Facts about Benjamin Franklin - did Benjamin Franklin invent electricity? If not, what did he invent? What does Poor Richards Almanac have to do with Ben Franklin? For the answer to these and other Ben Franklin facts, keep reading!
Ben Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. His parents were Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger Franklin. Abiah was Josiah's second wife, and they had 10 children together. With his first wife, Anne Child, he had seven children, for a total of 17. Anne died shortly after delivering her 7th child, Joseph. Her sixth child was also named Joseph, but he died in infancy.
Ben began working in his father's candle shop when he was ten years old. Two years later, his father apprenticed him out to Benjamin's older brother, James, who owned a print shop in Boston. When Ben was 15, his brother started the The New England Courant, the first real newspaper in Boston. Ben wanted to submit articles to the newspaper, but knew that his brother wouldn't allow it. So clever Ben decided to write his letters under the name Silence Dogood . "Mrs. Dogood" would write opinionated letters that ridiculed current events and what was going on in the world. The letters were very popular in the newspaper, and over 14 were published before Ben admitted to his brother that he was the author of them.
Silence Dogood wasn't Ben Franklin's only "nom de plume" (pen name). He first published the yearly "Poor Richard's Almanack " in 1732 or 1733, under the name of Richard Saunders. This gazette published weather reports and witty sayings, and quickly became very popular. The phrase "A penny saved is a penny earned" came from Richard Saunders, aka Benjamin Franklin. Years later some of the most popular sayings were collected and re-published in a book -
Ben left his brother's business when he was around 16 years old. The two brothers didn't get along very well, and Ben set out for New York City. Unable to find work there, he went to Philadelphia arriving in Philly in October, 1723. He found work as a printer's helper and moved into the boarding house of his future wife, Deborah Read.
Ben Franklin was encouraged by the Governor of Pennsylvania to set up his own shop, and offered to send letters of credit to London, for Ben to go there and purchase supplies and equipment. However, once in London, he found out that the letters had not arrived, and he was forced to work in London because he couldn't afford the trip back to America.
Before he left for London, marriage had been discussed between Deborah and Ben, but while he was gone, she married another man. When he finally returned, he opened a printing business that became successful. Deborah's husband died in 1730, and Ben and Deborah finally married. They had two children, and raised Ben's son William, from an earlier relationship.
Did Ben Franklin invent electricity? No, he didn't. When he and his son flew their kite, it was to prove that lightening was electricity. And he invented a lightening rod that helped protect houses, buildings and ships from getting struck by lightening. He did invent several other useful things, including bi-focals, the Franklin Stove and the first urinary catheter in America.
Fun Fact: While serving as Postmaster General in 1775, Ben Franklin devised an odometer that attached to his carriage, so that he could track the mileage of his postal routes.
If you are a fan of Ben's, a really fun book to read is Poor Richard's Lament: A Most Timely Tale by Tom Fitzgerald. This historical fiction book brings Benjamin Franklin into today's world (think "It's a Wonderful Life" type of fantasy). Fitzgerald researched extensively for this book, and you can learn tons of facts about Benjamin Franklin by reading it. The book is thought provoking, humorous, educational and entertaining!
Click to read some great Benjamin Franklin quotes and Poor Richard's witticisms.