc. They have beautiful art on display. You can also walk through the Victorian home of Henry Vilas Jr. The child’s doll house is amazing!

    In Stuart, FL, The Elliott museum has vintage cars and memorabilia. New building

    The Milwaukee Public Museum has an ethnic village, Native American scenes, basically it covers Wisconsin life from prehistoric times to now. It has a small free butterfly garden too.

    Gainesville, FL also has a wonderful Natural History Museum. It covers Florida from prehistoric times to now. A huge butterfly area you have to pay to get in. You can see the workers working with the butterflies. The various stages of life for a caterpillar/butterfly are all on display.

    UW Madison Geology Museum. Gorgeous rocks, fossils, a mammoth which came from Missouri, a cave

    Discovery World in Milwaukee features toys, inventions, Les Paul the guitarist, a boat -interactive and informative

    Milwaukee Art Museum

    As you can see I love museums!

  15. There is a small museum, The Rahr-West Museum in the neighboring city to my hometown. Last year it featured Frank LLoyd Wright. I was able to tour a home in Two Rivers which he designed. They have a piece of a Sputnik rocket that fell in Manitowoc. They have beautiful art on display. You can also walk through the Victorian home of Henry Vilas Jr. The child’s doll house is amazing!

    In Stuart, FL, The Elliott museum has vintage cars and memorabilia. New building

    The Milwaukee Public Museum has an ethnic village, Native American scenes, basically it covers Wisconsin life from prehistoric times to now. It has a small free butterfly garden too.

    Gainesville, FL also has a wonderful Natural History Museum. It covers Florida from prehistoric times to now. A huge butterfly area you have to pay to get in. You can see the workers working with the butterflies. The various stages of life for a caterpillar/butterfly are all on display.

    UW Madison Geology Museum. Gorgeous rocks, fossils, a mammoth which came from Missouri, a cave

    Discovery World in Milwaukee features toys, inventions, Les Paul the guitarist, a boat -interactive and informative

    Milwaukee Art Museum

    As you can see I love museums!

    Scientific invention – car
    antibiotics too!

  16. OOPS! I thought I deleted the first response. I needed to add the scientific invention.

  17. Patricia – Oldest town in TN? What a cool distinction.

    Laurie – Another museum lover! Yay! And yes, I am very thankful for the car. The covered wagon just isn’t’ my ideal travel method. At least not outside of fiction. 🙂

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