Elizabeth MacMillan Director John Gray’s remarks include a special presentation of one of the museum’s treasures—a suit worn by Benjamin Franklin.
Often described as the “Father of American Philanthropy,” Benjamin Franklin believed that society’s needs could be addressed through the mutual action and generosity of like-minded individuals. The nation’s first hospital and public subscription library are just two institutions that bear his philanthropic imprint. Franklin introduced an alternative way of thinking about the improvement of mankind—a way that strove to be more democratic, egalitarian, creative, and resourceful, much like the new nation itself.
As a diplomat, Franklin consciously projected this spirit in his manner and dress. He wore this understated three-piece suit, embodying the character of a new nation, as he stepped into the opulent French courts to secure the 1778 Treaty of Alliance. It is the only example of Franklin’s clothing in existence.
Franklin supported the concept of public-private partnerships for the common good. That model of collaboration and philanthropy allowed the Museum to acquire this suit through the donation of Marilyn L. Brown and Douglas N. Morton and matching funds from the Charles Bremner Hogg Jackson Fund.
About the Speaker
John L. Gray
Elizabeth MacMillan Director
National Museum of American History
JOHN L. GRAY is the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, dedicated to preserving and sharing an unparalleled collection of national treasures. Under Gray’s leadership, the museum is boldly reimagining its three-floor West Wing around dynamic exhibitions and programs on the themes of Innovation, Democracy and the Peopling of America, and American Culture. Prior to becoming the museum’s ninth director, he was founding president of the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. He serves on the board of St. John’s College in Annapolis and Santa Fe.