Press Release

A Historic Super Bowl: John Adams and Benjamin Franklin Join the Competition


There are many bets being placed on this weekend’s match-up between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, but there is only one that involves John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and the two oldest learned societies in America.

The Super Bowl has inspired a wager between Robert Hauser, the executive officer of the American Philosophical Society (APS), based in Philadelphia and founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin, and Jonathan Fanton, the president of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based American Academy of Arts and Sciences founded in 1780 by John Adams and others.

If the Patriots are triumphant, then the APS will loan its original copy of Volume 1 of John Adams' A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787) for display at the American Academy.

If the Eagles emerge victorious, then the American Academy will loan APS a bound manuscript of Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity, published in 1751.

“Our support for the Patriots runs deep, not only because we have been in New England for more than 230 years but also because Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a member of our Academy,” said Jonathan Fanton.

"Ben Franklin escaped from Boston for Philadelphia at the age of 17, and, were he still around to celebrate this 275th year of the Society that he founded, I'm sure he would be rooting for our Eagles," said Robert Hauser.

History will be made at Super Bowl LII. History will also be shared.


American Philosophical Society American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The original copy of Volume 1 of John Adams' A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. APS Curator of Printed Materials, David Gary, says, "The story is that Adams sent two copies of A Defence to Franklin in early 1787. In a letter of thanks that Franklin wrote to Adams on May 18, 1787 (at the Massachusetts Historical Society), Franklin noted one copy was for himself and the other for the APS. This was only Vol. 1 of the 3 volumes, which was published 1787-1788. We do have the 2nd and 3rd volumes, but they were sent by Adams's son Thomas Boylston Adams in 1802. So Adams gifted the first volume directly to the APS, but it was presented to APS through Franklin. The APS minute book for 1787 shows Franklin delivered it on May 18, 1787 (photo attached). On one of the front free endpapers, Adams wrote ‘The American Philosophical Society at / Philadelphia from the Author.’” A bound manuscript containing copies of letters later published as Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America, by Mr. Benjamin Franklin, and Communicated in several Letters to Mr. P. Collinson, of London, F.R.S. (1751). In the summer of 1750, Franklin had handwritten copies prepared for James Bowdoin of Massachusetts, a like-minded amateur scientist and statesman who had recently visited him in Philadelphia. Franklin corrected the 155–page manuscript and forwarded it to Bowdoin on October 25, 1750. Bowdoin later became a founding member of the American Academy and served as its first president. The Academy received the manuscript in a bequest from Bowdoin that included the majority of his personal library.