Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, born January 17, 1706, was the 10th son, and 15th child,
of 17 children in the Josiah Franklin family. Josiah was a soap and candlemaker,
who lived in Boston, Massachusetts with his second wife, Abiah Folger. Although
Franklin learned to read at an early age, he only attended grammar school for
two years. By the time he was 10 years old, Franklin was working for his father.
However, he did not enjoy the candlemaking profession, and two years later,
Franklin was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer.

For five years, Franklin sought to master the printers\' trade. During this
time, he also strove to improve his education. Franklin read numerous classics
and perfected his writing style. One night, Franklin slipped a letter, signed
"Silence Dogood," under the door of his brother\'s newspaper, the New
England Courant. That letter and the next 13 written by Franklin were published
anonymously. The essays were widely read and acclaimed for their satire.

After a quarrel with his brother in 1723, Franklin left Boston for
Philadelphia, where he again worked in the printing industry. He established a
friendship with the Pennsylvania governor, Sir William Keith, and at Keith\'s
suggestion, Franklin decided to go into business for himself. Keith offered to
arrange letters of credit and introduction for Franklin\'s trip to London to
purchase equipment. Unfortunately, Keith proved unreliable, and Franklin arrived
in London with no means. However, he quickly found employment in two of London\'s
largest printing houses, and after two years, earned enough money to return to

Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726 and resumed his trade. By 1730,
Franklin had his own business. That same year, he married Deborah Read, a woman
he met before his trip to England. Together they had a son, who died at four
years of age; and a daughter, who survived them both.

Franklin\'s business ventures included the purchase of the Pennsylvania
Gazette, which, after his improvement, was considered one of the best colonial
newspapers; Poor Richard\'s Almanac, written under the pseudonym, Richard
Saunders, and published from 1732 to 1757; and the printing of Pennsylvania\'s
paper currency. In 1731, Franklin founded what is considered the first public
library. During the next several years, Franklin was instrumental in
establishing the first fire department, a police force, and the Academy of
Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania. Around 1744, Franklin
invented a stove which reduced excessive chimney smoke. The Franklin stove is
still in use today.

In the 1740\'s, Franklin began experimenting with electricity, which led to
the invention of the lightning rod. By 1748, Franklin had sold his printing
business to devote himself to his scientific experiments. His famous electricity
experiment, which included flying a kite during a lightning storm took place in
1752. In addition to his science projects, Franklin was elected to the
Pennsylvania assembly and held the post for 14 years. In 1753, he was appointed
deputy postmaster general. The following year, Franklin became a Pennsylvania
delegate to the intercolonial congress, which met in Albany. His suggestion to
unite the colonies as a defense against the French and natives was considered
premature and rejected.

In 1757, Franklin was sent to England to petition the king for the right to
levy taxes. He remained in England for the next five years, as the
representative of the American colonies. Franklin returned to England in 1764 as
an agent of Pennsylvania, to negotiate a new charter. He was able to secure the
repeal of the Stamp Act, but Parliament continued to levy taxes on the colonies.
In 1775, with war seemingly inevitable, Franklin returned to America. Shortly
thereafter, he was made a member of the Second Continental Congress and helped
draft the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson supposed stated that the
only reason Franklin didn\'t write the entire Declaration was because he would
include too many jokes.

In December, 1776, Franklin, age 71, traveled to France to successfully
negotiate a treaty of commerce and defensive alliance. He remained in France for
nine years, working on trade treaties. Franklin became a hero to the French, and
diplomats and nobility sought his company. Louis XVI honored him, and his
portrait was placed on everything from chamber pots to snuff boxes.

Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1785. Two years later, he became a
member of the Constitutional Convention. Franklin was bedridden during the final
year of his life and died on April 17, 1790. As one of his final public acts, he
signed a petition to the U.S. Congress urging the abolition of slavery, just two
months before his death.

Category: Biographies