Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin
Click on the photo to enlarge!

Benjamin Franklin

signer of the Declaration of Independence

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts January 17, 1706, the son of Josiah and Abiah (Folger) Franklin, seventy years before the colonists would declare independence from England. At the age of 10 he went to work for his father at the trade of candle and soap maker. Benjamin Franklin wanted to become a sailor and to discourage this his father made the effort to find a trade Benjamin would be happy in. James Franklin returned from England in 1717 with printing equipment to set up business in Boston, and Benjamin Franklin was indentured to his brother James at the age of 12 to learn the printing trade.

He began at an early age to educate himself, reading and practicing his writing skills. Benjamin Franklin also learned to live moderately, practicing vegetarianism at age 16 to save money and to have more time to devote to reading and study. He began his writing career by secretly submitting articles to his brother’s paper under the name Silence Dogood. The published articles were popular, and continued until James discovered that Benjamin was the author.

Benjamin did not enjoy working for his brother, and at the age of 17 was able to break his indentures. Unable to find work in Boston, he went to Philadelphia and settled there. Benjamin continued in the printing business and in 1729 acquired the Pennsylvania Gazette. After the first year he became sole publisher and owner.

Benjamin began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack, a book published yearly with information of interest to farmers. It included sayings such as "Poor Richard says…early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise". Benjamin Franklin published the almanac for twenty years, and became known for the sayings and quotes scattered throughout the publication.

In 1747 Benjamin Franklin took on a partner which gave him more free time to pursue his interest in scientific study and experimentation. Benjamin Franklin became famous in the Colonies and throughout Europe for his experiments with electricity. Franklin came up with the concept of positive and negative charge and is probably best known for his experiment to draw lightning with a kite. Franklin applied the knowledge he gained by the creation of the lightning rod. Explained in the 1753 issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack, it was designed to prevent a house from being hit by lightening. Other inventions include the Franklin stove and bifocal glasses.

Benjamin Franklin was also interested in community affairs, and helped to found one of the first volunteer fire companies as well as the first successful fire insurance company in the Colonies. He helped to found the Academy of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania and he also helped to found the Pennsylvania Hospital. He formed the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia and served as president from 1769 until his death. Because books were expensive and had to be imported from Europe, he formed the first subscription and lending library, where members would pool dues to buy books. Benjamin Franklin served in 1789 as President of the Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

Benjamin Franklin went to London in 1757 as Colonial Agent for Pennsylvania. He returned nearly twenty years later after war had broken out between England and the Colonies. He was elected to the second Continental Congress, and after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776 he was sent to France to negotiate treaties of alliance and commerce. Benjamin Franklin was successful in getting grants for the American war effort, and served as minister to France. He also helped to negotiate a treaty of Peace between England and the United States which was signed in 1783. Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1785.

Benjamin Franklin married Deborah Read in Philadelphia September 1, 1730. Benjamin Franklin died April 17, 1790.

Posted by Contact on Sunday December 13, 1998.