Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street, in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a maker of candles and soap, whose second wife, Abiah Folger, was Benjamin's mother. Josiah's marriages produced 17 children; Benjamin was the fifteenth child and youngest son. Josiah wanted Ben to attend school with the clergy but only had enough money to send him to school for two years. He attended Boston Latin School but didn't graduate; he continued his education through voracious reading. Although "his parents talked of the church as a career" for Franklin, his schooling ended when he was ten.
Benjamin Franklin was chosen to represent GPO Access since he was involved in setting up the first public library in America. His work during the early days of government printing has led some people to give him the honorary title of "first public printer" of the United States.
As a child, Franklin loved to read, write, and collect books; so when it came time to choose a trade, his father decided he would become a printer. At the age of 12, he started as an apprentice with his older brother James. At the age of 22, he opened his own printing shop. Franklin's newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette became very popular and profitable. A few years later, Poor Richard’s Almanack was released and soon became the best selling book in the colonies, selling over 10,000 copies a year. It didn't take very long before Franklin became the most active printer in the colonies and was appointed the official printer of Pennsylvania. His duties included printing money, laws, and documents for the colony. He then became the public printer for Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland and helped establish newspapers in New York, Connecticut, and two islands in the West Indies.
Books were very expensive during this time and not everyone was able to afford them. Some fellow printers and Franklin, known as the Leather Apron Club (because most of them wore leather aprons) discussed ways they could help the community. Through a suggestion by Franklin, they developed and started a lending library that was open to everyone. They pooled their money to buy books which people could borrow.
Franklin is known to have played the violin, the harp, and the guitar. He also composed music, notably a string quartet in early classical style, and invented a much-improved version of the glass harmonica, in which each glass was made to rotate on its own, with the player's fingers held steady, instead of the other way around; this version soon found its way to Europe. He was also an avid Chess player.
In 1731, the first lending library in America opened. Soon afterwards other towns began to imitate the library, until reading became fashionable even among the less educated.
At the age of 42, Franklin retired from printing to explore his many other interests and devoted this time to inventing. During his lifetime he invented many things, including:
In addition to inventing Franklin enjoyed experimenting. One thing that always fascinated him was electricity. One stormy night Franklin and his son, William, were experimenting with lightning. At that time in history people thought that lightning was some kind of a mysterious force that was a punishment from God; however, Franklin was determined to prove that lightning is a form of electricity.
He attached a pointed metal piece on the top of a kite and a metal key to the base of the string. Lightning struck the kite and travelled down the kite string to the key. When he touched the key with his knuckle, there was a spark! (He was knocked unconscious twice before when experimenting with electricity, so don't try this at home!), but he did prove that lightning is electricity! Afterwards, he invented the lightning rod to protect buildings and ships from lightning damage.
Although he received much recognition from my inventions, he did not profit from them. Instead, he chose to give my inventions to the world freely.
America was made up of 13 colonies at the time of Franklin's birth; these colonies were ruled by England. Trouble between England and the 13 colonies started to unfold following the French and Indian War. The imposition of the Stamp, Townshend, and Intolerable Acts angered the colonists to rebel against Mother England. On April 19, 1775, the colonists went to war for their freedom.
During the fight for independence, he was sent to Europe to represent the colonies. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence and, in 1778, the Treaty of Alliance with France. In addition, he negotiated with the French to help the colonists and became the first United States minister to France.
Franklin helped secure guns, ammunition, and other provisions for the army as well as volunteer troops. When the colonists won their independence in 1781, he helped negotiate the peace with England and signed what ultimately became known as Treaty of Peace with Great Britain (1782).
Now that the colonists were free and independent, it became necessary to decide what type of government would be established. Even though Franklin was no longer a young man and in his prime and his health was starting to fail, at aged 81, he was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention.
Upon signing the Constitution on September 17, 1787, Franklin became the only Founding Father to have signed all 5 documents that established American independence:
the Declaration of Independence,
the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France,
the Treaty of Alliance with France,
the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and
the Constitution of the United States of America.
Benjamin Franklin - Timeline
* 1706 -- Born in Boston, Massachusetts. * 1718 -- Apprentice with brother James in printing shop. * 1728 -- Opens printing office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. * 1729 -- Becomes sole owner and publisher of Pennsylvania Gazette. * 1731 -- Founds first public library. * 1748 -- Retires from printing. * 1752 -- Kite experiment. * 1757 -- Goes to England as colonial representative. * 1776 -- Signs Declaration of Independence. * 1778 -- Negotiates Treaty of Alliance with France. * 1782 -- Negotiates Treaty of Peace with Great Britain. * 1787 -- Signs the Constitution of the United States. * 1790 -- Dies in Philadelphia.