Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSE (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6,
1705] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of
the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading
author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason,
postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman,
and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American
Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and
theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the
lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other
inventions. He founded many civic organizations, including
Philadelphia's fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.
Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and
indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author
and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United
States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American
nation. Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as
a marriage of the practical 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 historian Henry
Steele Commager, "In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of
Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment
without its heat." 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."
Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in
Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the
Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23. He became wealthy publishing
this and Poor Richard's Almanack, which he authored under the
pseudonym "Richard Saunders". After 1767, he was associated with the
Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its
revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.
He pioneered and was first president of Academy and College of
Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of
Pennsylvania. He organized and was the first secretary of the American
Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin
became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies
when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of
Great Britain repeal the unpopular 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
Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American
Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.
He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies
in 1753, having been
Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this
enabled him to set up the first national communications network.
During the Revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster
General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state
politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to
1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and
dealt in slaves but, by the 1750s, he argued against slavery from an
economic perspective and became one of the most prominent
His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement,
and his status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers,
have seen Franklin honored more than two centuries after his death on
coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns,
counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as
countless cultural references.
2 Early life in Boston
3.1 Junto and library
Common-law marriage to Deborah Read
3.5 William Franklin
3.6 Success as an author
4 Inventions and scientific inquiries
Kite experiment and lightning rod
4.2 Population studies
Atlantic Ocean currents
4.4 Wave theory of light
4.6 Traction kiting
4.7 Concept of cooling
4.8 Temperature's effect on electrical conductivity
4.9 Oceanography findings
4.11 Oil on water
5 Musical endeavors
7 Public life
7.1 Early steps in Pennsylvania
7.2 Decades in London
7.3 Travels around Britain and Ireland
7.4 Visits to Europe
7.5 Defending the American cause
7.6 Hutchinson letters leak
7.7 Coming of revolution
7.8 Declaration of Independence
7.10 Ambassador to France: 1776–1785
7.11 Constitutional Convention
7.12 President of Pennsylvania
8 Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs
8.1 Thirteen Virtues
11.2 Franklin on U.S. postage
11.3 Bawdy Ben
11.5 Places and things named after Benjamin Franklin
12 See also
14 Further reading
14.2 Scholarly studies
14.4 Primary sources
15 External links
15.1 Biographical and guides
15.2 Online writings
15.4 In the arts
Benjamin Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a
soap-maker and a candle-maker. Josiah was born at Ecton,
England on December 23, 1657, the son of Thomas
Franklin, a blacksmith-farmer, and Jane White. Benjamin's mother,
Abiah Folger, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on August 15,
1667, to Peter Folger, a miller and schoolteacher, and his wife, Mary
Morrell Folger, a former indentured servant.
Benjamin's father and all four of his grandparents were born in
Josiah had seventeen children with his two wives. He married his first
wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and immigrated with her to
Boston in 1683; they had three children before immigrating, and four
after. Following her death, Josiah was married to Abiah Folger on July
9, 1689 in the
Old South Meeting House
Old South Meeting House by Samuel Willard. Benjamin,
their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin's fifteenth child and tenth
and last son.
Benjamin's mother, Abiah, was born into a
Puritan family that was
among the first Pilgrims to flee to
Massachusetts for religious
freedom, when King Charles I of
England began persecuting Puritans.
They sailed for
Boston in 1635. Her father was "the sort of rebel
destined to transform colonial America." 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
Ancestors of Benjamin Franklin
8. Henry Franckline
b. 1573, Ecton, Northamptonshire, England[unreliable source?]
4. Thomas Franklin
b. 1598, Ecton, Northamptonshire, England
9. Agnes Joanes
b. Ecton, Northamptonshire, England
2. Josiah Franklin
b. December 23, 1657, Ecton, Northamptonshire, England
5. Jane White
1. Benjamin Franklin[unreliable source?]
b. 1705, Boston, Massachusetts
12. John Folger Jr.
b. c. 1594, Norwich, England
6. Peter Folger
b. 1617, Norwich, Norfolk, England
13. Meribah Gibbs
3. Abiah Folger
b. August 15, 1667, Nantucket, Massachusetts
7. Mary Morrill
b. c. 1619, England
Early life in Boston
Franklin's birthplace on Milk Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Franklin's birthplace site directly across from Old South Meeting
House on Milk Street is commemorated by a bust above the second floor
facade of this building.
Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street, in Boston, Massachusetts,
on January 17, 1706, and baptized at Old South Meeting House.
He was one of seventeen children born to Josiah Franklin, and one of
ten born by Josiah's second wife, Abiah Folger; the daughter of Peter
Foulger and Mary Morrill. Among Benjamin's siblings were his older
brother James and his younger sister Jane.
Josiah wanted Ben to attend school with the clergy, but only had
enough money to send him to school for two years. He attended 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
worked for his father for a time, and at 12 he became an apprentice to
his brother James, a printer, who taught Ben the printing trade. When
Ben was 15, James founded The New-
England Courant, which was the first
truly independent newspaper in the colonies.
When denied the chance to write a letter to the paper for publication,
Franklin adopted the pseudonym of "
Silence Dogood", a middle-aged
widow. Mrs. Dogood's 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 was an
advocate of free speech from an early age. When his brother was jailed
for three weeks in 1722 for publishing material unflattering to the
governor, young Franklin took over the newspaper and had Mrs. Dogood
(quoting Cato's Letters) proclaim: "Without freedom of thought there
can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty
without freedom of speech." Franklin left his apprenticeship
without his brother's permission, and in so doing became a
La scuola della economia e della morale (1825)
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, but he was not satisfied by the immediate
prospects. After a few months, while working in a printing house,
Franklin was convinced by
Pennsylvania 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 empty, Franklin worked as a typesetter
in a printer's shop in what is now the Church of St
Bartholomew-the-Great in the Smithfield area of London. Following
this, he returned to
Philadelphia in 1726 with the help of Thomas
Denham, a merchant who employed Franklin as clerk, shopkeeper, and
bookkeeper in his business.
Junto and library
In 1727, Benjamin Franklin, then 21, created the 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. The Junto was modeled after
English coffeehouses that Franklin knew well, and which had become the
center of the spread of Enlightenment ideas in Britain.
Reading was a great pastime of the Junto, but books were rare and
expensive. The members created a library initially assembled from
their own books after Franklin wrote:
A proposition was made by me that since our books were often referr'd
to in our disquisitions upon the inquiries, it might be convenient for
us to have them altogether where we met, that upon occasion they might
be consulted; and by thus clubbing our books to a common library, we
should, while we lik'd to keep them together, have each of us the
advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would be
nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole.
This did not suffice, however. Franklin conceived the idea of a
subscription library, which would pool the funds of the members to buy
books for all to read. This was the birth of the Library Company of
Philadelphia: its charter was composed by Franklin in 1731. In 1732,
Franklin hired the first American librarian, Louis Timothee. The
Library Company is now a great scholarly and research library.
Benjamin Franklin (center) at work on a printing press. Reproduction
of a Charles Mills painting by the Detroit Publishing Company.
Upon Denham's death, Franklin returned to his former trade. In 1728,
Franklin had set up a printing house in partnership with Hugh
Meredith; the following year he became the publisher of a newspaper
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, and his
adroit cultivation of a positive image as an industrious and
intellectual young man, earned him a great deal of social respect. But
even after Franklin had achieved fame as a scientist and statesman, he
habitually signed his letters with the unpretentious 'B. Franklin,
In 1732, Ben Franklin published the first German-language newspaper in
America – Die Philadelphische Zeitung – although it failed after
only one year, because four other newly founded German papers quickly
dominated the newspaper market. Franklin printed Moravian
religious books in German. Franklin often visited Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania staying at the Moravian Sun Inn. In a 1751 pamphlet
on demographic growth and its implications for the colonies, he called
Pennsylvania Germans "Palatine Boors" who could never acquire the
"Complexion" of the English settlers and to "Blacks and Tawneys" as
weakening the social structure of the colonies. Although Franklin
apparently reconsidered shortly thereafter, and the phrases were
omitted from all later printings of the pamphlet, his views may have
played a role in his political defeat in 1764.
Franklin saw the printing press as a device to instruct colonial
Americans in moral virtue. In Benjamin Franklin's Journalism, Ralph
Frasca argues he saw this as a service to God, because he understood
moral virtue in terms of actions, thus, doing good provides a service
to God. Despite his own moral lapses, Franklin saw himself as uniquely
qualified to instruct Americans in morality. He tried to influence
American moral life through construction of a printing network based
on a chain of partnerships from the Carolinas to New England. Franklin
thereby invented the first newspaper chain. It was more than a
business venture, for like many publishers since, he believed that the
press had a public-service duty.
Coat of Arms of Benjamin Franklin
When Franklin established himself in Philadelphia, shortly before
1730, the town boasted two "wretched little" news
sheets, Andrew Bradford's The American Weekly Mercury, and Samuel
Keimer's Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, and
Pennsylvania Gazette. This instruction in all arts and sciences
consisted of weekly extracts from Chambers's Universal Dictionary.
Franklin quickly did away with all this when he took over the
Instructor and made it The
Pennsylvania Gazette. The Gazette soon
became Franklin's characteristic organ, which he freely used for
satire, for the play of his wit, even for sheer excess of mischief or
of fun. From the first, he had a way of adapting his models to his own
uses. The series of essays called "The Busy-Body", which he wrote for
Bradford's American Mercury in 1729, followed the general Addisonian
form, already modified to suit homelier conditions. The thrifty
Patience, in her busy little shop, complaining of the useless visitors
who waste her valuable time, is related to the ladies who address Mr.
The Busy-Body himself is a true Censor Morum, as Isaac
Bickerstaff had been in the Tatler. And a number of the fictitious
characters, Ridentius, Eugenius, Cato, and Cretico, represent
traditional 18th-century classicism. Even this Franklin could use for
contemporary satire, since Cretico, the "sowre Philosopher", is
evidently a portrait of Franklin's rival, Samuel Keimer.[citation
As time went on, Franklin depended less on his literary conventions,
and more on his own native humor. In this there is a new spirit—not
suggested to him by the fine breeding of Addison, or the bitter irony
of Swift, or the stinging completeness of Pope. The brilliant little
pieces Franklin wrote for his
Pennsylvania Gazette have an
imperishable place in American literature.
Pennsylvania Gazette, like most other newspapers of the period,
was often poorly printed. Franklin was busy with a hundred matters
outside of his printing office, and never seriously attempted to raise
the mechanical standards of his trade. Nor did he ever properly edit
or collate the chance medley of stale items that passed for news in
the Gazette. His influence on the practical side of journalism was
minimal. On the other hand, his advertisements of
books show his very great interest in popularizing secular literature.
Undoubtedly his paper contributed to the broader culture that
Pennsylvania from her neighbors before the Revolution.
Like many publishers, Franklin built up a book shop in his printing
office; he took the opportunity to read new books before selling
Franklin had mixed success in his plan to establish an inter-colonial
network of newspapers that would produce a profit for him and
disseminate virtue. He began in Charleston, South Carolina, in
1731. After the second editor died, his widow
Elizabeth Timothy took
over and made it a success, 1738–46. She was one of the colonial
era's first woman printers. For three decades Franklin maintained
a close business relationship with her and her son Peter who took over
in 1746. The Gazette had a policy of impartiality in political
debates, while creating the opportunity for public debate, which
encouraged others to challenge authority. Editor Peter Timothy avoided
blandness and crude bias, and after 1765 increasingly took a patriotic
stand in the growing crisis with Great Britain. However,
Connecticut Gazette (1755–68) proved unsuccessful.
In 1731, Franklin was initiated into the local Masonic lodge. He
became Grand Master in 1734, indicating his rapid rise to prominence
in Pennsylvania. That same year, he edited and published the
first Masonic book in the Americas, a reprint of James Anderson's
Constitutions of the Free-Masons. Franklin remained a
the rest of his life.
Common-law marriage to Deborah Read
Deborah Read Franklin
(c. 1759). Common-law wife of Benjamin Franklin
Sarah Franklin Bache
Sarah Franklin Bache (1743–1808). Daughter of
Benjamin Franklin and
At age 17 in 1723, Franklin proposed to 15-year-old
Deborah Read while
a boarder in the Read home. At that time, Read's mother was wary of
allowing her young daughter to marry Franklin, who was on his way to
London at Governor Sir William Keith's request, and also because of
his financial instability. Her own husband had recently died, and she
declined Franklin's request to marry her daughter.
While Franklin was in London, his trip was extended, and there were
problems 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
Barbados with her
dowry, leaving her behind. Rodgers's fate was unknown, and because of
bigamy laws, Deborah was not free to remarry.
Franklin established a common-law marriage with
Deborah Read on
September 1, 1730. They took in Franklin's recently acknowledged young
illegitimate son William and raised him in their household. They had
two children together. Their son, Francis Folger Franklin, was born in
October 1732 and died of smallpox in 1736. Their daughter, Sarah
"Sally" Franklin, was born in 1743 and grew up to marry Richard Bache,
have seven children, and look after 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, and another possible reason why
they spent so much time apart is that he may have blamed her for
preventing their son Francis from being vaccinated against the disease
that subsequently killed him. Deborah wrote to him in November
1769 saying she was ill due to "dissatisfied distress" from his
prolonged absence, but he did not return until his business was
Deborah Read Franklin died of a stroke in 1774, while
Franklin was on an extended mission to England; he returned in 1775.
See also: William Franklin
In 1730, 24-year-old Franklin publicly acknowledged the existence of
his son William, who was deemed "illegitimate," as he was born out of
wedlock, and raised him in his household. His mother's identity is
unknown. He was educated in Philadelphia. Beginning at about age
30, William studied law in London in the early 1760s. He fathered an
illegitimate son, William Temple Franklin, born February 22, 1762. The
boy's mother was never identified, and he was placed in foster care.
Later in 1762, William married Elizabeth Downes, daughter of a planter
from Barbados. After William passed the bar, his father helped him
gain an appointment in 1763 as the last Royal Governor of New Jersey.
A Loyalist, William and his father eventually broke relations over
their differences about the American Revolutionary War. The elder
Franklin could never accept William's position. Deposed in 1776 by the
revolutionary government of New Jersey, William was arrested at his
Perth Amboy at the
Proprietary House and imprisoned for a
time. The younger Franklin went to New York in 1782, which was still
occupied by British troops. He became leader of the Board of
Associated Loyalists—a quasi-military organization, headquartered in
New York City. They initiated guerrilla forays into New Jersey,
southern Connecticut, and New York counties north of the city.
When British troops evacuated from New York,
William Franklin left
with them and sailed to England. He settled in London, never to return
to North America. In the preliminary peace talks in 1782 with Britain,
Benjamin 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
Success as an author
Franklin's The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle (Jan. 1741)
In 1733, Franklin began to publish the noted Poor Richard's Almanack
(with content both original and borrowed) under the pseudonym Richard
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") and "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—it became an institution. In 1741 Franklin began
publishing The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle for all the
British Plantations in America, the first such monthly magazine of
this type published in America.
In 1758, the year he ceased writing for the Almanack, he printed
Father Abraham's Sermon, also known as The Way to Wealth. Franklin's
autobiography, begun in 1771 but published after his death, has become
one of the classics of the genre.
Daylight saving time
Daylight saving time (DST) is often erroneously attributed to a 1784
satire that Franklin published anonymously. Modern DST was first
George Vernon Hudson
George Vernon Hudson in 1895.
Inventions and scientific inquiries
Further information: Social contributions and studies by Benjamin
Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the
lightning rod, glass harmonica (a glass instrument, not to be confused
with the metal harmonica), 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
Benjamin Franklin Drawing
Electricity from the Sky c. 1816 at the
Philadelphia Museum of Art, by Benjamin West
Franklin started exploring the phenomenon of electricity in 1746 when
he saw some of Archibald Spencer's lectures using static electricity
for illustrations. Franklin proposed that "vitreous" and
"resinous" electricity were not different types of "electrical fluid"
(as electricity was called then), but the same "fluid" under different
pressures. (The same proposal was made independently that same year by
William Watson.) Franklin was the first to label them as positive and
negative respectively, and he was the first to discover the
principle of conservation of charge. In 1748 he constructed a
multiple plate capacitor, that he called an "electrical battery" (not
to be confused with Volta's pile) by placing eleven panes of glass
sandwiched between lead plates, suspended with silk cords and
connected by wires.
In recognition of his work with electricity, Franklin received the
Copley Medal in 1753, and in 1756 he became one of the
few 18th-century Americans elected as a Fellow of the Society. He
received honorary degrees from
Yale universities (his
first). The cgs unit of electric charge has been named after him:
one franklin (Fr) is equal to one statcoulomb.
Harvard University in its acquisition of new
electrical laboratory apparatus after the complete loss of its
original collection, in a fire which destroyed the original Harvard
Hall in 1764. The collection he assembled would later become part of
Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, now on
public display in its
Franklin briefly investigated electrotherapy, including the use of the
electric bath. This work led to the field becoming widely known.
Kite experiment and lightning rod
Main article: Kite experiment
Electricity vignette engraved by the BEP (c. 1860)
In 1750, he published a proposal for an experiment to
prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that
appeared capable of becoming a lightning storm. On May 10, 1752,
Thomas-François Dalibard of France conducted Franklin's experiment
using a 40-foot-tall (12 m) iron rod instead of a kite, and he
extracted electrical sparks from a cloud. On June 15 Franklin may
possibly have conducted his well-known kite experiment in
Philadelphia, successfully extracting sparks from a cloud. Franklin
described the experiment in the
Pennsylvania Gazette on October 19,
1752, without mentioning that he himself had performed it.
This account was read to the
Royal Society on December 21 and printed
as such in the Philosophical Transactions. Joseph Priestley
published an account with additional details in his 1767 History and
Present Status of Electricity. Franklin was careful to stand on an
insulator, keeping dry under a roof to avoid the danger of electric
shock. Others, such as Prof.
Georg Wilhelm Richmann
Georg Wilhelm Richmann in Russia,
were indeed electrocuted in performing lightning experiments during
the months immediately following Franklin's experiment.
In his writings, Franklin indicates that he was aware of the dangers
and offered alternative ways to demonstrate that lightning was
electrical, as shown by his use of the concept of electrical ground.
Franklin did not perform this experiment in the way that is often
pictured in popular literature, flying the kite and waiting to be
struck by lightning, as it would have been dangerous. Instead he
used the kite to collect some electric charge from a storm cloud,
showing that lightning was electrical. On October 19
in a letter to
England with directions for repeating the experiment,
When rain has wet the kite twine so that it can conduct the electric
fire freely, you will find it streams out plentifully from the key at
the approach of your knuckle, and with this key a phial, or Leyden
jar, may be charged: and from electric fire thus obtained spirits may
be kindled, and all other electric experiments [may be] performed
which are usually done by the help of a rubber glass globe or tube;
and therefore the sameness of the electrical matter with that of
lightening completely demonstrated.
Franklin's electrical experiments led to his invention of the
lightning rod. He said that conductors with a sharp rather than a
smooth point could discharge silently, and at a far greater distance.
He surmised that this could help protect buildings from lightning by
attaching "upright Rods of Iron, made sharp as a Needle and gilt to
prevent Rusting, and from the Foot of those Rods a Wire down the
outside of the Building into the Ground; ... Would not these
pointed Rods probably draw the Electrical Fire silently out of a Cloud
before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that
most sudden and terrible Mischief!" Following a series of experiments
on Franklin's own house, lightning rods were installed on the Academy
Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) and the
Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in 1752.
Franklin had a major influence on the emerging science of demography,
or population studies.
Thomas Malthus is noted for his rule of
population growth and credited Franklin for discovering it. Kammen
(1990) and Drake (2011) say Franklin's "Observations on the Increase
of Mankind" (1755) stands alongside Ezra Stiles' "Discourse on
Christian Union" (1760) as the leading works of eighteenth-century
Anglo-American demography; Drake credits Franklin's "wide readership
and prophetic insight."
In the 1730s and 1740s, Franklin began taking notes on population
growth, finding that the American population had the fastest growth
rate on earth. Emphasizing that population growth depended on food
supplies—a line of thought later developed by Thomas
Malthus—Franklin emphasized the abundance of food and available
farmland in America. He calculated that America's population was
doubling every twenty years and would surpass that of
England in a
century. In 1751, he drafted "Observations concerning the Increase
of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c." Four years later, it was
anonymously printed in Boston, and it was quickly reproduced in
Britain, where it influenced the economist
Adam Smith and later the
demographer Thomas Malthus. Franklin's predictions alarmed British
leaders who did not want to be surpassed by the colonies, so they
became more willing to impose restrictions on the colonial
Franklin was also a pioneer in the study of slave demography, as shown
in his 1755 essay.
Atlantic Ocean currents
As deputy postmaster, Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic
Ocean circulation patterns. While in
England in 1768, he heard a
complaint from the Colonial Board of Customs: Why did it take British
packet ships carrying mail several weeks longer to reach New York than
it took an average merchant ship to reach Newport, Rhode Island? The
merchantmen had a longer and more complex voyage because they left
from London, while the packets left from Falmouth in Cornwall.
Franklin put the question to his cousin Timothy Folger, a Nantucket
whaler captain, who told him that merchant ships routinely avoided a
strong eastbound mid-ocean current. The mail packet captains sailed
dead into it, thus fighting an adverse current of 3 miles per hour
(5 km/h). Franklin worked with Folger and other experienced ship
captains, learning enough to chart the current and name it the Gulf
Stream, by which it is still known today.
Franklin published his
Gulf Stream chart in 1770 in England, where it
was completely ignored. Subsequent versions were printed in France in
1778 and the U.S. 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 the Bibliothèque Nationale in
Paris in 1980. This find received front-page coverage in the
New York Times.
It took many years for British sea captains to adopt Franklin's advice
on navigating the current; once they did, they were able to trim two
weeks from their sailing time. In 1853, the oceanographer and
Matthew Fontaine Maury
Matthew Fontaine Maury noted that while Franklin charted
and codified the Gulf Stream, he did not discover it:
Though it was Dr. Franklin and Captain Tim Folger, who first turned
Gulf Stream to nautical account, the discovery that there was a
Gulf Stream cannot be said to belong to either of them, for its
existence was known to Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, and to Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, in the 16th century.
Wave theory of light
Franklin was, along with his contemporary Leonhard Euler, the only
major scientist who supported Christiaan Huygens's wave theory of
light, which was basically ignored by the rest of the scientific
community. In the 18th century Newton's corpuscular theory was held to
be true; only after Young's well-known slit experiment in 1803 were
most scientists persuaded to believe Huygens's theory.
On October 21, 1743, according to popular myth, a storm moving from
the southwest denied Franklin the opportunity of witnessing a lunar
eclipse. Franklin was said to have noted that the prevailing winds
were actually from the northeast, contrary to what he had expected. In
correspondence with his brother, Franklin learned that the same storm
had not reached
Boston until after the eclipse, despite the fact that
Boston is to the northeast of Philadelphia. He deduced that storms do
not always travel in the direction of the prevailing wind, a concept
that greatly influenced meteorology.
After the Icelandic volcanic eruption of
Laki in 1783, and the
subsequent harsh European winter of 1784, Franklin made observations
connecting the causal nature of these two separate events. He wrote
about them in a lecture series.
Benjamin Franklin has been most noted kite-wise with his
lightning experiments, he has also been noted by many for his using
kites to pull humans and ships across waterways. The George Pocock
in the book A TREATISE on The Aeropleustic Art, or Navigation in the
Air, by means of Kites, or Buoyant Sails noted being inspired by
Benjamin Franklin's traction of his body by kite power across a
waterway. In his later years he suggested using the technique for
Concept of cooling
Franklin noted a principle of refrigeration by observing that on a
very hot day, he stayed cooler in a wet shirt in a breeze than he did
in a dry one. To understand this phenomenon more clearly Franklin
conducted experiments. In 1758 on a warm day in Cambridge, England,
Franklin and fellow scientist John Hadley experimented by continually
wetting the ball of a mercury thermometer with ether and using bellows
to evaporate the ether. With each subsequent evaporation, the
thermometer read a lower temperature, eventually reaching 7 °F
(−14 °C). Another thermometer showed that the room temperature
was constant at 65 °F (18 °C). In his letter Cooling by
Evaporation, Franklin noted that, "One may see the possibility of
freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day."
Temperature's effect on electrical conductivity
According to Michael Faraday, Franklin's experiments on the
non-conduction of ice are worth mentioning, although the law of the
general effect of liquefaction on electrolytes is not attributed to
Franklin. However, as reported in 1836 by Prof. A. D. Bache of the
University of Pennsylvania, the law of the effect of heat on the
conduction of bodies otherwise non-conductors, for example, glass,
could be attributed to Franklin. Franklin writes, "... A certain
quantity of heat will make some bodies good conductors, that will not
otherwise conduct ..." and again, "... And water, though
naturally a good conductor, will not conduct well when frozen into
An illustration from Franklin's paper on "Water-spouts and Whirlwinds"
An aging Franklin accumulated all his oceanographic findings in
Maritime Observations, published by the Philosophical Society's
transactions in 1786. It contained ideas for sea anchors,
catamaran hulls, watertight compartments, shipboard lightning rods and
a soup bowl designed to stay stable in stormy weather.
In a 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley, Franklin lays out the earliest
known description of the Pro & Con list, a common
decision-making technique, now sometimes called a decisional balance
... my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two
Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during
three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads
short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to
me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together
in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and
where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them
both out: If I find a
Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I
strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some
three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find
at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of
farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on
either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.
Oil on water
While traveling on a ship, Franklin had observed that the wake of a
ship was diminished when the cooks scuttled their greasy water. He
studied the effects on a large pond in Clapham Common, London. "I
fetched out a cruet of oil and dropt a little of it on the
water ... though not more than a teaspoon full, produced an
instant calm over a space of several yards square." He later used the
trick to "calm the waters" by carrying "a little oil in the hollow
joint of my cane".
Franklin is known to have played the violin, the harp, and the guitar.
He also composed music, notably a string quartet in early classical
style. While he was in London, he developed a much-improved version of
the glass harmonica, in which the glasses rotate on a shaft, with the
player's fingers held steady, instead of the other way around. He
worked with the London glassblower Charles James to create it, and
instruments based on his mechanical version soon found their way to
other parts of Europe.
Franklin was an avid chess player. He was playing chess by around
1733, making him the first chess player known by name in the American
colonies. His essay on "The Morals of Chess" in Columbian magazine
in December 1786 is the second known writing on chess in America.
This essay in praise of chess and prescribing a code of behavior for
the game has been widely reprinted and translated. He
and a friend also used chess as a means of learning the Italian
language, which both were studying; the winner of each game between
them had the right to assign a task, such as parts of the Italian
grammar to be learned by heart, to be performed by the loser before
their next meeting.
Franklin was able to play chess more frequently against stronger
opposition during his many years as a civil servant and diplomat in
England, where the game was far better established than in America. He
was able to improve his playing standard by facing more experienced
players during this period. He regularly attended Old Slaughter's
Coffee House in London for chess and socializing, making many
important personal contacts. While in Paris, both as a visitor and
later as ambassador, he visited the famous Café de la Régence, which
France's strongest players made their regular meeting place. No
records of his games have survived, so it is not possible to ascertain
his playing strength in modern terms.
Franklin was inducted into the U.S.
Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Franklin Mercantile
Chess Club in Philadelphia, the second oldest
chess club in the U.S., is named in his honor.
Early steps in Pennsylvania
Join, or Die: This political cartoon by Franklin urged the colonies to
join together during the
French and Indian War
French and Indian War (Seven Years' War).
In 1736, Franklin created the Union Fire Company, one of the first
volunteer firefighting companies in America. In the same year, he
printed a new currency for
New Jersey based on innovative
anti-counterfeiting techniques he had devised. Throughout his career,
Franklin was an advocate for paper money, publishing A Modest Enquiry
into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency in 1729, and his
printer printed money. He was influential in the more restrained and
thus successful monetary experiments in the Middle Colonies, which
stopped deflation without causing excessive inflation. In 1766 he made
a case for paper money to the British House of Commons.
As he matured, Franklin began to concern himself more with public
affairs. In 1743, he first devised a scheme for The Academy, Charity
School, and College of Philadelphia. However, the person he had in
mind to run the academy, Rev. Richard Peters, refused and Franklin put
his ideas away until 1749, when he printed his own pamphlet, Proposals
Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania.:30 He was
appointed president of the Academy on November 13, 1749; the Academy
and the Charity School opened on August 13, 1751.
In 1743, Franklin founded the
American Philosophical Society
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
In 1747, Franklin (already a very wealthy man) retired from printing
and went into other businesses. He created a partnership with his
foreman, David Hall, which provided Franklin with half of the shop's
profits for 18 years. This lucrative business arrangement provided
leisure time for study, and in a few years he had made discoveries
that gave him a reputation with educated persons throughout Europe and
especially in France.
Franklin became involved in
Philadelphia politics and rapidly
progressed. In October 1748, he was selected as a councilman, in June
1749 he became a
Justice of the Peace
Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia, and in 1751 he
was elected to the
Pennsylvania Assembly. On August 10, 1753, Franklin
was appointed deputy postmaster-general of British North America, (see
below). His most notable service in domestic politics was his reform
of the postal system, with mail sent out every week.
Pennsylvania Hospital by William Strickland, 1755
In 1751, Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond obtained a charter from the
Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital. Pennsylvania
Hospital was the first hospital in what was to become the United
States of America.
In 1752, Franklin organized the
Philadelphia Contributionship, the
first homeowner's insurance company in what would become the United
Between 1750 and 1753, the "educational triumvirate" of Dr.
Benjamin Franklin, the American Dr.
Samuel Johnson of Stratford,
Connecticut, and the immigrant Scottish schoolteacher Dr. William
Smith built on Franklin's initial scheme and created what Bishop James
Madison, president of the College of William & Mary, called a
"new-model" plan or style of American college. Franklin solicited,
printed in 1752, and promoted an American textbook of moral philosophy
from the American Dr.
Samuel Johnson titled Elementa Philosophica
to be taught in the new colleges to replace courses in denominational
Seal of the College of Philadelphia
In June 1753, Johnson, Franklin, and Smith met in Stratford. They
decided the new-model college would focus on the professions, with
classes taught in English instead of Latin, have subject matter
experts as professors instead of one tutor leading a class for four
years, and there would be no religious test for admission.
Johnson went on to found King's College (now Columbia University) in
New York City in 1754, while Franklin hired Smith as Provost of the
College of Philadelphia, which opened in 1755. At its first
commencement, on May 17, 1757, seven men graduated; six with a
Bachelor of Arts and one as Master of Arts. It was later merged with
the University of the State of
Pennsylvania to become the University
of Pennsylvania. The College was to become influential in guiding the
founding documents of the United States: in the Continental Congress,
for example, over one third of the college-affiliated men who
contributed the Declaration of Independence between September 4, 1774,
and July 4, 1776, were affiliated with the College.
In 1753, both Harvard and Yale awarded him honorary
In 1754, he headed the
Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress.
This meeting of several colonies had been requested by the Board of
England to improve relations with the Indians and defense
against the French. Franklin proposed a broad Plan of Union for the
colonies. While the plan was not adopted, elements of it found their
way into the
Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
Sketch of the original Tun Tavern
In 1756, Franklin received an honorary master of arts degree from the
College of William and Mary. Later in 1756, Franklin organized
Militia (see "Associated Regiment of Philadelphia"
under heading of Pennsylvania's 103rd Artillery and 111th Infantry
Regiment at Continental Army). He used
Tun Tavern as a gathering place
to recruit a regiment of soldiers to go into battle against the Native
American uprisings that beset the American colonies. Reportedly
Franklin was elected "Colonel" of the Associated Regiment but declined
Decades in London
Franklin in London, 1767, wearing a blue suit with elaborate gold
braid and buttons, a far cry from the simple dress he affected at the
French court in later years. Painting by David Martin, displayed in
the White House.
From the mid 1750s to the mid 1770s, Franklin spent much of his time
in London. Officially he was there on a political mission, but he used
his time to further his scientific explorations as well, meeting many
In 1757, he was sent to
England by the
Pennsylvania Assembly as a
colonial agent to protest against the political influence of the Penn
family, the proprietors of the colony. He remained there for five
years, striving to end the proprietors' prerogative to overturn
legislation from the elected Assembly, and their exemption from paying
taxes on their land. His lack of influential allies in
to the failure of this mission.
At this time, many members of the
Pennsylvania Assembly were feuding
with William Penn's heirs, who controlled the colony as proprietors.
After his return to the colony, Franklin led the "anti-proprietary
party" in the struggle against the Penn family, and was elected
Speaker of the
Pennsylvania House in May 1764. His call for a change
from proprietary to royal government was a rare political
miscalculation, however: Pennsylvanians worried that such a move would
endanger their political and religious freedoms. Because of these
fears, and because of political attacks on his character, Franklin
lost his seat in the October 1764 Assembly elections. The
anti-proprietary party dispatched Franklin to
England again to
continue the struggle against the
Penn family proprietorship. During
this trip, events drastically changed the nature of his mission.
Pennsylvania colonial currency printed by Franklin in 1764
In London, Franklin opposed the 1765 Stamp Act. Unable to prevent its
passage, he made another political miscalculation and recommended a
friend to the post of stamp distributor for Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvanians were outraged, believing that he had supported the
measure all along, and threatened to destroy his home in Philadelphia.
Franklin soon learned of the extent of colonial resistance to the
Stamp Act, and he testified during the House of Commons proceedings
that led to its repeal.
With this, Franklin suddenly emerged as the leading spokesman for
American interests in England. He wrote popular essays on behalf of
the colonies. Georgia, New Jersey, and
Massachusetts also appointed
him as their agent to the Crown.
Franklin lodged in a house in Craven Street, just off The Strand in
central London. During his stays there, he developed a close
friendship with his landlady, Margaret Stevenson, and her circle of
friends and relations, in particular her daughter Mary, who was more
often known as Polly. Their house, which he used on various lengthy
missions from 1757 to 1775, is the only one of his residences to
survive. It opened to the public as the
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House museum
Whilst in London, Franklin became involved in radical politics. He
belonged to a gentleman's club (which he called "the honest Whigs"),
which held stated meetings, and included members such as Richard
Price, the minister of
Newington Green Unitarian Church
Newington Green Unitarian Church who ignited
Revolution Controversy, and Andrew Kippis.
In 1756, Franklin had become a member of the
Society for the
Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (now the Royal
Society of Arts or RSA), which had been founded in 1754 and whose
early meetings took place in Covent Garden coffee shops. After his
return to the United States in 1775, Franklin became the Society's
Corresponding Member, continuing a close connection. The RSA
Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1956 to commemorate the 250th
anniversary of his birth and the 200th anniversary of his membership
of the RSA.
The study of natural philosophy (what we would call science) drew him
into overlapping circles of acquaintance. Franklin was, for example, a
corresponding member of the Lunar
Society of Birmingham, which
included such other scientific and industrial luminaries as Matthew
Boulton, James Watt,
Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin; on occasion
he visited them.
In 1759, the
University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews awarded Franklin an honorary
doctorate in recognition of his accomplishments. He was also
awarded an honorary doctorate by
Oxford University in 1762. Because of
these honors, Franklin was often addressed as "Dr. Franklin."
Franklin also managed to secure an appointed post for his illegitimate
son, William Franklin, by then an attorney, as Colonial Governor of
While living in London in 1768, he developed a phonetic alphabet in A
Scheme for a new Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling. This
reformed alphabet discarded six letters Franklin regarded as redundant
(c, j, q, w, x, and y), and substituted six new letters for sounds he
felt lacked letters of their own. His new alphabet, however, never
caught on, and he eventually lost interest.
Travels around Britain and Ireland
Franklin used London as a base to travel. In 1771, he made short
journeys through different parts of England, staying with Joseph
Priestley at Leeds,
Thomas Percival at
Manchester and Erasmus Darwin
In Scotland, he spent five days with Lord Kames near
stayed for three weeks with
David Hume in Edinburgh. In 1759, he
Edinburgh with his son, and recalled his conversations there
as "the densest happiness of my life". In February 1759, the
University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws
degree. From then he was known as "Doctor Franklin". In October
of the same year he was granted Freedom of the Borough of St
He had never been to Ireland before, and met and stayed with Lord
Hillsborough, who he believed was especially attentive. Franklin noted
of him that "all the plausible behaviour I have described is meant
only, by patting and stroking the horse, to make him more patient,
while the reins are drawn tighter, and the spurs set deeper into his
sides." In Dublin, Franklin was invited to sit with the members
of the Irish Parliament rather than in the gallery. He was the first
American to receive this honor. While touring Ireland, he was
moved by the level of poverty he saw. Ireland's economy was affected
by the same trade regulations and laws of Britain that governed
America. Franklin feared that America could suffer the same effects
should Britain's "colonial exploitation" continue.
Visits to Europe
Franklin spent two months in German lands in 1766, but his connections
to the country stretched across a lifetime. He declared a debt of
gratitude to German scientist
Otto von Guericke
Otto von Guericke for his early studies
of electricity. Franklin also co-authored the first treaty of
friendship between Prussia and America in 1785.
In September 1767, Franklin visited Paris with his usual traveling
partner, Sir John Pringle. News of his electrical discoveries was
widespread in France. His reputation meant that he was introduced to
many influential scientists and politicians, and also to King Louis
Defending the American cause
One line of argument in Parliament was that Americans should pay a
share of the costs of the French and Indian War, and that therefore
taxes should be levied on them. Franklin became the American spokesman
in highly publicized testimony in Parliament in 1766. He stated that
Americans already contributed heavily to the defense of the Empire. He
said local governments had raised, outfitted and paid 25,000 soldiers
to fight France—as many as Britain itself sent—and spent many
millions from American treasuries doing so in the French and Indian
In 1773, Franklin published two of his most celebrated pro-American
satirical essays: "Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a
Small One", and "An Edict by the King of Prussia".
Hutchinson letters leak
Main article: Hutchinson Letters Affair
In June 1773 Franklin obtained private letters of Thomas Hutchinson
and Andrew Oliver, governor and lieutenant governor of the Province of
Massachusetts Bay, that proved they were encouraging the Crown to
crack down on Bostonians. Franklin sent them to America, where they
escalated the tensions. The letters were finally leaked to the public
Boston Gazette in mid-June 1773, causing a political
Massachusetts and raising significant questions in
England. The British began to regard him as the fomenter of
serious trouble. Hopes for a peaceful solution ended as he was
systematically ridiculed and humiliated by Solicitor-General Alexander
Wedderburn, before the Privy Council on January 29, 1774. He returned
Philadelphia in March 1775, and abandoned his accommodationist
Coming of revolution
In 1763, soon after Franklin returned to
the first time, the western frontier was engulfed in a bitter war
known as Pontiac's Rebellion. The Paxton Boys, a group of settlers
convinced that the
Pennsylvania government was not doing enough to
protect them from American Indian raids, murdered a group of peaceful
Susquehannock Indians and marched on Philadelphia. Franklin helped to
organize a local militia to defend the capital against the mob. He met
with the Paxton leaders and persuaded them to disperse. Franklin wrote
a scathing attack against the racial prejudice of the Paxton Boys. "If
an Indian injures me", he asked, "does it follow that I may revenge
that Injury on all Indians?"
He provided an early response to British surveillance through his own
network of counter-surveillance and manipulation. "He waged a public
relations campaign, secured secret aid, played a role in privateering
expeditions, and churned out effective and inflammatory
Declaration of Independence
John Trumbull depicts the
Committee of Five
Committee of Five presenting their work to
By the time Franklin arrived in
Philadelphia on May 5, 1775, after his
second mission to Great Britain, the
American Revolution had
begun—with fighting between colonials and British at Lexington and
Concord. The New
England militia had trapped the main British army in
Pennsylvania Assembly unanimously chose Franklin as their
delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In June 1776, he was
appointed a member of the
Committee of Five
Committee of Five that drafted the
Declaration of Independence. Although he was temporarily disabled by
gout and unable to attend most meetings of the Committee, Franklin
made several "small but important" changes to the draft sent to
him by Thomas Jefferson.
At the signing, he is quoted as having replied to a comment by John
Hancock that they must all hang together: "Yes, we must, indeed, all
hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
First US postage stamp
Issue of 1847
Well known as a printer and publisher, Franklin was appointed
Philadelphia in 1737, holding the office until 1753,
when he and publisher William Hunter were named deputy
postmasters–general of British North America, the first to hold the
office. (Joint appointments were standard at the time, for political
reasons.) Franklin was responsible for the British colonies from
Pennsylvania north and east, as far as the island of Newfoundland. A
post office for local and outgoing mail had been established in
Halifax, Nova Scotia, by local stationer Benjamin Leigh, on April 23,
1754, but service was irregular. Franklin opened the first post office
to offer regular, monthly mail in what would later become Canada, at
Halifax, on December 9, 1755. Meantime, Hunter became postal
administrator in Williamsburg,
Virginia and oversaw areas south of
Annapolis, Maryland. Franklin reorganized the service's accounting
system, then improved speed of delivery between Philadelphia, New York
and Boston. By 1761, efficiencies led to the first profits for the
colonial post office.
Benjamin Franklin on a
Canada Post stamp of
2013, with colonial
Quebec City in background
When the lands of
New France were ceded to the British under the
Treaty of Paris in 1763, the new British province of Quebec was
created among them, and Franklin saw mail service expanded between
Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, and New York. For the greater
part of his appointment, Franklin lived in
England (from 1757 to 1762,
and again from 1764 to 1774)—about three-quarters of his term.
Eventually, his sympathies for the rebel cause in the American
Revolution led to his dismissal on January 31, 1774.
On July 26, 1775, the Second
Continental Congress established the
United States Post Office and named
Benjamin Franklin as the first
United States Postmaster General. Franklin had been a postmaster for
decades and was a natural choice for the position. He had just
England and was appointed chairman of a Committee of
Investigation to establish a postal system. The report of the
Committee, providing for the appointment of a postmaster general for
the 13 American colonies, was considered by the Continental Congress
on July 25 and 26. On July 26, 1775, Franklin was appointed Postmaster
General, the first appointed under the Continental Congress. It
established a postal system that became the United States Post Office,
a system that continues to operate today.
Ambassador to France: 1776–1785
Franklin, in his fur hat, charmed the French with what they perceived
as rustic New World genius.
In December 1776, Franklin was dispatched to France as commissioner
for the United States. He took with him as secretary his
16-year-old grandson, William Temple Franklin. They lived in a home in
the Parisian suburb of Passy, donated by Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de
Chaumont, who supported the United States. Franklin remained in France
until 1785. He conducted the affairs of his country toward the French
nation with great success, which included securing a critical military
alliance in 1778 and negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1783).
Among his associates in France was Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de
Mirabeau—a French Revolutionary writer, orator and statesman who in
early 1791 would be elected president of the National Assembly.
In July 1784, Franklin met with Mirabeau and contributed anonymous
materials that the Frenchman used in his first signed work:
Considerations sur l'ordre de Cincinnatus. The publication was
critical of the
Society of the Cincinnati, established in the United
States. Franklin and Mirabeau thought of it as a "noble order",
inconsistent with the egalitarian ideals of the new republic.
During his stay in France,
Benjamin Franklin was active as a
Freemason, serving as Venerable Master of the Lodge Les Neuf Sœurs
from 1779 until 1781. He was the 106th member of the Lodge. In 1784,
Franz Mesmer began to publicize his theory of "animal magnetism"
which was considered offensive by many, Louis XVI appointed a
commission to investigate it. These included the chemist Antoine
Lavoisier, the physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the astronomer Jean
Sylvain Bailly, and Benjamin Franklin. In 1781, he was elected a
Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
While in France Franklin designed and commissioned
Augustin Dupré to
engrave the medallion "Libertas Americana" minted in Paris in 1783.
Franklin's advocacy for religious tolerance in France contributed to
arguments made by French philosophers and politicians that resulted in
Louis XVI's signing of the
Edict of Versailles
Edict of Versailles in November 1787. This
edict effectively nullified the Edict of Fontainebleau, which had
denied non-Catholics civil status and the right to openly practice
Franklin also served as American minister to Sweden, although he never
visited that country. He negotiated a treaty that was
signed in April 1783. On August 27, 1783, in Paris, Franklin witnessed
the world's first hydrogen balloon flight. Le Globe, created by
Jacques Charles and Les Frères Robert, was watched by a
vast crowd as it rose from the
Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars (now the site of the
Eiffel Tower). Franklin became so enthusiastic that he subscribed
financially to the next project to build a manned hydrogen
balloon. On December 1, 1783, Franklin was seated in the special
enclosure for honoured guests when La Charlière took off from the
Jardin des Tuileries, piloted by
Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis
Franklin's return to Philadelphia, 1785, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
When he returned home in 1785, Franklin occupied a position only
second to that of
George Washington as the champion of American
independence. Le Ray honored him with a commissioned portrait painted
by Joseph Duplessis, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. After his return,
Franklin became an abolitionist and freed his two slaves. He
eventually became president of the
In 1787, Franklin served as a delegate to the
He held an honorary position and seldom engaged in debate. He is the
only Founding Father who is a signatory of all four of the major
documents of the founding of the United States: the Declaration of
Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris
and the United States Constitution.
In 1787, a group of prominent ministers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,
proposed the foundation of a new college named in Franklin's honor.
Franklin donated £200 towards the development of Franklin College
(now called Franklin & Marshall College).
Between 1771 and 1788, he finished his autobiography. While it was at
first addressed to his son, it was later completed for the benefit of
mankind at the request of a friend.
Franklin strongly supported the right to freedom of speech:
In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his
own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the
liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of
speech ... Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing
as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of
speech, which is the right of every man ...
Silence Dogood no. 8, 1722
President of Pennsylvania
Franklin autograph check signed during his Presidency of Pennsylvania
Special balloting conducted October 18, 1785, unanimously elected
Franklin the sixth president of the Supreme Executive Council of
Pennsylvania, replacing John Dickinson. The office was practically
that of governor. Franklin held that office for slightly over three
years, longer than any other, and served the constitutional limit of
three full terms. Shortly after his initial election he was reelected
to a full term on October 29, 1785, and again in the fall of 1786 and
on October 31, 1787. In that capacity he served as host to the
Constitutional Convention of 1787
Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia.
Virtue, religion, and personal beliefs
A bust of Franklin by Jean-Antoine Houdon
Like the other advocates of republicanism, Franklin emphasized that
the new republic could survive only if the people were virtuous. All
his life he explored the role of civic and personal virtue, as
expressed in Poor Richard's aphorisms. Franklin felt that organized
religion was necessary to keep men good to their fellow men, but
rarely attended religious services himself. When Franklin met
Voltaire in Paris and asked his fellow member of the Enlightenment
vanguard to bless his grandson,
Voltaire said in English, "God and
Liberty", and added, "this is the only appropriate benediction for the
grandson of Monsieur Franklin."
Voltaire blessing Franklin's grandson, in the name of God and Liberty,
by Pedro Américo
Franklin's parents were both pious Puritans. The family attended
the Old South Church, the most liberal
Puritan congregation in Boston,
Benjamin Franklin was baptized in 1706. Franklin's father,
a poor chandler, owned a copy of a book, Bonifacius: Essays to Do
Good, by the
Puritan preacher and family friend Cotton Mather, which
Franklin often cited as a key influence on his life. Franklin's
first pen name,
Silence Dogood, paid homage both to the book and to a
widely known sermon by Mather. The book preached the importance of
forming voluntary associations to benefit society. Franklin learned
about forming do-good associations from Cotton Mather, but his
organizational skills made him the most influential force in making
voluntarism an enduring part of the American ethos.
Franklin formulated a presentation of his beliefs and published it in
1728. It did not mention many of the
Puritan ideas regarding
salvation, the divinity of Jesus, or indeed much religious dogma. He
clarified himself as a deist in his 1771 autobiography, although
he still considered himself a Christian. He retained a strong
faith in a God as the wellspring of morality and goodness in man, and
as a Providential actor in history responsible for American
Benjamin Franklin by Hiram Powers
It was Ben Franklin who, at a critical impasse during the
Constitutional Convention in June 1787, attempted to introduce the
practice of daily common prayer with these words:
... In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were
sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine
Protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously
answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have
observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our
favor. ... And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do
we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a
long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of
this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow
cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an
empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the
sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that
build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his
concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better
than the Builders of Babel: ... I therefore beg leave to
move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and
its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every
morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the
Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.
However, the motion met with resistance and was never brought to a
Franklin was an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical minister
George Whitefield during the First Great Awakening. Franklin did not
subscribe to Whitefield's theology, but he admired Whitefield for
exhorting people to worship God through good works. Franklin published
all of Whitefield's sermons and journals, thereby earning a lot of
money and boosting the Great Awakening.
When he stopped attending church, Franklin wrote in his autobiography:
... Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some
religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of
the Deity; that He made the world, and governed it by His providence;
that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man;
that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and
virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.
Franklin retained a lifelong commitment to the
Puritan virtues and
political values he had grown up with, and through his civic work and
publishing, he succeeded in passing these values into the American
culture permanently. He had a "passion for virtue". These Puritan
values included his devotion to egalitarianism, education, industry,
thrift, honesty, temperance, charity and community spirit.
The classical authors read in the Enlightenment period taught an
abstract ideal of republican government based on hierarchical social
orders of king, aristocracy and commoners. It was widely believed that
English liberties relied on their balance of power, but also
hierarchal deference to the privileged class.
"Puritanism ... and the epidemic evangelism of the mid-eighteenth
century, had created challenges to the traditional notions of social
stratification" by preaching that the Bible taught all men are
equal, that the true value of a man lies in his moral behavior, not
his class, and that all men can be saved. Franklin, steeped in
Puritanism and an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical movement,
rejected the salvation dogma, but embraced the radical notion of
Franklin's commitment to teach these values was itself something he
gained from his
Puritan upbringing, with its stress on "inculcating
virtue and character in themselves and their communities." These
Puritan values and the desire to pass them on, were one of Franklin's
quintessentially American characteristics, and helped shape the
character of the nation. Franklin's writings on virtue were derided by
some European authors, such as Jackob Fugger in his critical work
Portrait of American Culture.
Max Weber considered Franklin's ethical
writings a culmination of the Protestant ethic, which ethic created
the social conditions necessary for the birth of capitalism.
One of Franklin's notable characteristics was his respect, tolerance
and promotion of all churches. Referring to his experience in
Philadelphia, he wrote in his autobiography, "new Places of worship
were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary
Contribution, my Mite for such purpose, whatever might be the Sect,
was never refused." "He helped create a new type of nation that
would draw strength from its religious pluralism." The
evangelical revivalists who were active mid-century, such as
Franklin's friend and preacher, George Whitefield, were the greatest
advocates of religious freedom, "claiming liberty of conscience to be
an 'inalienable right of every rational creature.'" Whitefield's
supporters in Philadelphia, including Franklin, erected "a large, new
hall, that ... could provide a pulpit to anyone of any
belief." Franklin's rejection of dogma and doctrine and his
stress on the God of ethics and morality and civic virtue made him the
"prophet of tolerance." Franklin composed "A Parable Against
Persecution", an apocryphal 51st chapter of Genesis in which God
teaches Abraham the duty of tolerance. While he was living in
London in 1774, he was present at the birth of British Unitarianism,
attending the inaugural session of the Essex Street Chapel, at which
Theophilus Lindsey drew together the first avowedly Unitarian
congregation in England; this was somewhat politically risky, and
pushed religious tolerance to new boundaries, as a denial of the
doctrine of the
Trinity was illegal until the 1813 Act.
Although Franklin's parents had intended for him to have a career in
the Church, Franklin as a young man adopted the Enlightenment
religious belief in deism, that God's truths can be found entirely
through nature and reason. "I soon became a thorough Deist."
As a young man he rejected Christian dogma in a 1725 pamphlet A
Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, which
he later saw as an embarrassment, while simultaneously asserting
that God is "all wise, all good, all powerful." He defended his
rejection of religious dogma with these words: "I think opinions
should be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds
none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be
concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the
case with me." After the disillusioning experience of seeing the decay
in his own moral standards, and those of two friends in London whom he
had converted to Deism, Franklin turned back to a belief in the
importance of organized religion, on the pragmatic grounds that
without God and organized churches, man will not be good.
Moreover, because of his proposal that prayers be said in the
Constitutional Convention of 1787, many have contended that in his
later life Franklin became a pious Christian.
Dr Richard Price, the radical minister of Newington Green Unitarian
Church, holding a letter from Franklin
According to David Morgan, Franklin was a proponent of religion
in general. He prayed to "Powerful Goodness" and referred to God as
John Adams noted that Franklin was a mirror in which
people saw their own religion: "The Catholics thought him almost a
Catholic. The Church of
England claimed him as one of them. The
Presbyterians thought him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends
believed him a wet Quaker." Whatever else Franklin was, concludes
Morgan, "he was a true champion of generic religion." In a letter to
Richard Price, Franklin stated that he believed that religion should
support itself without help from the government, claiming, "When a
Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it
cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that
its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it
is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
In 1790, just about a month before he died, Franklin wrote a letter to
Ezra Stiles, president of
Yale University, who had asked him his views
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I
think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us,
the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it
has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the
present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho' it
is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I
think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an
Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. I see no harm,
however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good
consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more
respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that
the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his
government of the world with any particular marks of his
On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed a three-member committee composed
of Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and
John Adams to design the Great Seal
of the United States. Franklin's proposal (which was not adopted)
featured the motto: "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God" and a
scene from the Book of Exodus, with Moses, the Israelites, the pillar
of fire, and George III depicted as pharaoh. The design that was
produced was never acted upon by Congress, and the Great Seal's design
was not finalized until a third committee was appointed in
Franklin bust in the
Archives Department of
Columbia University in New
Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of 13 virtues,
which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in
some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography lists his 13
"Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
"Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid
"Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your
business have its time."
"Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail
what you resolve."
"Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself;
i.e., waste nothing."
"Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut
off all unnecessary actions."
"Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and,
if you speak, speak accordingly."
"Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that
are your duty."
"Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you
think they deserve."
"Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or
"Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or
"Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to
dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or
"Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
Franklin did not try to work on them all at once. Instead, he would
work on one and only one each week "leaving all others to their
ordinary chance." While Franklin did not live completely by his
virtues, and by his own admission he fell short of them many times, he
believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his
success and happiness, which is why in his autobiography, he devoted
more pages to this plan than to any other single point; in his
autobiography Franklin wrote, "I hope, therefore, that some of my
descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit."
When Franklin was young, African slavery was common and virtually
unchallenged throughout the British colonies. During his
lifetime, slaves were numerous in Philadelphia. In 1750, half the
Philadelphia who had established probate estates owned
slaves. Dock workers in the city consisted of 15% slaves. Franklin
owned as many as seven slaves, two males who worked in his household
and his shop. Franklin posted paid ads for the sale of slaves and for
the capture of runaway slaves and allowed the sale of slaves in his
general store. Franklin profited from both the international and
domestic slave trade, even criticizing slaves who had run off to join
British Army during the colonial wars of the 1740s and 1750s.
Franklin, however, later became a "cautious abolitionist" and became
an outspoken critic of landed gentry slavery. In 1758, Franklin
advocated the opening of a school for the education of black slaves in
Philadelphia. Franklin took two slaves to
England with him, Peter and
King, and King left his service there in 1756: by 1758 he was working
for "a lady in Suffolk". Whether Franklin could have compelled
King's return is open to doubt in the light of earlier English Common
Law decisions and the subsequent case of Shanley v Harvey, but in fact
he did not do so.
After returning from
England in 1762, Franklin became more
anti-slavery. By 1770, Franklin had freed his slaves and attacked the
system of slavery and the international slave trade. Franklin,
however, refused to publicly debate the issue of slavery at the 1787
Constitutional Convention. Franklin tended to take
both sides of the issue of slavery, never fully divesting himself from
In his later years, as Congress was forced to deal with the issue of
slavery, Franklin wrote several essays that stressed the importance of
the abolition of slavery and of the integration of blacks into
American society. These writings included:
An Address to the Public (1789)
A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789)
Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade (1790)
Quakers from New York and
Pennsylvania presented their
petition for abolition to Congress. Their argument against slavery was
backed by the
Society and its president,
The grave of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Franklin suffered from obesity throughout his middle-aged and later
years, which resulted in multiple health problems, particularly gout,
which worsened as he aged. In poor health during the signing of the US
Constitution in 1787, he was rarely seen in public from then until his
Benjamin Franklin died from pleuritic attack at his home in
Philadelphia on April 17, 1790, at age 84. His death is described in
the book The Life of Benjamin Franklin, quoting from the account of
Dr. John Jones:
... when the pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him,
and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his
recovery, when an imposthume, which had formed itself in his lungs,
suddenly burst, and discharged a quantity of matter, which he
continued to throw up while he had power; but, as that failed, the
organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm, lethargic
state succeeded; and on the 17th instant (April 1790), about eleven
o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life
of eighty-four years and three months.
Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral. He was interred in
Christ Church Burial Ground
Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. In 1728, aged 22,
Franklin wrote what he hoped would be his own epitaph:
The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its
Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here,
Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as
he believ'd, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended By the Author.
Franklin's actual grave, however, as he specified in his final will,
simply reads "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin".
Franklin on the Series 2009 hundred dollar bill
Presentation by Franklin biographer
Walter Isaacson to the New York
Society on Benjamin Franklin's legacy, May 11, 2016, C-SPAN
Panel discussion with Ellen R. Cohn, Emma J. Lapsansky-Werner, J.A.
Leo Lemay, Billy Gordon Smith, James Srodes, and Page Talbott on
Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, November 30, 2005,
Marble memorial statue,
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
A signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,
Franklin is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United
States. His pervasive influence in the early history of the nation has
led to his being jocularly called "the only President of the United
States who was never President of the United States." Franklin's
likeness is ubiquitous. Since 1928, it has adorned American $100
bills, which are sometimes referred to in slang as "Benjamins" or
"Franklins." From 1948 to 1963, Franklin's portrait was on the half
dollar. He has appeared on a $50 bill and on several varieties of the
$100 bill from 1914 and 1918. Franklin appears on the $1,000 Series EE
Savings bond. The city of
Philadelphia contains around 5,000
likenesses[vague] of Benjamin Franklin, about half of which are
located on the University of
Pennsylvania campus.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Benjamin Franklin Parkway (a major thoroughfare) and
Benjamin Franklin Bridge
Benjamin Franklin Bridge (the first major bridge to connect
Philadelphia with New Jersey) are named in his honor.
In 1976, as part of a bicentennial celebration, Congress dedicated a
20-foot (6 m) marble statue in Philadelphia's Franklin Institute
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. Many of Franklin's
personal possessions are also on display at the Institute, one of the
few national memorials located on private property.
In London, his house at 36 Craven Street, which is the only surviving
former residence of Benjamin Franklin, was first marked with a blue
plaque and has since been opened to the public as the Benjamin
Franklin House. In 1998, workmen restoring the building dug up
the remains of six children and four adults hidden below the home. The
Times reported on February 11, 1998:
Initial estimates are that the bones are about 200 years old and were
buried at the time Franklin was living in the house, which was his
home from 1757 to 1762 and from 1764 to 1775. Most of the bones show
signs of having been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been
drilled with several holes. Paul Knapman, the Westminster Coroner,
said yesterday: "I cannot totally discount the possibility of a crime.
There is still a possibility that I may have to hold an inquest.
The Friends of
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House (the organization responsible
for the restoration) note that the bones were likely placed there by
William Hewson, who lived in the house for two years and who had built
a small anatomy school at the back of the house. They note that while
Franklin likely knew what Hewson was doing, he probably did not
participate in any dissections because he was much more of a physicist
than a medical man.
Franklin bequeathed £1,000 (about $4,400 at the time, or about
$112,000 in 2011 dollars) each to the cities of
Philadelphia, in trust to gather interest for 200 years. The trust
began in 1785 when the French mathematician Charles-Joseph Mathon de
la Cour, who admired Franklin greatly, wrote a friendly parody of
Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanack" called "Fortunate Richard". The
main character leaves a smallish amount of money in his will, five
lots of 100 livres, to collect interest over one, two, three, four or
five full centuries, with the resulting astronomical sums to be spent
on impossibly elaborate utopian projects. Franklin, who was 79
years old at the time, wrote thanking him for a great idea and telling
him that he had decided to leave a bequest of 1,000 pounds each
to his native
Boston and his adopted Philadelphia. By 1990, more than
$2,000,000 had accumulated in Franklin's
Philadelphia trust, which had
loaned the money to local residents. From 1940 to 1990, the money was
used mostly for mortgage loans. When the trust came due, Philadelphia
decided to spend it on scholarships for local high school students.
Boston trust fund accumulated almost $5,000,000 during that
same time; at the end of its first 100 years a portion was allocated
to help establish a trade school that became the
Franklin Institute of
Boston, and the whole fund was later dedicated to supporting this
Franklin on U.S. postage
Issue of 1861
Issue of 1895
Benjamin Franklin is a prominent figure in American history comparable
to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, and as such he has been honored
on U.S. postage stamps many times. The image of Franklin, the first
Postmaster General of the United States, occurs on the face of U.S.
postage more than any other notable American save that of George
Franklin appeared on the first U.S. postage stamp (displayed above)
issued in 1847. From 1908 through 1923 the U.S. Post Office issued a
series of postage stamps commonly referred to as the
Washington-Franklin Issues where, along with George Washington,
Franklin was depicted many times over a 14-year period, the longest
run of any one series in U.S. postal history. Along with the regular
issue stamps Franklin however only appears on a few commemorative
stamps. Some of the finest portrayals of Franklin on record can be
found on the engravings inscribed on the face of U.S. postage.
Issue of 1918
"Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress" is a letter written by
Benjamin Franklin, dated June 25, 1745, in which Franklin gives advice
to a young man about channeling sexual urges. Due to its licentious
nature, the letter was not published in collections of Franklin's
papers during the nineteenth century. Federal court decisions from the
mid-to-late twentieth century cited the document as a reason for
overturning obscenity laws, using it to make a case against
Life-size bronze statue of
Benjamin Franklin (seated) in the National
Constitution Center, Philadelphia
"The Princess and the Patriot: Ekaterina Dashkova, Benjamin Franklin
and the Age of Enlightenment" exhibition opened in
February 2006 and ran through December 2006.
Benjamin Franklin and
Dashkova met only once, in Paris in 1781. Franklin was 75, and
Dashkova was 37. Franklin invited Dashkova to become the first woman
to join the American Philosophical Society; she was the only woman so
honored for another 80 years. Later, Dashkova reciprocated by making
him the first American member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Places and things named after Benjamin Franklin
Further information: List of places named for Benjamin Franklin
As a founding father of the United States, Franklin's name has been
attached to many things. Among these are:
The State of Franklin, a short-lived independent state formed during
the American Revolutionary War
Counties in at least 16 U.S. states
Several major landmarks in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Franklin's longtime home, including:
Franklin and Marshall College
Franklin and Marshall College in nearby Lancaster
Franklin Field, a football field once home to the
National Football League
National Football League and the home field of the University
Quakers since 1895
Benjamin Franklin Bridge
Benjamin Franklin Bridge across the
Delaware River between
Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey
US Navy ships have been named the USS Franklin or the
USS Bonhomme Richard, the latter being a French translation of
his penname "Poor Richard". Two aircraft carriers,
USS Franklin (CV-13) and USS Bon Homme
Richard (CV-31), were simultaneously in commission and in
operation during World
War II, and Franklin therefore had the
distinction of having two simultaneously operational
US Navy warships
named in his honor. The
French ship Franklin (1797)
French ship Franklin (1797) was also named in
CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin, a Chinese-built French owned Explorer-class
Benjamin Franklin in popular culture
U.S. Constitution, floor leader in Convention
Thomas Birch's newly discovered Franklin letters
William Goddard (patriot/publisher), apprentice/partner of Franklin
Franklin's electrostatic machine
Louis Timothee, apprentice/partner of Franklin
Elizabeth Timothy, apprentice/partner of Franklin
James Parker (publisher), apprentice/partner of Franklin
Benjamin Franklin on postage stamps
Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of
Countries, etc., by Franklin
List of richest Americans in history
List of wealthiest historical figures
List of slave owners
List of abolitionist forerunners
List of opponents of slavery
^ a b Engber, Daniel (2006). "What's Benjamin Franklin's Birthday?".
Retrieved June 17, 2009. according to documents from Boston's city
registrar, he actually came into the world on the old-style Jan. 6,
1705. So, this year's tricentennial is right on time.
^ "Inventor". The Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on
March 5, 2007. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
^ Isaacson, Walter (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
^ H.W. Brands, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin
^ Isaacson 2003, p. 491
^ Walter Isaacson,
Benjamin Franklin (2003), p. 492
^ H.W. Brands. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin
Franklin. (2010). p. 390.
^ Isaacson 2003, p. 14
^ a b Salzman, Rob. "Thomas Franckline / Jane White".
e-familytree.net. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
^ Salzman, Rob. "
Benjamin Franklin / Deborah Read". e-familytree.net.
Retrieved January 20, 2011.
^ Contemporary records, which used the Julian calendar and the
Annunciation Style of enumerating years, recorded his birth as January
6, 1705. The provisions of the British Calendar (New Style) Act 1750,
implemented in 1752, altered the official British dating method to the
Gregorian calendar with the start of the year on January 1 (it had
been March 25). These changes resulted in dates being moved forward 11
days, and for those between January 1 and March 25, an advance of one
year. For a further explanation, see: Old Style and New Style dates.
^ a b —— (1901) . "Introduction". Autobiography of Benjamin
Franklin. Macmillan's pocket English and American classics. New York:
Macmillan. p. vi. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
^ Isaacson, (2003) p. 32
^ a b c d e f g h Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin. (1938).
^ On the importance of the Junto see Michael D. Mumford, "Social
innovation: ten cases from Benjamin Franklin." Creativity research
journal (2002) 14#2 pp. 253–66.
^ David Waldstreicher, ed., A Companion to
Benjamin Franklin (2011) p.
^ J. A. Leo Lemay, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 2: Printer
and Publisher, 1730–1747 (2005) pp. 92–94, 123
^ Murray, Stuart A.P. (2009). The library: an illustrated history. New
York: Skyhorse Pub. ISBN 978-1602397064.
^ Margaret Barton Korty, "
Benjamin Franklin and eighteenth-century
American libraries." Transactions of the American Philosophical
Society (1965): 1–83. in JSTOR
^ "German Newspapers in the US and Canada". Retrieved October 7,
^ John B. Frantz, "Franklin and the
Pennsylvania History (1998): 21–34. online
^ Philip. Gleason, "Trouble in the Colonial Melting Pot." Journal of
American Ethnic History (2000) 20#1 pp. 3–17.
^ Frasca, Ralph (1997). "Benjamin Franklin's Journalism". Fides et
Historia. 29 (1): 60–72.
^ Ralph Frasca, Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating
Virtue in Early America (2006) ISBN 978-0826216144
^ Baker, Ira L. (1977). "Elizabeth Timothy: America's First Woman
Editor". Journalism Quarterly. 54 (2): 280–85.
^ Ralph Frasca, "'The Partnership at Carolina Having succeeded, was
Encourag'd to Engage in Others': The Genesis of Benjamin Franklin's
Printing Network", Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of
the South (2006), Vol. 13 Issue 1/2, pp. 1–23.
^ Smith, Jeffery A. (1993). "Impartiality and Revolutionary Ideology:
Editorial Policies of the 'South-Carolina Gazette,' 1732–1735".
Journal of Southern History. 49 (4): 511–26.
^ Frasca, Ralph (2003). "'I am now about to establish a small Printing
Office ... at Newhaven':
Benjamin Franklin and the First
Newspaper in Connecticut".
Connecticut History. 44 (1): 77–87.
^ The History Channel, Mysteries of the Freemasons: America, video
documentary, August 1, 2006, written by Noah Nicholas and Molly Bedell
Freemasonry Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon website".
Freemasonry.bcy.ca. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ Van Horne, John C. "The History and Collections of the Library
Company of Philadelphia", The Magazine Antiques, v. 170. no. 2:
^ Lemay, Leo (2014) . "Franklin, Benjamin (1706–1790)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University
Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/52466. (Subscription or UK public
library membership required.)
^ Coss, Stephen. "What Led
Benjamin Franklin to Live Estranged From
His Wife for Nearly Two Decades?",
Smithsonian Magazine (September
^ November 1769 Letter from
Deborah Read to Ben Franklin,
^ Skemp SL. William Franklin: Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King,
Oxford University Press US, 1990, ISBN 0195057457, p. 4
^ Fleming, Thomas, The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for
Survival, (Collins, New York, 2007) p. 30
^ Fleming, p. 236
^ Van Doren 1938, p. 109.
^ Benjamin Franklin, writing anonymously (April 26, 1784). "Aux
auteurs du Journal". Journal de Paris (in French). Duke University
Press. 28 (117): 23. doi:10.2307/2922719. JSTOR 2922719.
Revised English version retrieved on March 11, 2008.
^ G. V. Hudson (1898). "On seasonal time". Trans Proc R Soc N Z. 31:
^ Benjamin Franklin. "Part three". The Autobiography of Benjamin
Science and Medicine". Colonial America Reference Library.
Encyclopedia.com. 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2017. Franklin's
interest in electricity originated when he saw a traveling scientific
lecturer, Archibald Spencer, perform an "electricity show" in Boston,
^ Franklin, Benjamin (May 25, 1747). "Letter to Peter Collinson".
Franklin Papers. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)",
Science World, from Eric
Weisstein's World of Scientific Biography.
^ "Conservation of Charge". Archived from the original on February 18,
2008. Retrieved 2006-02-15. . Archived February 18, 2008.
^ Franklin, Benjamin (Apr 29, 1749). "Letter to Peter Collinson".
Retrieved April 23, 2016.
^ Va Doren 1938, p. 168.
^ Tomase, Jennifer (June 1, 2006). "'A How-To Guide' explores Ben
Franklin's 'can-do' legacy".
Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved
^ * Schiffer, Michael B, Draw the
Lightning Down: Benjamin Franklin
and Electrical Technology in the Age of Enlightenment, pp. 136-137,
301, University of California Press, 2006 ISBN 0520248295.
^ Benjamin Franklin, "The Kite Experiment", printed in The
Pennsylvania Gazette, October 19, 1752. In The Papers of Benjamin
American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society and
digital edition by The Packard Humanities Institute, Vol. 4, p. 360a.
Retrieved February 6, 2017
^ Historical Society,
Benjamin Franklin History. Retrieved February 6,
^ Steven Johnson (2008) The Invention of Air, p. 39
ISBN 978-1594484018. Retrieved February 6, 2017
^ National Archives, The Kite Experiment, 19 October 1752. Retrieved
February 6, 2017
^ Van Doren 1938, p. 159.
^ Franklin's Kite, Museum of Science, Boston.
^ Wolf, A., History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the
Eighteenth Century. New York, 1939. p. 232
Lightning Rods: Franklin Had It Wrong". New York Times. 1983-06-14.
^ Krider, Philip (January 2006). "
Benjamin Franklin and Lightning
Rods". Physics Today. p. 42. doi:10.1063/1.2180176. Retrieved
^ Dr. Alan Houston (2008).
Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of
Yale U.P. pp. 106–41. ISBN 0300152396.
^ I. Bernard Cohen (2005). The Triumph Of Numbers: How Counting Shaped
Modern Life. W. W. Norton. p. 87. ISBN 978-0393057690.
^ James David Drake (2011). The Nation's Nature: How Continental
Presumptions Gave Rise to the United States of America. U. of Virginia
Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0813931227.
^ Michael G. Kammen (1990). People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning
the Origins of American Civilization. Cornell U.P. p. 81.
^ J. A.
Leo Lemay (2008). The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 3:
Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748–1757. U. of Pennsylvania
Press. p. 245. ISBN 0812241215.
^ Isaacson 2003, p. 150
^ Owen Aldridge, Alfred (1949). "Franklin as Demographer". Journal of
Economic History. 9 (1): 25–44. JSTOR 2113719.
^ George William Van Cleve (2010). A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery,
Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic. U. of
Chicago Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0226846699.
^ Philip L. Richardson (February 8, 1980), "
Benjamin Franklin and
Timothy Folger's first printed chart of the Gulf Stream", Science,
vol. 207, no. 4431, pp. 643–45.
^ "How Franklin's chart resurfaced", The
Philadelphia Inquirer, posted
December 18, 2005, accessed November 26, 2010
^ John N. Wilford, "Prints of Franklin's chart of
Gulf Stream found",
New York Times
New York Times (N.Y., N.Y.), pp. A1, B7 (February 6, 1980).
^ 1785: Benjamin Franklin's "Sundry Maritime Observations," The
Academy of Natural Sciences, April 1939 m
^ 1785: Benjamin Franklin's 'Sundry Maritime Observations' . Archived
October 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. NOAA Ocean Explorer.
^ Source: Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind
and Current Charts, 1853, p. 53, by Matthew Fontaine Maury
^ Jogn Gribbin, "In search of Schrödinger's cat", Black Swan, p. 12
^ Heidorn, Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. Eclipsed By Storm. The Weather
Doctor. October 1, 2003.
^ Fisher, Sydney George (1903). The True
Benjamin Franklin (5 ed.).
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company. p. 19.
^ Pocock, George (1851). A TREATISE on The Aeropleustic Art, or
Navigation in the Air, by means of Kites, or Buoyant Sails. London:
Longmans, Brown, and Co. p. 9.
^ "The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: London, 1757–1775".
Historycarper.com. Archived from the original on January 28, 2011.
Retrieved September 14, 2010.
^ Faraday, Michael (1839). Experimental researches in electricity. 2.
R. & J.E. Taylor. p. v. ... Franklin's experiments on
the non-conduction of ice ...
^ Jones, Thomas P. (1836). Journal of the
Franklin Institute of the
State of Pennsylvania. Pergamon Press. pp. 182–83. In the
fourth series of his electrical researches, Mr. Faraday ...
^ Price, Richard; Thomas, David Oswald; Peach, Bernard (1994). The
Correspondence of Richard Price: February 1786 – February 1791. Duke
University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0822313278. Retrieved October
^ a b Franklin, Benjamin (1975) . "To Joseph Priestley". In
Willcox, William Bradford. The papers of Benjamin Franklin: January 1
through December 31, 1772. 19. New Haven:
Yale University Press.
pp. 299–300. ISBN 0300018657. OCLC 310601.
^ *W. Gratzer, Eurekas and Euphorias, pp. 80–81
^ Bloch, Thomas. The Glassharmonica. GFI Scientific.
^ a b c John McCrary,
Chess and Benjamin Franklin-His Pioneering
Contributions (PDF). Retrieved on April 26, 2009.
^ David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess,
Oxford University Press (2nd ed. 1992), p. 145. ISBN 0198661649.
^ The essay appears in
Marcello Truzzi (ed.),
Chess in Literature,
Avon Books, 1974, pp. 14–15. ISBN 0380001640.
^ The essay appears in a book by the felicitously named Norman Knight,
Chess Pieces, CHESS magazine, Sutton Coldfield,
England (2nd ed.
1968), pp. 5–6. ISBN 0380001640.
^ Franklin's essay is also reproduced at the U.S.
Chess Center Museum
and Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
^ William Temple Franklin, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of
Benjamin Franklin, reprinted in Knight,
Chess Pieces, pp. 136–37.
^ The History of
Chess in Fifty Moves, by Bill Price, Firefly Books
(U.S.) Inc., Buffalo, New York, 2015, ISBN 978-1770855298, pp.
^ John Kenneth Galbraith. (1975). Money: Where It Came, Whence It
Went, pp. 54–54. Houghton Mifflin Company.
^ Montgomery, Thomas Harrison (1900). A History of the University of
Pennsylvania from Its Foundation to A.D. 1770. Philadelphia: George W.
Jacobs & Co. LCCN 00003240.
^ James N. Green, "English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin",
in The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (2002), 257.
^ Landers, Jackson (September 27, 2016). "In the Early 19th Century,
Firefighters Fought Fires ... and Each Other". Smithsonian.
Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
Virginia (3 May 2013). "What Are Those Little Shields Above
the Doorways of
Philadelphia Homes?". Philadelphia. Metrocorp.
Retrieved 10 December 2017.
^ Olsen, Neil C., Pursuing Happiness: The Organizational Culture of
the Continental Congress, Nonagram Publications,
ISBN 978-1480065505, 2013, p. 174
^ Smith, Horace Wemyss, The Life and Correspondence of the Rev. Wm.
Smith, D.D., Philadelphia, 1880, Volume 1: pp. 566–67.
^ Samuel Johnson, Elementa philosophica: containing chiefly, Noetica,
or things relating to the mind or understanding: and Ethica, or things
relating to the moral behaviour. Philadelphia, Printed by B. Franklin
and D. Hall, at the new-printing-office, near the market, 1752
^ Olsen, pp. 163–274
^ Olsen, p. 163
^ Olsen, p. 308
^ Honorary Degrees
Harvard University. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
^ Honorary Degrees Archived June 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
Yale University. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
Benjamin Franklin resume. In Search of a Better World. Benjamin
Franklin Exhibit. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
^ College of William and Mary,
College of William and Mary
College of William and Mary (1874). The
History of the College of William and Mary. Richmond, VA: J. W.
Randolph & English. p. 148.
^ a b J. A. Leo Lematy, "Franklin, Benjamin". American National
Biography Online, February 2000.
^ Peter Charles Hoffer,
Benjamin Franklin Explains the Stamp Act
Protests to Parliament, 1766 (2015)
^ "Benjamin Franklin's Resume – Independence National Historical
Park (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov.
Benjamin Franklin – American author, scientist, and
^ Benjamin Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet. Omniglot.com.
^ a b Sparks, Jared. Life of Benjamin Franklin. US History.org.
^ Buchan, James. Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment:
Edinburgh's Moment of the Mind. HarperCollins Publishers. 2003. p. 2
^ Gaustad, Edwin S (2006). Benjamin Franklin.
Oxford University Press.
p. 40. ISBN 978-0199709366. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
^ "The Kate Kennedy Club". The Kate Kennedy Club. Archived from the
original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ Nathan Haskell Dole, ed. (2003). Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
Books.google.ie. ISBN 978-0766143753. Retrieved September 21,
^ Benjamin Franklin. PBS.org.
^ Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon &
^ James A. Henretta, ed. (2011). Documents for America's History,
Volume 1: To 1877. Bedford/St. Martin's. p. 110.
ISBN 978-0312648626. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
^ Isaacson (2004). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.
pp. 229–30. ISBN 978-0743258074.
^ Franklin, Benjamin. "reprinted on The History Carper". Archived from
the original on January 3, 2006.
^ Bailyn, Bernard (1974). The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson. Cambridge,
Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674641600.
OCLC 6825524. , p. 240
^ Penegar, Kenneth (2011). The Political Trial of Benjamin Franklin.
New York: Algora Publishing. ISBN 978-0875868493.
OCLC 696296728. , p. 29
^ Sheila L. Skemp, The Making of a Patriot:
Benjamin Franklin at the
Oxford University Press; 2012)
^ Franklin, Benjamin. "A Narrative of the Late Massacres ..."
Archived April 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. reprinted on The
^ Crews, Ed (Summer 2004). "Spies and Scouts, Secret Writing, and
Colonial Williamsburg Journal. The Colonial
Williamsburg Foundation. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
^ Key to Declaration American Revolution.org.
^ Isaacson, pp. 311–12
^ Sparks, Jared (1856). The Life of Benjamin Franklin: Containing the
Autobiography, with Notes and a Continuation. Boston: Whittemore,
Niles and Hall. p. 408. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
^ "1753 Benjamin Franklin", Stéphanie Ouellet, in A Chronology of
Canadian Postal History, National Museum of History, Ottawa.
^ "1760–1840 Planting the Imperial Postal System in British North
America", A Chronology of Canadian Postal History, National Museum of
^ Walter Isaacson. Benjamin Franklin: an American life, pp. 206–09,
^ "History of the United States Postal Systems". Inventors.about.com.
Retrieved June 20, 2011.
^ Portraits of Franklin at this time often contained an inscription,
the best known being Turgot's acclamation, "Eripuit fulmen coelo
sceptrumque tyrannis." (He snatched the lightning from the skies and
the scepter from the tyrants.) Historian Friedrich Christoph Schlosser
remarked at the time, with ample hyperbole, that "Such was the number
of portraits, busts and medallions of him in circulation before he
left Paris, that he would have been recognized from them by any adult
citizen in any part of the civilized world." – Chisholm,
Hugh, ed. (1911). "Franklin, Benjamin". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th
Cambridge University Press.
Benjamin Franklin papers, Kislak Center for
Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
^ "The Book in the Painting: De la Caisse d'Escompte."
isthisjefferson.org Accessed February 1, 2013.
^ Considerations sur l'ordre de Cincinnatus, December 2011.
^ Van Doren, Carl.
Benjamin Franklin (The Viking Press: New York).
1938. pp. 709–10.
^ Schwartz, Stephan A. "Franklin's Forgotten Triumph: Scientific
Testing" American Heritage, October 2004.
^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
Edict of Versailles
Edict of Versailles (1787)" Archived July 14, 2012, at the Wayback
Machine., Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Ideals, downloaded
January 29, 2012
^ a b Piers Letcher –
Jacques Charles (2003). Eccentric France:
Bradt Guide to mad, magical and marvellous France. Books.google.co.uk.
ISBN 978-1841620688. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
Science and Society, Medal commemorating Charles and Robert's
balloon ascent, Paris, 1783". Scienceandsociety.co.uk. Retrieved March
^ "Fiddlers Green, History of Ballooning, Jacques Charles".
Fiddlersgreen.net. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
^ "Federation Aeronautique Internationale, Ballooning Commission, Hall
of Fame, Robert Brothers". Fai.org. Archived from the original on May
16, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
^ Citizen Ben, Abolitionist, PBS
^ Coffman, Steve, ed. (2012). Words of the Founding Fathers: Selected
Quotations of Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and
Hamilton, with Sources. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 97.
^ Brands, The First American, pp. 654–55, 694
^ Franklin, Autobiography, ed. Lemay, p. 65
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 354
^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 5–18
^ Old South Church. "Isaacson, 2003, p. 15". Oldsouth.org. Archived
from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ "If I have been", Franklin wrote to Cotton Mather's son seventy
years later, "a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to
that book." in Isaacson, 2003, p. 26
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 102
^ Franklin, Benjamin (November 20, 1728). "Articles of Belief and Acts
Benjamin Franklin Papers. franklinpapers.org. Retrieved
December 24, 2010.
^ Franklin, Benjamin (1771). Autobiography and other writings.
Cambridge: Riverside. p. 52.
^ Olson, Roger (2009). The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty
Centuries of Unity and Diversity. InterVarsity Press.
ISBN 978-0830826957. Other Deists and natural religionists who
considered themselves Christians in some sense of the word included
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 486
^ Michael E. Eidenmuller. "Online Speech Bank: Benjamin Franklin's
Prayer Speech at the Constitutional Convention of 1787".
Americanrhetoric.com. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ Rossiter, Clinton. 1787. The Grand Convention (1966), pp. 184–85
^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 107–13
^ a b Franklin Benjamin "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography". Archived
September 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Section 2 reprinted on
^ "Benjamin Franklin". History.hanover.edu. Retrieved September 21,
^ Isaacson, p. 485
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 149
^ Bailyn, 1992, pp. 273–74, 299–300
^ a b Bailyn, 1992, p. 303
^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 10, 102, 489
^ Weber, Max The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit of Capitalism",
(Penguin Books, 2002), translated by Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells,
^ a b Isaacson,2003 pp. 93ff
^ Bailyn, 1992, p. 249
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 112
^ "The Political Thought of Benjamin Franklin".
^ "Chapter 2, The History of Essex Hall by Mortimer Rowe B.A., D.D.
Lindsey Press, 1959". Unitarian.org.uk. Archived from the original on
March 26, 2012. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
^ Isaacson, 2003, p. 46
^ Franklin, Benjamin. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Chapter IV.
reprinted on USGenNet.org.
^ "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain".
Historycarper.com. Archived from the original on May 28, 2009.
Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ a b Isaacson, Walter (2004). Isaacson, 2003, p. 45. Google Books.
ISBN 978-0684807614. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
^ Isaacson, 2003, pp. 46, 486
^ Henry Louis Mencken, George Jean Nathan (October 19, 2009). The
American Mercury, Volume 8. Garber Communications. It is well known
that in his youth
Benjamin Franklin was a thorough-going Deist, but
because he proposed that prayers be said in the Constitution
Convention of 1787 many have contended that in later life he became a
^ Ralph Frasca (2009). Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network:
Virtue in Early America. University of Missouri Press.
ISBN 978-0826264923. Despite being raised a
Puritan of the
Congregationalist stripe by his parents, who "brought me through my
Childhood piously in the Dissenting Way", Franklin recalled, he
abandoned that denomination, briefly embraced deism, and finally
became a non-denominational Protestant Christian.
^ Morgan, David T. "Benjamin Franklin: Champion of Generic Religion".
The Historian. 62#4 2000. pp. 722+
Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price, October 9, 1780 Writings
^ "The Great Seal of the United States" (July 2003). Bureau of Public
Affairs, United States Department of State.
^ "1782: Original Design of the Great Seal of the United States", Our
Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives.
Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 18–19.
^ Autobiography of
Benjamin Franklin page 38 forward by Benjamin
^ Bordewich, Fergus M. (2016). The First Congress. Simon &
Shuster. p. 199. ISBN 978-1451691931.
^ Isaacson, Walter (2003). "Chapter Eight". Benjamin Franklin: An
American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
^ Hoffer (2011), pp. 30–31
^ Waldstreicher (2004), pp. xii, xiii
^ Myra Jehlen, Michael Warner, editors, The English Literatures of
America, 1500–1800, Psychology Press, p. 891 1997,
Benjamin Franklin for The
Society to the
United States Congress, The memorial of the
promoting the Abolition of Slavery, the relief of free Negroes
unlawfully held in bondage, and the Improvement of the Conditions of
the African Race (February 3, 1790)
^ Isaacson, Walter (2003). Benjamin Franklin: an American life. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
^ Sparks, pp. 529–30.
^ Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words. Library of Congress.
^ The Last Will and Testament of Benjamin Franklin. Archived August
21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. The
Franklin Institute Science
^ Firesign Theater quote, meant humorously but poignantly.
Benjamin Franklin House".
Benjamin Franklin House. Retrieved
September 21, 2009.
^ The Craven Street Gazette (PDF), Newsletter of the Friends of
Benjamin Franklin House, Issue 2, Autumn 1998
^ Measuring Worth Archived May 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
Select $4,400 and 1790 and 2011 in online calculator
^ Richard Price. Observations on the Importance of the American
Revolution, and the Means of Making it a Benefit to the World. To
which is added, a Letter from M. Turgot, late Comptroller-General of
the Finances of France: with an Appendix, containing a Translation of
the Will of M. Fortuné Ricard, lately published in France. London: T.
^ "Excerpt from
Philadelphia Inquirer article by Clark De Leon".
Mathsci.appstate.edu. February 7, 1993. Retrieved September 21,
^ "History of the Benjamin
Franklin Institute of Technology".
Bfit.edu. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved
September 21, 2009.
^ a b Scotts Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps
^ Carl Japikse, ed. (2003). Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin
Franklin You Never Read in School. Frog Books. p. 8.
ISBN 978-1583940792. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
^ Wright, Rebecca; Rivers, Matt (January 31, 2016). "This is the
biggest container ship ever to dock in the U.S." CNNMoney.
Presentation by H.W. Brands on The First American: The Life and Times
of Benjamin Franklin, October 5, 2000, C-SPAN
Walter Isaacson on Benjamin Franklin: An American
Life, July 22, 2003, C-SPAN
Presentation by Edmund S. Morgan on Benjamin Franklin, November 12,
Stacy Schiff on A Great Improvisation: Franklin,
France, and the Birth of America, April 12, 2005, C-SPAN
Booknotes interview with
James Srodes on Franklin: The Essential
Founding Father, May 19, 2002, C-SPAN
Gordon S. Wood
Gordon S. Wood on The Americanization of Benjamin
Franklin, June 4, 2004, C-SPAN
Panel discussion on Franklin with Walter Isaacson, Gordon Wood, and
Stacy Schiff, hosted by Jim Lehrer, January 8, 2006, C-SPAN
Becker, Carl Lotus. "Benjamin Franklin", Dictionary of American
Biography (1931) – vol 3, with links online
Brands, H. W. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin
Franklin (2000) ISBN 978-0385495400 – scholarly biography;
Crane, Vernon W.
Benjamin Franklin and a rising people (1954) short
biography by a scholar; online free
Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; many
Gaustad, Edwin S.
Benjamin Franklin (2006).
Isaacson, Walter (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New
York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0743260848. , popular
biography; online free
Benjamin Franklin (1966) 228 pp online edition, short
biography by scholar
Lemay, J. A. Leo. The Life of Benjamin Franklin, scholarly biography,
3 volumes appeared before the author's death in 2008
Volume 1: Journalist, 1706–1730 (2005) 568 pp
Volume 2: Printer and Publisher, 1730–1747 (2005) 664 pp
Volume 3: Soldier, Scientist, and Politician, 1748–1757 (2008), 768
pp ISBN 978-0812241211
Morgan, Edmund S.
Benjamin Franklin (2003), interpretation by leading
scholar online free
Schiff, Stacy, A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth
of America, (2005) Henry Holt
James Srodes, Franklin, The Essential Founding Father, (2002,
softcover 2003, Regnery History) ISBN 978-0895261632
Van Doren, Carl (1938). Benjamin Franklin. Viking.
ISBN 978-1931541855. ,
Pulitzer Prize winning biography;
Wood, Gordon. The Americanization of
Benjamin Franklin (2005)
ISBN 978-0143035282, intellectual history by leading historian.
Wright, Esmond. Franklin of
ISBN 978-0674318106 – scholarly study
For young readers
Asimov, Isaac. The Kite That Won the Revolution, a biography for
children that focuses on Franklin's scientific and diplomatic
Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin's Almanac: Being a True Account of the
Good Gentleman's Life. Atheneum/Anne Schwart, 2003, 128 pp.
Anderson, Douglas. The Radical Enlightenments of Benjamin Franklin
(1997) – fresh look at the intellectual roots of Franklin
Buxbaum, M.H., ed. Critical Essays on
Benjamin Franklin (1987)
Chaplin, Joyce. The First Scientific American:
Benjamin Franklin and
the Pursuit of Genius. (2007)
Cohen, I. Bernard. Benjamin Franklin's
Science (1990) – Cohen, the
leading specialist, has several books on Franklin's science
Conner, Paul W. Poor Richard's Politicks (1965) – analyzes
Franklin's ideas in terms of the Enlightenment and republicanism
Benjamin Franklin and the
American Revolution (2010)
Dull, Jonathan. A Diplomatic History of the
American Revolution (1985)
Dray, Philip. Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning
Rod and the Invention of America. (2005). 279 pp.
Ford, Paul Leicester. The Many-Sided Franklin (1899) online edition
– collection of scholarly essays
"Franklin as Printer and Publisher" in The Century (April 1899) v. 57
"Franklin as Scientist" in The Century (September 1899) v.57
pp. 750–63. By Paul Leicester Ford.
"Franklin as Politician and Diplomatist" in The Century (October 1899)
v. 57 pp. 881–99. By Paul Leicester Ford.
Gleason, Philip. "Trouble in the Colonial Melting Pot." Journal of
American Ethnic History 2000 20(1): 3–17.
Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement
Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed. Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A Bicentennial
Perspective (1993) – scholarly essays
Mathews, L. K. "Benjamin Franklin's Plans for a Colonial Union,
1750–1775." American Political
Science Review 8 (August 1914):
McCoy, Drew R. (1978). "Benjamin Franklin's Vision of a Republican
Political Economy for America". William and Mary Quarterly. 35 (4):
607–28. JSTOR 1923207.
Merli, Frank J., and Theodore A. Wilson, eds. Makers of American
Benjamin Franklin to Henry Kissinger (1974) online
Newman, Simon P. "
Benjamin Franklin and the Leather-Apron Men: The
Politics of Class in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia", Journal of
American Studies, August 2009, Vol. 43#2 pp. 161–75; Franklin
took pride in his working class origins and his printer's skills.
Olson, Lester C. Benjamin Franklin's Vision of American Community: A
Study in Rhetorical Iconology. (2004). 323 pp.
Schiffer, Michael Brian. Draw the
Lightning Down: Benjamin Franklin
and Electrical Technology in the Age of Enlightenment. (2003). 383 pp.
Stuart Sherman "Franklin" 1918 article on Franklin's writings.
Skemp, Sheila L. Benjamin and William Franklin: Father and Son,
Patriot and Loyalist (1994) – Ben's son was a leading Loyalist
Sletcher, Michael. 'Domesticity: The Human Side of Benjamin Franklin',
Magazine of History, XXI (2006).
Waldstreicher, David. Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and
the American Revolution. Hill and Wang, 2004. 315 pp.
Walters, Kerry S.
Benjamin Franklin and His Gods. (1999). 213 pp.
Takes position midway between D H Lawrence's brutal 1930 denunciation
of Franklin's religion as nothing more than a bourgeois commercialism
tricked out in shallow utilitarian moralisms and Owen Aldridge's
sympathetic 1967 treatment of the dynamism and protean character of
Franklin's "polytheistic" religion.
York, Neil. "When Words Fail: William Pitt,
Benjamin Franklin and the
Imperial Crisis of 1766", Parliamentary History, October 2009, Vol.
28#3 pp. 341–74
Waldstreicher, David, ed. A Companion to
Benjamin Franklin (2011), 25
essays by scholars emphasizing how historians have handled Franklin.
Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body, & Early Writings (J.A. Leo Lemay,
ed.) (Library of America, 1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume)
Autobiography, Poor Richard, & Later Writings (J.A. Leo Lemay,
ed.) (Library of America, 1987 one-volume, 2005 two-volume)
Bailyn, Bernard, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
Benjamin Franklin papers, M. S. Coll. 900, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, Pa. Finding aid
Bailly, J.-S., "Secret Report on Mesmerism or Animal Magnetism",
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol.50,
No.4, (October 2002), pp. 364–368.
Franklin, B., Majault, M.J., Le Roy, J.B., Sallin, C.L., Bailly,
J.-S., d'Arcet, J., de Bory, G., Guillotin, J.-I. & Lavoisier, A.,
"Report of The Commissioners charged by the King with the Examination
of Animal Magnetism", International Journal of Clinical and
Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 50, No. 4, (October 2002),
pp. 332–363. doi:10.1080/00207140208410109
The Papers of
Benjamin Franklin online, Sponsored by The American
Benjamin Franklin Reader edited by
Walter Isaacson (2003)
Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography edited by J. A.
Leo Lemay and P. M.
Zall, (Norton Critical Editions, 1986); 390 pp. text, contemporary
documents and 20th century analysis
Houston, Alan, ed. Franklin: The Autobiography and other Writings on
Politics, Economics, and Virtue.
Cambridge University Press, 2004. 371
Ketcham, Ralph, ed. The Political Thought of Benjamin Franklin. (1965,
reprinted 2003). 459 pp.
Leonard Labaree, and others., eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin,
39 vols. to date (1959–2008), definitive edition, through 1783. This
massive collection of BF's writings, and letters to him, is available
in large academic libraries. It is most useful for detailed research
on specific topics. The complete text of all the documents are online
and searchable; The Index is also online at the Wayback Machine
(archived September 28, 2010).
"The Way to Wealth." Applewood Books; November 1986.
"Poor Richard's Almanack." Peter Pauper Press; November 1983.
Poor Richard Improved by
Benjamin Franklin (1751)
"Writings (Franklin)Writings." ISBN 0940450291
"Satires and Bagatelles."
"A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain."
"Fart Proudly: Writings of
Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in
School." Carl Japikse, Ed. Frog Ltd.; Reprint ed. 2003.
"Heroes of America Benjamin Franklin."
"Experiments and Observations on Electricity." (1751)
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Benjamin Franklin (1993) on IMDb
Franklin's impact on medicine – talk by medical historian, Dr.
Jim Leavesley celebrating the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth on
Okham's Razor ABC Radio National – December 2006
Benjamin Franklin at Find a Grave
Benjamin Franklin Papers, Kislak Center for
Special Collections, Rare
Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania.
Biographical and guides
Special Report: Citizen Ben's Greatest Virtues Time Magazine
Finding Franklin: A Resource Guide Library of Congress
Benjamin Franklin By a history professor at the University of
Benjamin Franklin: An extraordinary life PBS
Benjamin Franklin: First American Diplomat, 1776–1785 US State
Benjamin Franklin ushistory.org
Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History by J. A. Leo Lemay
Benjamin Franklin 1706–1790 Text of biography by Rev. Charles A.
Cooperative Hall of Fame testimonial for founding the Philadelphia
Online edition of Franklin's personal library
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Franklin, Benjamin". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press.
O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Benjamin Franklin", MacTutor
History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
"Writings of Benjamin Franklin" from C-SPAN's American Writers: A
Journey Through History
Yale edition of complete works, the standard scholarly edition
Founders Online, searchable edition
Benjamin Franklin at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Benjamin Franklin at Internet Archive
Benjamin Franklin at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Online Works by Franklin
"Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout" Creative Commons audio
American Institute of Physics – Letter IV: Farther Experiments
(PDF), and Letter XI: Observations in electricity (PDF)
Franklin's 13 Virtues Extract of Franklin's autobiography, compiled by
Franklin's Last Will & Testament Transcription.
Library of Congress web resource: Benjamin Franklin ... In His
Silence Dogood Sampler" – Selections from Franklin's Silence
Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer (1773), by Benjamin Franklin
and Francis Dashwood, transcribed by Richard Mammana
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Single page version,
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin from American Studies at the
University of Virginia
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin at Project Gutenberg
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
In the arts
Benjamin Franklin 300 (1706–2006) Official web site of the Benjamin
Pennsylvania Collection of Benjamin Franklin
Papers, including correspondence, government documents, writings and a
copy of his will, are available for research use at the Historical
Society of Pennsylvania.
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House Franklin's only surviving residence.
Ben Franklin Birthplace A historic site, link provides location and
Benjamin Franklin and music
"Benjamin Franklin", a poem by Florence Earle Coates
January 6, 1706 – April 17, 1790
Pennsylvania (1785–1788), Ambassador to France
Continental Congress (1775–1776)
Founding of the
Join, or Die
Join, or Die (1754 political cartoon)
Albany Plan of Union
Hutchinson Letters Affair
Committee of Secret Correspondence
Committee of Five
Declaration of Independence
Treaty of Amity and Commerce
Treaty of Alliance
Treaty of Paris, 1783
Delegate, 1787 Constitutional Convention
Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly
Franklin's electrostatic machine
Gulf Stream exploration, naming, and chart
Pay it forward
111th Infantry Regiment
American Philosophical Society
Library Company of Philadelphia
Academy and College of Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania
Union Fire Company
Early American currency
United States Postal Service
Pennsylvania Abolition Society
Master, Les Neuf Sœurs
Other social contributions and studies
Silence Dogood letters (1722)
A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain (1725)
The Busy-Body letters (1729)
Pennsylvania Gazette (1729–1790)
Poor Richard's Almanack
Poor Richard's Almanack (1732–1758)
The Drinker's Dictionary (1737)
"Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress" (1745)
"The Speech of Polly Baker" (1747)
Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of
Countries, etc. (1751)
Experiments and Observations on
Birch letters (1755)
The Way to Wealth
The Way to Wealth (1758)
Pennsylvania Chronicle (1767)
Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One (1773)
Proposed alliance with the Iroquois (1775)
A Letter To A Royal Academy (1781)
Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (1784)
The Morals of
An Address to the Public (1789)
A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789)
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1771–90, pub. 1791)
Bagatelles and Satires
Bagatelles and Satires (pub. 1845)
Franklin as a journalist
Benjamin Franklin House
Franklin Institute of Technology
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
Benjamin Franklin Medal
Depicted in The Apotheosis of Washington
Benjamin Franklin statue, Washington D.C.
In popular culture
Ben and Me (1953 short)
Ben Franklin in Paris
Ben Franklin in Paris (1964 musical play)
1776 (1969 musical
Benjamin Franklin (1974 miniseries)
Liberty! (1997 documentary series)
Liberty's Kids (2002 animated series)
Benjamin Franklin (2002 documentary series)
John Adams (2008 miniseries)
Sons of Liberty (2015 miniseries)
Sons of Ben (supporters group for the
Philadelphia Union soccer club
Franklin half dollar
One-hundred dollar bill
Cities, counties, schools named for Franklin
State of Franklin
Ships named USS Franklin
Ben Franklin effect
Age of Enlightenment
The American Museum magazine
Deborah Read (wife)
Sarah Franklin Bache
Sarah Franklin Bache (daughter)
Francis Franklin (son)
William Franklin (son)
Richard Bache Jr. (grandson)
Benjamin F. Bache (grandson)
Louis F. Bache (grandson)
William Franklin (grandson)
Andrew Harwood (great-grandson)
Alexander Bache (great-grandson)
Josiah Franklin (father)
Jane Mecom (sister)
James Franklin (brother)
Mary Morrell Folger (grandmother)
Peter Folger (grandfather)
Richard Bache (son-in-law)
Ann Smith Franklin (sister-in-law)
Offices and Positions Held by Benjamin Franklin
Provost of the Academy of Pennsylvania
as Provost of the College of Pennsylvania
United States Postmaster General
Member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania
President of Pennsylvania
United States Minister to France
Served alongside: Arthur Lee, Silas Deane, John Adams
United States Minister to Sweden
Articles related to Benjamin Franklin
Copley Medallists (1751–1800)
John Canton (1751)
John Pringle (1752)
Benjamin Franklin (1753)
William Lewis (1754)
John Huxham (1755)
Charles Cavendish (1757)
John Dollond (1758)
John Smeaton (1759)
Benjamin Wilson (1760)
John Canton (1764)
William Brownrigg /
Edward Delaval /
Henry Cavendish (1766)
John Ellis (1767)
Peter Woulfe (1768)
William Hewson (1769)
William Hamilton (1770)
Matthew Raper (1771)
Joseph Priestley (1772)
John Walsh (1773)
Nevil Maskelyne (1775)
James Cook (1776)
John Mudge (1777)
Charles Hutton (1778)
Samuel Vince (1780)
William Herschel (1781)
Richard Kirwan (1782)
John Goodricke / Thomas Hutchins (1783)
Edward Waring (1784)
William Roy (1785)
John Hunter (1787)
Charles Blagden (1788)
William Morgan (1789)
James Rennell /
Jean-André Deluc (1791)
Benjamin Thompson (1792)
Alessandro Volta (1794)
Jesse Ramsden (1795)
George Atwood (1796)
George Shuckburgh-Evelyn /
Charles Hatchett (1798)
John Hellins (1799)
Edward Charles Howard (1800)
The Age of Enlightenment
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Jean le Rond d'Alembert
Étienne Bonnot de Condillac
Marquis de Condorcet
Claude Adrien Helvétius
Marquis de Sade
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Georg Hamann
Johann Gottfried von Herder
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Frederik van Leenhof
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz
Stanisław August Poniatowski
Andrzej Stanisław Załuski
Józef Andrzej Załuski
Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo
Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro
Speakers of the
Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly (1682–1775)
Chief Administrators of the University of Pennsylvania
William Smith (1754–1779)
Edgar Smith (1910–1920)
DuBarry (acting, 1953)
Fagin (interim, 1993–1994)
The chief administrator prior to 1930 was the provost
Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence
Physical history of the Declaration of Independence, Memorial
Signatories of the United States Constitution
William Samuel Johnson
Gunning Bedford Jr.
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer
Richard Dobbs Spaight
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
United States Postmasters General
Post Office Department
U.S. Postal Service
Governors and Presidents of Pennsylvania
Ambassadors of the United States of America to France
Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee,
Silas Deane (substituted by John Adams
in 1778) (1776–1779)
Russell (chargé d'affaires) (1811)
Envoy Extraordinary and
Harris (chargé d'affaires) (1833)
Barton (chargé d'affaires) (1835)
Tuck (chargé d'affaires) (1942)
Social and political philosophy
Feminist political theory
Mandate of Heaven
Philosophy and economics
Philosophy of education
Philosophy of history
Philosophy of love
Philosophy of sex
Philosophy of social science
Hall of Fame for Great Americans
John Quincy Adams
Susan B. Anthony
John James Audubon
Henry Ward Beecher
Alexander Graham Bell
William Cullen Bryant
George Washington Carver
William Ellery Channing
James Fenimore Cooper
James Buchanan Eads
Thomas Alva Edison
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Josiah W. Gibbs
William C. Gorgas
Ulysses S. Grant
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Thomas J. Jackson
John Paul Jones
Robert E. Lee
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
James Russell Lowell
Matthew Fontaine Maury
Albert A. Michelson
Samuel F. B. Morse
William T. G. Morton
John Lothrop Motley
Alice Freeman Palmer
Edgar Allan Poe
Franklin D. Roosevelt
William Tecumseh Sherman
John Philip Sousa
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Henry David Thoreau
Booker T. Washington
James McNeill Whistler
John Greenleaf Whittier
Frances E. Willard
ISNI: 0000 0001 2133 9941
BNF: cb119034658 (data)
US Congress: F000342