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Ben Franklin to make appearance at Historic Camden

Posted: October 29, 2010 4:51 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2010 5:00 a.m.

“Benjamin Franklin,” America’s beloved founding father, is coming to Camden Thursday and Friday. Even though it’s 220 years later, it makes sense. After all, Camden was host to a slew of Revolutionary War-era notables such as President George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, and patriot generals Horatio Gates, Nathanael Greene, and Baron de Kalb. 
In fact, had it not been for Franklin (1706-1790), who, with Silas Dean, was in Paris in 1776 as Commissioners to France, Baron Johann de Kalb would not have been among the foreign officers invited to America to fight for Liberty’s cause. Nor would the valiant German have died in Kershaw County from numerous wounds he received at the August 1780 Battle of Camden or be buried in front of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, a National Landmark, in downtown Camden.

At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, visiting “Ben” will enthrall young and old at the Kershaw-Cornwallis House at Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site. His delightful presentation, hosted by the trustees of Historic Camden, will kick off this year’s annual Revolutionary War Field Days on Saturday and Sunday.

The weekend also marks the 40th anniversary of the museum. Recognized as one of the significant historical tourist attractions in South Carolina, Historic Camden has shared Camden’s rich colonial and Revolutionary War history with some 780,000 guests over the years. “We wanted to do something really special this year and decided a visit from ‘Ben’ would appeal to lots of folks and have a link to our history” said Dr. Tray Dunaway, chairman of the Historic Camden Foundation.

In the real world, “Ben” is historical storyteller and performer Art Yeaman (  Originally from the dairy farm area of Northeast Ohio, Yeaman graduated from First Coast Technical Institute’s Agri-Science program. While on active duty as a U.S. Marine for 22 years he developed his public speaking skills, first as a recruiter presenting military history to high school students, then as a training presenter to servicemen. Today, having accrued 25 years of public speaking experience, Yeaman is a nationally recognized storyteller with memberships with the National Speakers Association and the National Storytelling Network.

Yeaman is a former University Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences staff member, a Florida Master Naturalist, and tour guided for Green Cove Springs and Clay County, Florida, where he and his wife, Jenny, reside. Driven by passions for the natural world, local history and America's colonial days, he positions himself as an Ecoheritage Innovation Specialist.

Yeaman believes that the natural world is the best classroom and that history needs to be alive not stuck between the covers of a book. Over the years he has developed a variety of lively educational and entertaining programs that fit his credo. Most popular with schools, churches, libraries, museums, business and civic groups is his portrayal of Ben Franklin, and to a lesser extent statesman Henry Clay (1777-1852) and naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823).

He annually goes to College Station, Texas to perform as “Ben” with the Bush Museum Storytellers Guild at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and also performs for the Youth Leadership Foundation. Other commitments as an educator and consultant include daily history writing for Gifts of History, in depth research into the development of the U.S. Constitution, and developing a 4-R’s program (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repair).

For those interested in meeting “Ben” in a more intimate setting, Historic Camden will host “An Evening With Ben” from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Kershaw-Cornwallis House. After a candle light dinner of sumptuous 18th century fare provided by Camden Fireplace Catery, guests will be charmed by the wit and wisdom Dr. Franklin. For reservations of $100 per couple or $60 per person are due today call 432-9841. All proceeds to benefit Historic Camden.

For families and history buffs wanting a fun, free Friday adventure, come to Historic Camden at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 5. This may be your only chance to chat with statesman, inventor, diplomat, scientist, printer, philosopher “Ben Franklin.”

For information, call 432-9841 or email Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, located at 222 Broad Street, Camden, SC 29020, is 1.4 miles on Highway 521 North from Exit 98/I-20.


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