July 2nd, 2014
Dear Reader: As the birthday of our nation draws near, our thoughts turn to the patriots who helped to create the United States and their stories. Benjamin Franklin is a larger-than-life figure, a founding father who is sometimes referred to as the “First American.” Benjamin Franklin, a politician, writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat and humorist was a gentleman that epitomized the American character.
Born the 15th of 17 children in 1706, Benjamin Franklin was not a formally educated man. He taught himself to read and write, and learned the printing trade as an apprentice to his brother. Through the coming years, he would hone his trade and become a well-respected and ambitious businessman and writer. He set up a printing shop in Philadelphia, and bought, published, and wrote for “The Philadelphia Gazette.” The paper became a huge success and was the first paper to include political cartoons, also written by Franklin. He also published “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” writing under the pseudonym of “Richard Saunders.” His writing was witty and entertaining. Many of the Benjamin Franklin quotes we know today come from “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” for instance: “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
He eventually turned his attentions to science experiments and inventions. He developed the “Franklin Stove” to help heat homes more efficiently. He also invented swim fins, the glass armonica (a musical instrument) and bifocals. He became internationally famous from his experiments with electricity. In order to prove that there was electricity in lightning, he completed his famous kite experiment. Benjamin Franklin tied a scarf between two crossed wooden kites, attached a key to the end of a long silken thread hanging from the kites, and waited for a thunderstorm. The rain was an excellent conductor, and the charge traveled down to the key. When Franklin touched his hand to the key he received a shock, thus proving that there was electricity in the sky. He was wise enough to attach a ground wire to his key ensuring he was not electrocuted. Through his experiments with electricity he developed many new words and concepts about electricity, including negative and positive charges, conductors, and batteries. Considered his most important invention, Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod, which was placed atop Christ Church in Philadelphia. He charted the Gulf Stream while traveling back and forth across the Atlantic, established the concept of high and low pressure, and proposed the use of daylight savings time. Benjamin Franklin never stopped inventing and he never requested patents on any of his inventions. He considered them gifts to the public.
As our country was evolving, he was also a revered and respected statesman–his legacy to our fledgling new republic. A man of many talents and much wisdom, Benjamin Franklin believed that all men could benefit from self-improvement and that with hard work and thriftiness, all men could achieve greatness. Benjamin Franklin was truly an inventor, not only of things but of ideas and concepts. He was an amazing gentleman.
To learn more about Franklin, check out our selection of books, biographies, videos and more.