PHILLY-GOOD FACTOR; Neil Masuda Enjoys the History, Sport and Soul of Philadelphia. Home of Benjamin Franklin and Setting for the Declaration of Independence

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Masuda

RAPPER P Diddy once observed in a lyric that life is all about the Benjamins. The Benjamin Franklins, that is. He was the Founding Father whose face is on an American 100 dollar bill.

And in Philadelphia there's no getting away from big Ben.

The man who helped to frame the US Constitution has left a major legacy on the streets of America's fifth largest city.

There's Franklin Square, Franklin Bridge, Franklin Institute... and ardent fans of Philadelphia's new football team are known as the Sons of Ben.

But Franklin was not the city's founder. That was William Penn in 1682. He gave it a familiar look to modern British eyes by building in brick rather the wood you see elsewhere in the States. Penn had personally witnessed the Great Fire of London and was determined to make sure that could never happen in his city.

Number One item on the tourist trail in Philly is the Liberty Bell, the symbol of American independence.

It was one of the bells rung to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776, but then cracked in the 19th century.

Veteran national park ranger Frank Eidmann explained its significance before taking me across the street to Independence Hall where the leaders of Britain's American colonies met to debate and then decide on the Declaration of Independence; where George Washington kept order and where Ben Franklin's wisdom helped frame the historic statement.

Nearby in the National Constitution Center you can wander among life-size bronze statues of the 39 delegates who signed the US Constitution... and yes, of course, Ben is there too.

Among Franklin's many sayings is the undeniable: "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Appropriate in a city that once had 700 different breweries.

Famous sons and daughters of Philly include actors Will Smith and Bill Cosby, actress and later princess Grace Kelly, comedian WC Fields and former world champion boxer Joe Frazier.

Talking of boxers, most visitors feel compelled to see the "Rocky Steps", leading up to the Museum of Art, which Sylvester Stallone's character ran up as part of his training campaign in Rocky III... though our tour guide says his stunt double did most if it and Stallone cheated by running up just the last seven! …