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Interactive Visualization of People and Groups

Claire Rydell Arcenas and Caroline Winterer , 2016

The data visualizations below were created using the Palladio application developed at Stanford. The embedded visualizations are Palladio Bricks. Palladio is freely available to use at and the source code is available on GitHub here.

You will find an explanation of the visualization at the bottom of the page.



This map reveals the geographic distribution of Franklin’s correspondents—the individuals and groups—including Franklin himself, who were part of Franklin’s correspondence network during the London Years. For a description of the designation of “correspondent,” see the accompanying Data Schema.

The gray dots on the map indicate the “birthplace” of correspondents (or the city of origin for groups). The blue dots indicate the destination locations for the correspondence itself. Comparing place of birth and origin of Franklin’s correspondents to the destination of the correspondence itself is useful for better understanding the make-up of Franklin’s network with respect to “nationality” of correspondents. Birthplace on its own is not a great surrogate for “nationality.” The addition of destination information can serve as a quasi-proxy for where Franklin’s correspondents were living at the time he wrote to them. To see this, filter out Franklin as a recipient (or select him as the only author) using the facet feature explained below. The comparison of birthplace and location indicates a somewhat greater diversity in where people are born than where they are living at the time Franklin writes to them.

The size of the dots corresponds to the number of correspondents (gray) and the amount of correspondence going to a place (blue). If you hover your cursor over the dot the precise numbers will appear in parentheses below the dot. You can zoom in and out and recenter the map to get a more detailed view.

As was the case for the map depicting the geographic distribution of Franklin’s correspondence, we selected geocoordinates for the place “America” (without city or state information) that placed it in the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern seaboard of the present day United States as we found this less visually distracting than keeping it in the geographic center of the country.


To determine the make-up of Franklin’s correspondence during a particular period of time within the London decade, you can use this timeline feature. To select a year or span of years, click, hold, and drag your cursor in the white space above the bars along the x-axis timeline. By selecting a timespan filter, you will see on the map above only the correspondence received during the year(s) selected and the birthplaces for correspondents who wrote during the year(s) selected.

The timeline plots correspondence, but the height (y axis) corresponds to the number of people who have written or received letters on a particular date. Each bar corresponds to a month within the year. You may notice that often the bar at the beginning of each year—corresponding to the month of January—is usually taller. If the year for a letter is known, but the month or the day is unknown, the letter is placed at the beginning of the year. For example, for the year 1775, there is a significant number of letters for which we know their year but no other dating information, so the bar corresponding to January 1775 is quite tall.

If you wish to see only letters authored or received by a certain individual or group, you can use the facet filter explained in more detail below.


More specific information regarding Franklin’s individual correspondents is captured by the timespan histogram , which shows the birthdate and death date of individuals in Franklin’s correspondence network. The top date axis (top x-axis) indicates date of death and the bottom date axis (bottom x-axis) indicates date of birth. Lines connecting the dots indicating birth and death dates indicate the lifespan of individuals. Individual dots indicate when only the date of death is known. If the year of birth or death is known, but the month and day are not, the default display date is January 1 of that year.

Hovering your cursor over the lifespan line or date dot will pull up an individual’s name and date of birth and/or death along with birthplace, if known.

By clicking, holding, and dragging your cursor over either the top or the bottom date axis, you can filter by birthdate and death date independently. You can, for example, select entire lifetimes that coincided with a period or a period with concentrated dates of birth.

This timespan feature, for example, indicates that that the vast majority of Franklin’s correspondence were born between 1720 and 1760.

Facet filter

Using the facet filter, you can select what is displayed on the above map, timeline, and timespan visuals as well as what is displayed in the corresponding people spreadsheet below. You could choose to select based on name, whether or not the person was the author or the recipient, their gender, whether or not they were kin, the source city of the letter, or the destination city of the letter. For a description of how we designate gender and kin, for example, see the corresponding Data Schema.

To select a particular facet, click on the box containing the value. To exclude on a facet or to select “everything but,” first select all the values in the column, by clicking the checkbox in the upper right corner of the column. Then, click on the values (to deselect them) that you wish to exclude. You can also use the A→Z function in the upper right corner to reorder the values displayed. The numbers next to each person, place, or kin designation, separated by a “/” indicate the number being included by the facet filter / the total number.

You could, for example, choose to select Franklin as the author or Boston as the only destination city. Alternatively, you could select to view only female correspondents by selecting “F.” If you were to facet to include only female correspondents (excluding Franklin, groups, male correspondents, and “unspecified,” the diversity of birthplaces and locations decreases.

Below the facet filter is the spreadsheet which lists the 773 correspondents (individuals and groups including Franklin himself). Name, birthplace, year of birth, year of death, whether or not the person is related to Franklin, and the gender of the correspondent are listed. For a description of these categories and their parameters, see the corresponding Data Schema.

See the project Schema page for data viewer, the data schema, and a link to the data files.

View the full data set in the Palladio application: Launch Palladio

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Cite as

Claire Rydell Arcenas and Caroline Winterer. Interactive Visualization for Benjamin Franklin Papers: The London Decades. People and Groups [Created using Palladio,].