Benjamin Franklin
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

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

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.

Teaching Resources & Printables
Ben's Activity Book PDF

Credits, References, Thanks and External Resources
Ben Franklin Totally Explained
Ben's Guide
National History Education Clearing House US Govt Fed Resources
Ben Franklin 300 ORG
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