It was a pleasant surprise to find that there is no end to the varied and obscure Museums in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin is pervasive in Philadelphia. And rightly so since he laid the foundations for most institutions in the city and, in a larger sense, the country. So, when in Philly, you sometimes find yourself wondering, “What would Ben Franklin do” in such-and-such situation? At least we did. So applying this strategy to our museum schedule, considering his love of science, art, and innovation, we picked an itinerary we thought Ben would have appreciated. One of them he might even have visited personally!
1 Rodin Museum
The story of how Philadelphia’s Rodin museum came about is as interesting and curious as any museum-founding-story I have come across. It goes like this: In 1901 Samuel Stockton White, the twenty-five-year-old heir to Philadelphia’s S.S. White Dental Manufacturing company, was on a trip exploring Europe. While in Paris, he met Auguste Rodin, who, intrigued by the athletic physique of White, asked if he would model for a sculpture. White, amused by the proposition, agreed, and the result was Rodin’s sculpture, “The Athlete”.
Back in Philadelphia a few years later at a social gathering, White met the wealthy movie theater magnate and philanthropist, Jules Mastbaum. Mastbaum mentioned to White that he was in the process of looking for sculptures to place in the foyers of his movie theaters across the country. Fresh off his modeling experience in Paris, White told him about Rodin and suggested that Mastbaum might like his work. Intrigued, Mastbaum started voraciously collecting Rodin sculptures. With the resources to back up his fancies, a collection soon developed and within only three years he had amassed the biggest collection of Rodin sculptures outside France. His collection included such notable works as The Kiss, The Thinker, Eternal Springtime, Burghers of Calais, and The Age of Bronze.