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Benjamin Franklin

Biography >> American Revolution

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Benjamin Franklin Oval Painting
Benjamin Franklin
by Joseph Duplessis


Benjamin Franklin was one of the most important and influential Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He is sometimes referred to as the "First American". Franklin was a multitalented "Renaissance Man" who excelled in many areas including science, politics, writing, music, invention, and diplomacy.

Where was Benjamin Franklin born?

Ben Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. His father was a chandler (someone who makes candles and soap). Ben had sixteen brothers and sisters and was the youngest boy in the family. Young Ben had very little formal education. At the age of 10, he was forced to leave school in order to work with his dad. A few years later, he became a printer's apprentice for his brother James. Although Ben was denied a traditional education, he loved to read, and he became quite knowledgeable over the years by reading lots of books.

Ben ran away from Boston when he was 17, breaking his apprenticeship with his brother. He went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he worked as a printer.

Early Career

Franklin spent the next several years working at various jobs in London and Philadelphia. In 1729, Franklin became the publisher of a newspaper called the Pennsylvania Gazette. As a newspaper publisher, Franklin became a prominent voice in Pennsylvania politics and his reputation began to grow throughout the American colonies. In the 1750s and 1760s, Franklin spent much of his time in London, England. At first, he acted as the voice of the Pennsylvania colonists to the British Parliament, mostly protesting the influence of the Penn family on the colony. Later, he represented all of the American colonies when he spoke out against the much hated Stamp Act of 1765. His arguments eventually led to the repeal of the act by Parliament.
Cover of Poor Richard's Almanac
Poor Richard's Almanack
by Ben Franklin, 1739

Poor Richard's Almanack

In 1732, Franklin first published Poor Richard's Almanack. Poor Richard's Almanack was a yearly pamphlet that Franklin wrote under the pseudonym (fake name) of "Richard Saunders", also known as "Poor Richard." The pamphlet included all sorts of interesting information including poems, a calendar, interesting sayings, weather predictions, and scientific information. Franklin made a good income by selling the pamphlet. He published up to 10,000 copies a year for the next 25 years.

Revolutionary War and the Continental Congress

Franklin was still living in London as the Revolutionary War approached. It was Franklin who first suggested that the colonies meet at the First Continental Congress in 1774. Franklin later delivered their petition to King George III of England. In 1775, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and was elected as the Pennsylvania delegate to the Second Continental Congress. By this time the Revolutionary War had begun. Franklin played an important role in the early part of the Revolutionary War. He was part of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence and was the nation's first Postmaster General.

Ambassador and Europe

In 1776, Ben Franklin traveled to France. He spent the next few years gathering support in France for the American Revolution. In 1778, France allied with the colonies in their fight against England. The alliance with France would prove to be one of the most important factors in the American victory. Franklin remained in France throughout the war. In 1783, he helped to negotiate an end to the Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris.

Conducting a lightning experiment with a kite
Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Experiment
by Le Roy C. Cooley
What did Benjamin Franklin invent?

As if being a prolific writer and a major player in the founding of the United States wasn't enough, Ben Franklin still found time to be a prominent inventor and scientist.

Perhaps Ben Franklin is most famous for his experiments with electricity. He performed many experiments that proved that lightning is in fact electricity. This led to his invention of the lightning rod, which helps to keep buildings safe from lightning. Other inventions by Ben Franklin include bifocals (a type of glasses), the Franklin stove, an odometer for a carriage, and the glass harmonica. In science he studied and made discoveries in the areas of electricity, cooling, meteorology, printing, and the wave theory of light.

Other firsts Ben Franklin was involved in include starting the first lending library in America, founding the University of Pennsylvania, and establishing the first fire department in Pennsylvania.

Later Life and Death

Franklin returned from France to the United States in 1785. He participated in the Constitutional Convention and became the only founding father to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution. He also served as the President of Pennsylvania (like the governor). Franklin died in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790.

Franklin sitting at desk reading a book
Benjamin Franklin Reading
by David Martin
Fun Facts about Ben Franklin Activities

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    Back to Biographies >> Inventors and Scientists

    Other Inventors and Scientists:
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    Marie Curie
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Thomas Edison
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    Henry Ford
    Ben Franklin
    Robert Fulton
    Jane Goodall
    Johannes Gutenberg
    Stephen Hawking
    Antoine Lavoisier
    James Naismith
    Isaac Newton
    Louis Pasteur
    The Wright Brothers

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