Super Bowl Victory Inspires Historic American Knowledge Exhibit

Public Domain/North Carolina History Online

Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1753

An academic wager on Super Bowl LVII has been fulfilled with the opening of the exhibition Promoting Useful Knowledge: The American Philosophical Society and Science in Early America, at Kansas City's Linda Hall Library,

The city's library of science, engineering and technology made a bet with Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society earlier in the year. If the Kansas City Chiefs won the Lombardi Trophy against the Philadelphia Eagles, then it would lend its first edition of Mary Somerville's On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834) for inclusion in APS's current exhibition Pursuit and Persistence: 300 Years of Women in Science. The APS in return offered a 1752 copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack, the annual publication produced from 1732 to 1758 by its founder Benjamin Franklin.

Consequently, the Almanack is now proudly on display at The Linda Hall Library through July where it has inspired the Promoting Useful Knowledge display, alongside half a dozen other early American scientific texts examining the nature of knowledge and how best it could be shared.

According to Jason Dean, co-curator of the exhibition: "Useful knowledge, including weather data, calendars, and astronomical tables, filled the pages of popular almanacs in 18th century America. It also appeared in longer studies exploring early concepts of conservation or applying geometry and mathematics to artillery, of interest to APS members like George Washington. Other APS members were responsible for creating and sharing useful knowledge in publications of their own, including the works of Thomas Jefferson and William Bartram, which are included in this exhibition."

Other titles on display include Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1794),  William Bartram's Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), A New System of Husbandry by Charles Varlo (1785), John Muller's  A Treatise of Artillery (1779), Ames' Almanack (1759), and Thomas' Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode-Island, Newhampshire & Vermont almanack (1797).