Benjamin Franklin is one of the greatest Americans in
history. He contributed to society in almost every aspect.
He was a writer, printer, newsman, publisher, editor,
civic leader, inventor, scientist, philosopher, musician,
patriot, statesman, and diplomat.
Ben was born on January 17, 1706,
in Boston, Massachusetts. He came from a big family
and had 16 brothers and sisters.
When Ben was born, the United
States of America had not been formed. Massachusetts
was one of 13 colonies ruled by England.
Ben played a key role in forming
the United States of America, and he is known as one
of the Founding Fathers. In 1775, he was a member of
the Second Continental Congress, and in 1776, he helped
draft the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, he was
a member of the Constitutional Convention and helped
draft the U.S. Constitution.
There were four key documents
which led to the formation of the United States of America.
Ben was the only person to sign all four documents.
1. The Declaration of Independence:
it declared the American colonies independent from
2. The Treaty of Alliance
with France: it brought French money, troops and
arms to the American colonies to aid their fight against
3. The Treaty of Paris:
it ended the American Revolution and recognized the
independence of the United States.
4. The Constitution of
the United States: it describes the laws of the
Ben loved to write. When he was
sixteen years old, Ben wrote a series of letters for
his brother's newspaper. Ben did not want his brother
to know he was the author so he signed the letters Silence
Ben ran his own newspaper called
The Pennsylvania Gazette and printed an almanac
called Poor Richard's Almanack. Ben included
bits of advice and good humor to the almanac, like "Haste
makes waste" and "A penny saved is a penny earned."
Ben was America's first great
writer and humorist. He published the first political
cartoon in the colonies.
Ben was a civic leader and improved
life in America. He created the first public library
in America, helped pave the first streets, established
the first fire and sanitation departments, reformed
the police department, started the first free hospital
in America, and founded the University of Pennsylvania.
Ben invented the Franklin Stove
between 1742 and 1744. The Franklin Stove is a heater,
not a cooking stove. Before the Franklin Stove, people
used fireplaces for heat. Fireplaces gave off some heat,
but most of the heat went up and out the chimney. The
Franklin Stove, however, gave off more heat than the
fireplace and used less fuel. Ben called his invention
the Pennsylvania Fire Place. Today, it is known as the
Ben invented bifocals in 1784. Ben needed eye glasses
to help him see things far away and up close. A pair
of eye glasses only corrected one or the other of these
problems so Ben had to carry two pairs of glasses. Ben
got tired of always having to switch glasses, and he
decided to put two lens (one to see far away and one
to see up close) into one pair of glasses. The top lens
allowed him to see far away, and the bottom lens allowed
him to see up close. This new type of eye glasses is
called bifocals. "Bi" means two, and "focal" means focus.
Bifocals also made Ben very recognizable.
In Ben's time, many people did not wear glasses and
even fewer people wore bifocals. Whenever Ben's picture
appeared in the newspaper, he was portrayed wearing
bifocals. Soon people recognized Ben by his bifocals
alone. Have you seen pictures of Ben wearing bifocals?
Ben invented the armonica. The armonica is a type of
musical instrument made of glass bowls. Armonica is
an Italian word meaning harmonies. Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven composed music for the
Ben made swimming paddles for his hands and feet to
help him swim faster. These paddles were made out of
wood and were too heavy to aid his swimming. Today,
the paddles are made out of rubber and are called swim
Ben also floated in the water
while holding onto a kite. He hoped the kite would pull
him across the water. Today, we use water skis and are
pulled across the water by holding onto a rope attached
to a boat.
Ben invented the odometer to measure distances traveled
in his carriage. Today, all automobiles have odometers
to measure distances traveled in our cars.
Ben invented a rocking chair
with a fan. Every time Ben rocked in the chair, the
fan would turn and cool him.
Ben also invented a writing desk
with a built-in chair, a mechanical hand for getting
books off high shelves, and a stepladder stool with
Although Ben invented many items, he did not patent
any of them. A patent is a legal protection the government
gives an inventor to protect the use of his or her invention.
It gives an inventor the exclusive right over the invention,
usually for a period of time. A patent excludes other
people from producing or making use of the invention
without the inventor's permission. Ben thought ideas
should be used to benefit all people.
and Key Experiment
Ben had a theory that lightning
is electricity, and he performed an experiment to prove
this theory in 1752. Ben and his 21-year old son, William,
flew a kite and a key in a thunderstorm. (Remember,
this is a dangerous experiment and not recommended for
you to recreate.)
Ben made a special kite for this
experiment. First, it was made out of silk because Ben
knew silk would not be torn apart during the storm.
Also, silk would be safer to use because it is not a
good conductor of electricity. This meant Ben would
have less risk of being shocked if his theory proved
to be true. Second, Ben secured a metal wire at the
tip of the kite and a metal key to the string to attract
the lightning. Third, the kite string was made of a
silk ribbon for Ben to hold.
Ben and William stayed under
cover during the experiment. It was important to keep
the silk ribbon dry because water is a good conductor
of electricity. If the silk ribbon got wet, there would
have been a greater chance of Ben being shocked. If
Ben were shocked, he could have been killed.
During the storm, Ben noticed
parts of the string standing up (like our hair stands
up when there is static electricity in the air). When
Ben touched the kite, he got a shock. This shock proved
lightning is electricity. Luckily, the shock did not
Ben's famous kite and key experiment
led to his invention of the lightning rod in 1753. With
his recently gained knowledge of lightning, Ben sought
out ways to prevent fires from igniting when lightning
struck buildings. Ben invented a metal rod to attach
to houses, barns, or other structures. During storms,
lightning would hit this rod rather than the structure.
This invention saved many buildings from being burned.
Ben attached the lightning rod
on his house to a bell. When lightning struck the rod,
the bell rang. This was a very clever idea. Ben did
not get to enjoy the bell, however, because he was away
in England and France for a long period of time. His
wife, Deborah, on the other hand, had to listen to the
bell every time it rang.
you know the lightning rod is also known
as the Franklin rod?
know Ben suggested the idea of Daylight Saving
Time as a good way to save fuel? Yes, in 1784, Ben believed
if we changed our clocks
when the sun changed, we could better use the natural
light of the sun, rather than the extra fuel.
Daylight Saving Time began in
the United States in 1918. Some states follow Daylight
Saving Time. This means twice a year some states adjust
their clocks by an hour to gain extra sun light. In
the spring the clocks are turned ahead one hour, and
in the fall the clocks are turned back an hour. You
can remember which way to turn your clock by remembering
to "Spring forward" and "Fall back."
Ben Franklin died on April 17,
1790, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 84 years
In 1847, Ben was pictured on
the U.S. five cent stamp. Today, Ben is pictured on
the $100 bill.
There are many things in America
named for Ben. They include towns, counties, streets,
colleges, libraries, hotels, banks, stores, stoves,
and ships. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia was
named after Ben. There is a football field at the University
of Pennsylvania named Franklin Field. Two Presidents
of the United States were also named after Benjamin
Franklin: Franklin Pierce and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Benjamin Franklin was a man of
great vision, a great American, and a hero in our hearts.