Benjamin Franklin – who exactly was he? Over time opinions have changed about his life and impact as generations reinterpret history. Just because society's attitudes and beliefs systems have changed does not diminish one person's impact on history when they were living by their own standards. We should not forget transgressions and mistakes but we should still value their input and influence.
Franklin has been called many things but let's stick with the positives in this post. He was a writer, scientist, philosopher, diplomat, politician, husband, father, and inventor. This post will only provide a brief biography of Franklin.
Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston. He was the youngest son of Josiah Franklin (a candle-maker) and Abiah (Folger) Franklin. He began reading at an early age and trained himself in writing. He left school at the age of 10 to help in his father's candle-making shop but this wasn't the job for him. Josiah Franklin then apprenticed Ben Franklin to his brother James' print shop.
James and Ben did not really get along. Mistreatment, frequent beatings, and the fact that Ben could only get James to print his writings under a pseudonym eventually led Ben to leave Boston in 1723 (technically Ben Franklin still owed three years' service to his Master brother in his apprenticeship).
Arriving in Philadelphia
At the age of 17, in the fall of 1723, Benjamin Franklin arrived in the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia. Upon arrival he found himself hungry and short on money. He was able to purchase three puffy rolls at a bakery on 2nd Street and walked onto 4th street eating one roll and carrying the other two under his arm. It was on 4th street that a young girl observed his dirty clothes and disheveled hair. This young girl would become his future wife – Deborah.
It was in the city of Philadelphia that Franklin found success with his printing press. His press printed pamphlets, essays, magazines, and almanacs. Through these publications, Franklin helped shape American folkways and history.
Lifetime of Influence
Franklin is considered the inventor of many items:
- Franklin stove (provided more heat with less fuel)
- Glass armonica (I think I got to see one on display at his home's museum in Philadelphia)
- Rocking Chair
As a scientist, Franklin studied electricity and helped chart the Gulf Stream during his oversea voyages to England as a diplomat.
There are also many firsts connected to Franklin and the city of Philadelphia. He helped launch the first lending library in 1731, the first hospital and fire insurance company, and established the American Philosophical Society in 1744.
While involved in politics, Franklin helped draft the Constitution and acted as a spokesman for the colonial legislature in London.
We can look back on Benjamin Franklin as a prime example that hard work and dedication will be rewarded. A man with little formal education was able to emerge – in his own words – "from the poverty and obscurity in which [he] was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world." Through his own printed words we can also learn more about him and his philosophy to help us decide his place in American history.
Looking for more American History information?
Looking for a good unit study that examines U.S. Symbols, how to study history using music, or maybe more information on another colonial figure? A Mom's Quest to Teach offers a variety of history-related blog posts.
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