Who was Benjamin Franklin?

Just a hint: He was never President of the United States

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706, the tenth son and one of 17 children for his father. At age 12 Franklin became an apprentice at his brother James' print shop. When he was 15, his brother started The New England Courant the first independent newspaper in Boston. Benjamin wanted to write for the paper too, but knew that his brother wouldn't let him. So he began writing letters at night and signing them with the name of a fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Dogood was filled with advice and very critical of the world around her, particularly concerning the treatment of women. Franklin would sneak the letters under the print shop door at night so no one knew who was writing the them. They were a hit, and everyone wanted to know who the real "Silence Dogood" was. After confessing to his brother at age 16 about being Dogood, Franklin was at odds with James which eventually culminated in Benjamin running away to Philadelphia in 1723, an illegal act at the time.

Once in Philadelphia, Franklin stuck to his roots and became a printer's apprentice once more, an area in which he gained renown. After some time, including an unintentional few months stuck in England, Franklin borrowed some money and set up his own print shop. In 1730 Benjamin married his childhood sweetheart, Deborah Read. In addition to running a print shop, Franklin ran a book store and the family also ran their own store, with Read selling everything from soap to fabric. In 1729, Benjamin Franklin bought a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin not only printed the paper, but often contributed pieces to the paper under different aliases. His newspaper soon became the most successful in the colonies. This newspaper, among other firsts, would print the first political cartoon, authored by Franklin himself.

In 1733 he started publishing Poor Richard's Almanac.

Almanacs of the era were printed annually, and contained things like weather reports, recipes, predictions and homilies. Franklin published his almanac under the guise of a man named Richard Saunders, a poor man who needed money to take care of his carping wife. What distinguished Franklin's almanac were his witty aphorisms and lively writing. Many of the famous phrases associated with Franklin, such as, "A penny saved is a penny earned" come from Poor Richard. Franklin's printing business was thriving in the 1730s and 1740s. He started setting up franchise printing partnerships in other cities. By 1749 he retired from business and started concentrating on science, experiments, and inventions. This was nothing new to Franklin. In 1743, he had already invented a heat-efficient stove — called the Franklin stove — to help warm houses efficiently. Among Franklin's other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica and bifocals. 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."

In the early 1750's he turned to the study of electricity. His observations, including his kite experiment which verified the nature of electricity and lightning brought Franklin international fame.

By 1957, Franklin was actively involved in politics and was in England as a representative of Pennsylvania in its fight with the descendants of the Penn family over who should represent the Colony. He remained in England to 1775, as a Colonial representative not only of Pennsylvania, but of Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts as well. He eventually decided to break ties with England after getting Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act, as he had grown tired of the rampant corruption in the British government. It was then that he began to seriously advocate for the Colonies to become a unified nation apart from England.

Franklin began to actively work toward independence.

Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on the committee that helped to draft the Declaration of Independence. Though much of the writing is Thomas Jefferson's, Franklin's contribution is not insignificant. In 1776 Franklin signed the Declaration, and afterward sailed to France as an ambassador to the Court of Louis XVI.

The French loved Franklin. He had controlled lightning, he spoke French, was a notorious flirt and the ladies loved him (his wife had died in 1775). Partly because of Franklin's popularity, the government of France signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Americans in 1778. He was able to make sure that America maintained the alliance with France and in 1783, Franklin was there to sign the Treaty of Paris, after the Americans had won the Revolution.

After returning to America in his late seventies, he became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the Constitution. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789.

Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84.

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