Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 [HYPERLINK "/wiki/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates"O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was one of the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Founding_Fathers_of_the_United_States"Founding Fathers of the HYPERLINK "/wiki/United_States"United States of America. A noted HYPERLINK "/wiki/Polymath"polymath, Franklin was a leading HYPERLINK "/wiki/Author"author and HYPERLINK "/wiki/Printer_(publisher)"printer, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Satire"satirist, HYPERLINK "/wiki/List_of_political_philosophers"political theorist, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Politician"politician, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Scientist"scientist, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Inventor"inventor, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Activism"civic activist, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Statesman"statesman, and HYPERLINK "/wiki/Diplomacy"diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the HYPERLINK "/wiki/American_Enlightenment"Enlightenment and the HYPERLINK "/wiki/History_of_physics"history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding HYPERLINK "/wiki/Electricity"electricity. He invented the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Lightning_rod"lightning rod, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Bifocals"bifocals, the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Franklin_stove"Franklin stove, a carriage HYPERLINK "/wiki/Odometer"odometer, and the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Glass_harmonica" \l "Benjamin_Franklin.27s_armonica"glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first HYPERLINK "/wiki/Public_library"public lending library in America and first HYPERLINK "/wiki/Fire_station"fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of HYPERLINK "/wiki/Thirteen_Colonies"colonial unity and as a political writer and activist he, more than anyone, invented the idea of an American nationHYPERLINK \l "cite_note-0" and as a diplomat during the HYPERLINK "/wiki/American_Revolution"American Revolution, he secured the HYPERLINK "/wiki/France%E2%80%93United_States_relations"French alliance that helped to make independence possible.
Franklin is credited as being foundational to the roots of American values and character, a marriage of the practical and democratic HYPERLINK "/wiki/Puritan"Puritan values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of HYPERLINK "/wiki/Henry_Steele_Commager"Henry Steele Commager, "In Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat."HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-1" To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin, "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-2"
Franklin became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in HYPERLINK "/wiki/Philadelphia"Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy, writing and publishing HYPERLINK "/wiki/Poor_Richard%27s_Almanack"Poor Richard's Almanack and the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Pennsylvania_Gazette_(newspaper)"Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin was interested in science and technology, and gained international renown for his famous experiments. He played a major role in establishing the HYPERLINK "/wiki/University_of_Pennsylvania"University of Pennsylvania and HYPERLINK "/wiki/Franklin_%26_Marshall_College"Franklin & Marshall College and was elected the first president of the HYPERLINK "/wiki/American_Philosophical_Society"American Philosophical Society. Franklin became a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Hero"national hero in America when he spearheaded the effort to have HYPERLINK "/wiki/Parliament_of_the_United_Kingdom"Parliament repeal the unpopular HYPERLINK "/wiki/Stamp_Act_1765"Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive HYPERLINK "/wiki/France%E2%80%93United_States_relations"Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was HYPERLINK "/wiki/United_States_Postmaster_General"Postmaster General under the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Continental_Congress"Continental Congress and from 1785 to 1788 was HYPERLINK "/wiki/Supreme_Executive_Council_of_the_Commonwealth_of_Pennsylvania" \l "Presidents_of_Council"President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Toward the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent HYPERLINK "/wiki/Abolitionism" \l "United_States"abolitionists.
Franklin's colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, has seen Franklin honored on coinage and money; warships; the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, namesakes, and companies; and more than two centuries after his death, countless cultural references.
HYPERLINK \l "Biography"1 Biography
HYPERLINK \l "Ancestry"1.1 Ancestry
HYPERLINK \l "Early_life"1.2 Early life
HYPERLINK \l "Common_Law_marriage_to_Deborah_Read"1.3 Common Law marriage to Deborah Read
HYPERLINK \l "Illegitimate_son_William"1.4 Illegitimate son William
HYPERLINK \l "Success_as_an_author"1.5 Success as an author
HYPERLINK \l "Inventions_and_scientific_inquiries"1.6 Inventions and scientific inquiries
HYPERLINK \l "Biographical_and_guides"9.1 Biographical and guides
HYPERLINK \l "Online_writings_by_Benjamin_Franklin"9.2 Online writings by Benjamin Franklin
HYPERLINK \l "The_Autobiography_of_Benjamin_Franklin"9.2.1 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
HYPERLINK \l "Franklin_in_the_arts"9.3 Franklin in the arts
HYPERLINK \l "Franklin_and_medicine"9.4 Franklin and medicine
HYPERLINK \l "IMDB"9.5 IMDB
Franklin's father, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Josiah_Franklin"Josiah Franklin, was born at HYPERLINK "/wiki/Ecton"Ecton, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Northamptonshire"Northamptonshire, England on December 23, 1657, the son of Thomas Franklin, a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Blacksmith"blacksmith and HYPERLINK "/wiki/Farmer"farmer, and Jane White. His mother, Abiah Folger, was born in HYPERLINK "/wiki/Nantucket,_Massachusetts"Nantucket, Massachusetts, on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger, a miller and schoolteacher and his wife HYPERLINK "/wiki/Mary_Morrill"Mary Morrill, a former HYPERLINK "/wiki/Indentured_servant"indentured servant. A descendant of the Folgers, HYPERLINK "/wiki/J._A._Folger"J.A. Folger, founded HYPERLINK "/wiki/Folgers"Folgers Coffee in the 19th century.
Josiah Franklin had seventeen children with his two wives. He married his first wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and emigrated with her to Boston in 1683; they had three children before emigrating, and four after. After her death, Josiah was married to Abiah Folger on July 9, 1689 in the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Old_South_Meeting_House"Old South Meeting House by HYPERLINK "/wiki/Samuel_Willard"Samuel Willard. Benjamin, their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin's fifteenth child and tenth and last son.
Josiah Franklin converted to HYPERLINK "/wiki/Puritan"Puritanism in the 1670s. Puritanism was a Protestant movement in England to "purify" HYPERLINK "/wiki/Anglicanism"Anglicanism from elements of the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Church"Roman Catholic religion, which they considered superstitious. Three things were important to the Puritans: that each congregation would be self-governing, that ministers give sermons instead of performing rituals such as a Mass, and individual Bible study so that each believer could develop a personal understanding and relationship with God. Puritanism appealed to smart, middle-class people such as Benjamin Franklin's father, who enjoyed the governance meetings, discussion, study, and personal independence.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-3"
The roots of American democracy can be seen in these Puritan values of self-government, the importance of the individual and active indignation against unjust authority, which were passed on to Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers, such as HYPERLINK "/wiki/John_Adams"John Adams. One of Josiah's core Puritan values was that personal worth is earned through hard work, which makes the industrious man the equal of kings, which Ben Franklin etched onto his father's tombstone, from his father Josiah's favorite Bible quote, from the Hebrew Bible, Proverbs 22:29: "Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before Kings."HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-4" Hard work and equality were two Puritan values Ben Franklin preached throughout his own life (ibid, p 78) and spread widely through Poor Richard's Almanac and his HYPERLINK "/wiki/The_Autobiography_of_Benjamin_Franklin"autobiography.
Ben Franklin's mother, Abiah Folger, was born into a Puritan family that was among the first Pilgrims to flee to Massachusetts for religious freedom, when King HYPERLINK "/wiki/Charles_I_of_England"Charles I of England began persecuting Protestants. They sailed for Boston in 1635. Her father was "the sort of rebel destined to transform colonial America."HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-5" As clerk of the court, he was jailed for disobeying the local magistrate in defense of middle-class shopkeepers and artisans in conflict with wealthy landowners. Ben Franklin followed in his grandfather's footsteps in his battles against the wealthy Penn family that owned the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Province_of_Pennsylvania"Pennsylvania Colony.
HYPERLINK "/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin_Birthplace.jpg"Franklin's Birthplace site directly across from HYPERLINK "/wiki/Old_South_Meeting_House"Old South Meeting House on Milk Street is commemorated by a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Bust_(sculpture)"bust above the second floor facade of this building
Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street, in HYPERLINK "/wiki/Boston"Boston, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Province_of_Massachusetts_Bay"Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-6" and HYPERLINK "/wiki/Infant_baptism"baptized at Old South Meeting House. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Tallow"tallow chandler, a maker of candles and soap, whose second wife, Abiah Folger, was Benjamin's mother. Josiah's marriages produced 17 children; Benjamin was the fifteenth child and youngest son. Josiah wanted Ben to attend school with the clergy but only had enough money to send him to school for two years. He attended HYPERLINK "/wiki/Boston_Latin_School"Boston Latin School but did not graduate; he continued his education through voracious reading. Although "his parents talked of the church as a career" for Franklin, his schooling ended when he was ten. He then worked for his father for a time and at 12 he became an HYPERLINK "/wiki/Apprenticeship"apprentice to his brother James, a printer, who taught Ben the printing trade. When Ben was 15, James created HYPERLINK "/wiki/The_New-England_Courant"The New-England Courant, HYPERLINK "/wiki/History_of_American_newspapers"the first truly independent newspaper in the colonies. When denied the chance to write a letter to the paper for publication, Franklin invented the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Pseudonym"pseudonym of "Mrs. HYPERLINK "/wiki/Silence_Dogood"Silence Dogood," who was ostensibly a middle-aged widow. Her letters were published, and became a subject of conversation around town. Neither James nor the Courant's readers were aware of the ruse, and James was unhappy with Ben when he discovered the popular correspondent was his younger brother. Franklin left his apprenticeship without permission, and in so doing became a fugitive.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-vandoren-7"
At age 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seeking a new start in a new city. When he first arrived he worked in several printer shops around town. However, he was not satisfied by the immediate prospects. After a few months, while working in a printing house, Franklin was convinced by Pennsylvania Governor HYPERLINK "/wiki/William_Keith_(colonial_governor)"Sir William Keith to go to London, ostensibly to acquire the equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia. Finding Keith's promises of backing a newspaper to be empty, Franklin worked as a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Compositing"compositor in a printer's shop in what is now the HYPERLINK "/wiki/St_Bartholomew-the-Great"Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great in the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Smithfield,_London"Smithfield area of London. Following this, he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 with the help of a merchant named Thomas Denham, who gave Franklin a position as clerk, shopkeeper, and bookkeeper in Denham's merchant business.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-vandoren-7"
In 1727, Benjamin Franklin, 21, created the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Junto"Junto, a group of "like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community." The Junto was a discussion group for issues of the day; it subsequently gave rise to many organizations in Philadelphia.
Reading was a great pastime of the Junto, but books were rare and expensive. The members created a library, and initially pooled their own books together. This did not work, however, and Franklin initiated the idea of a subscription library, where the members pooled their monetary resources to buy books. This idea was the birth of the Library Company, with the charter of the HYPERLINK "/wiki/Library_Company_of_Philadelphia"Library Company of Philadelphia created in 1731 by Franklin. Franklin hired the first American librarian in 1732, HYPERLINK "/wiki/Louis_Timothee"Louis Timothee.
HYPERLINK "/wiki/File:Franklin_the_printer.jpg"Benjamin Franklin (center) at work on a printing press, as depicted in a painting by Charles E. Mills
Originally, the books were kept in the homes of the first librarians, but in 1739 the collection was moved to the second floor of the State House of Pennsylvania, now known as HYPERLINK "/wiki/Independence_Hall_(United_States)"Independence Hall. In 1791, a new building was built specifically for the library. The Library Company flourished with no competition and gained many priceless collections from bibliophiles such as HYPERLINK "/wiki/James_Logan_(statesman)"James Logan and his physician brother William. The Library Company is now a great scholarly and research library with 500,000 rare books, pamphlets, and broadsides, more than 160,000 manuscripts, and 75,000 graphic items.
Upon Denham's death, Franklin returned to his former trade. By 1730, Franklin had set up a printing house of his own and had contrived to become the publisher of a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette. The Gazette gave Franklin a forum for agitation about a variety of local reforms and initiatives through printed essays and observations. Over time, his commentary, together with a great deal of savvy about cultivating a positive image of an industrious and intellectual young man, earned him a great deal of social respect; though even after Franklin had achieved fame as a scientist and statesman, he habitually signed his letters with the unpretentious 'B. Franklin, Printer.'HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-vandoren-7"
In 1731, Franklin was initiated into the local HYPERLINK "/wiki/Freemasonry"Freemason lodge, becoming a grand master in 1734, indicating his rapid rise to prominence in Pennsylvania.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-HC-8"HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-9" That same year, he edited and published the first Masonic book in the Americas, a reprint of James Anderson's HYPERLINK "/wiki/Masonic_manuscripts"Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Franklin remained a Freemason throughout the rest of his life.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-10"HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-11"
Common Law marriage to Deborah Read
At the age of 17, Franklin proposed to 15 year old HYPERLINK "/wiki/Deborah_Read"Deborah Read while a boarder in the Read home. At that time, the mother was wary of allowing her young daughter to wed Franklin, who was on his way to London at Governor Sir HYPERLINK "/wiki/William_Keith"William Keith's request, and also because of his financial instability. Her own husband having recently died, Mrs. Read declined his offer of marriage to her daughter.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-vandoren-7" Besides, Franklin had a baby boy named William, by a woman whose identity remains unknown.
While Franklin was in London, his trip was extended, and there were problems to do with Sir William's promises of support. Perhaps because of the circumstances of this delay, Deborah married a man named John Rodgers. This proved to be a regrettable decision. Rodgers shortly avoided his debts and prosecution by fleeing to HYPERLINK "/wiki/Barbados"Barbados with her HYPERLINK "/wiki/Dowry"dowry, leaving Deborah behind. With Rodgers' fate unknown, and bigamy illegal, Deborah was not free to remarry.
Franklin established a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Common-law_marriage"common-law marriage with Deborah Read on September 1, 1730,HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-12" and besides taking in young William, together they had two children. The first, Francis Folger Franklin, born October 1732, died of HYPERLINK "/wiki/Smallpox"smallpox in 1736. HYPERLINK "/wiki/Sarah_Franklin_Bache"Sarah Franklin, nicknamed Sally, was born in 1743. She eventually married HYPERLINK "/wiki/Richard_Bache"Richard Bache, had seven children, and cared for her father in his old age.
Deborah's fear of the sea meant that she never accompanied Franklin on any of his extended trips to Europe, despite his repeated requests. However, Franklin did not leave London to visit Deborah even after she wrote to him in November 1769 saying her illness was due to “dissatisfied distress” because of his prolonged absence.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-13" Deborah Read Franklin died of a HYPERLINK "/wiki/Stroke"stroke in 1774, while Benjamin was on an extended trip to England.
Illegitimate son William
In 1730, at the age of 24, Franklin publicly acknowledged an illegitimate son named HYPERLINK "/wiki/William_Franklin"William, who would eventually become the last Loyalist governor of HYPERLINK "/wiki/New_Jersey"New Jersey. While the identity of William's mother remains unknown, perhaps the responsibility of an infant child gave Franklin a reason to take up residence with Deborah Read. William was raised in the Franklin household but eventually broke with his father over opinions regarding the treatment of the colonies by the British government. The elder Franklin could never accept William's decision to declare his loyalty to the crown.
Any hope of reconcillation was shattered when William Franklin became leader of the The Board of Associated Loyalists—a quasi-military organization, headquartered in British occupied New York City, which, among other things, launched guerilla forages into New Jersey, southern Connecticut, and New York counties north of the city. HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-14" In the preliminary peace talks in 1782 with Britain "...Franklin insisted that loyalists who had borne arms against the United States would be excluded from this plea (that they be given a general pardon). He was undoubtedly thinking of William Franklin."HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-15". William left New York along with the British troops. He settled in England, never to return.
In 1733, Franklin began to publish the famous Poor Richard's Almanack (with content both original and borrowed) under the pseudonymRichard Saunders, on which much of his popular reputation is based. Franklin frequently wrote under pseudonyms. Although it was no secret that Franklin was the author, his Richard Saunders character repeatedly denied it. "Poor Richard's Proverbs," adages from this almanac, such as "A penny saved is twopence dear" (often misquoted as "A penny saved is a penny earned"), "Fish and visitors stink in three days" remain common quotations in the modern world. Wisdom in folk society meant the ability to provide an apt adage for any occasion, and Franklin's readers became well prepared. He sold about ten thousand copies per year (a circulation equivalent to nearly three million today).
In 1758, the year in which he ceased writing for the Almanack, he printed Father Abraham's Sermon, also known as The Way to Wealth. Franklin's autobiography, published after his death, has become one of the classics of the genre.
Inventions and scientific inquiries
Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the lightning rod, the glass harmonica, the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, and the flexible urinary catheter. Franklin never patented his inventions; in his autobiography he wrote, "... as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." His inventions also included social innovations, such as paying forward.
As deputy postmaster, Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns. In 1768 Franklin visited England as postmaster general and there he heard a curious complaint by Colonial board of Customs: Why did it take British mail ships which were called packets couple of weeks longer to reach New York from England then it took an average merchant ship to reach Newport, Rhode Island despite merchants ships leaving Londonhaving to sail down Thames and then the length of the English channel before they sailed across Atlantic, while the packets left from Falmouth in Cornwall right on the ocean's doorstep. Intrigued, Franklin invited his cousin Timothy Folger, an experienced Nantucket whaler captain, who happened to be in London at that time, for dinner. Folger told him that Merchant ships routinely avoided Gulf stream while the mail packet captains sailed dead into its foul easetrly set despite American whalers telling them that they were stemming a current to the value of three miles an hour. Franklin worked with Folger and other experienced ship captains, learning enough to chart the Gulf Stream, giving it the name by which it's still known today. It took many years for British sea captains to follow Franklin's advice on navigating the current, but once they did, they were able to gain two weeks in sailing time.HYPERLINK \l "cite_note-18" Franklin's Gulf Stream chart got published in 1770, in England where it was completely ignored. Subsequent versions were printed in France in 1778 and the United states in 1786. The British edition of the chart which was the original was so thoroughly ignored that everyone assumed it was lost forever until, Phil Richardson, a Woods Hole Oceanographer and Gulf Stream expert discovered it in Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. This got front page coverage in New York Times.
In 1743, Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society to help scientific men discuss their discoveries and theories. He began the electrical research that, along with other scientific inquiries, would occupy him for the rest of his life, in between bouts of politics and moneymaking.