Benjamin Franklin, born January 17th, 1706, was a famous printer, inventor, scientist, writer, politician, and diplomat of the 18th century (1700s). He did way too many things to list them all here, but because he is such a fascinating character, I hope you will ﬁnd this overview interesting.
At age 17, Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship (and in so doing became a fugitive). He moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where, over time, he established himself as a reliable printer.
Benjamin Franklin formed the ﬁrst library in America. Being an avid reader, Franklin wanted access to more books to read, both for himself and for the public. The Library Company of Philadelphia was started by him and some friends in 1731 and worked as a subscription company. It still exists today as a private, non-proﬁt company.
The former home of the Library Company of Philadelphia
Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia
Franklin also helped to create Pennsylvania’s ﬁrst ﬁre company. The ﬁre company was a business that people hired to put out dangerous ﬁres, sort of like an insurance company. The Union Fire Company was founded on December 7, 1736. Not long after, Philadelphia witnessed the creation of many other ﬁre companies, all competing with one another for proﬁt. Philadelphia soon became one of the safest cities in the world in terms of ﬁre damage.
In 1733, Franklin began to write and publish the famous Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. He ceased writing it in 1758.
Inventions of Franklin’s include the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and a musical instrument that he called the armonica.
Franklin was also famous for his scientiﬁc theories. In 1943, he founded the American Philosophical Society. Discoveries he made while investigating electricity changed the way the world thought about it. In recognition of his work with electricity, Franklin received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1753, and in 1756 he became one of the few eighteenth century Americans to be elected as a Fellow of the Society.
In June 1776, he was appointed a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence.
From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was Postmaster General under the Continental Congress; from 1776 to 1785, he served as the American Ambassador to France; and, from 1785 to 1788, he was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania.
Toward the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent abolitionists. He freed both of his slaves, and became president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
Benjamin Franklin passed away in 1790 at the age of 84.
Despite never having been elected president of the United States, Franklin appears on the $100 bill, as he has ever since 1928.
Click here to return to the Kids Coяner.