March 22, 2019
"Ben" There, Done That
Founder Father. Printer. Diplomat. Revolutionary. Kite flyer. We all know the pivotal role Benjamin Franklin played in the American Revolution and founding of our nation. For example, Franklin is the only one to have signed the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution. He also served as the first Postmaster General of the United States. Few realize that in 1776, Franklin was already 70 years old and had lived an adventurous and fruitful life.
Did you know Ben Franklin was …
An entrepreneur? After many years as a printer’s apprentice, Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. In addition to printing the newspaper, he often contributed pieces under aliases. His most well-known publication was Poor Richard’s Almanac. By the 1730s and 40s, Franklin began setting up franchise printing partnerships in other cities. Franklin and his wife Deborah also ran a general store and a book store.
A community organizer? In the 1730s and 40s, he helped launch projects to pave, clean, and light Philadelphia’s streets. Franklin started the Library Company in 1731, the first subscription library in the country. He also helped start the American Philosophical Society in 1743 and the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1751. All three are still in existence today. Also in 1751, Franklin was a driving force behind the founding of a college called the Academy of Philadelphia, known today as the University of Pennsylvania.
A fire-fighter? In 1736, he organized Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company, the first in the city. He also helped establish the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire in 1752. He wanted to make sure that people who lost their homes to fire were not wiped out financially. This also is still in business today.
An inventor? In 1743, he had already invented a heat-efficient stove called the Franklin stove. Among Franklin’s other inventions are swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument), bifocals, the flexible urinary catheter, and the “pro/con” list for decision-making. Franklin refused to take out patents on his inventions, saying they were intended to help society. Franklin also charted the Gulf Stream and studied meteorology, causes of the common cold, and refrigeration.