Philadelphia celebrates Ben Franklin's 300th birthday

Several hundred people gathered Tuesday at the National Constitution Center for a fete kicking off yearlong celebrations of the 300th birthday of American founding father, statesman, philosopher and inventor &to=http://english.pravda.ru/usa/2001/09/21/15863.html' target=_blank>Benjamin Franklin.

Watching the proceedings front and center was Franklin himself, played by Ralph Archbold, who watched as groups of people came up on stage to take part in the lighting of the 300 electric candles on the 8-foot-tall (2.4-meter-tall) three-tiered faux birthday cake. The cake was topped by a kite with Franklin's portrait, symbolizing his famous kite-flying experiment that identified the presence of electricity in lightning.

"Ben, you don't look a day over 275," joked Richard Stengel, president and CEO of the Constitution Center.

Also Tuesday, other parties were planned at the children's museum and city library, while the American Philosophical Society _ founded by Franklin in 1743 _ led a procession to the founding father's grave near Independence Hall. Future events in the yearlong celebration include concerts, exhibitions and lectures.