This & That

Story published: 05-08-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Benjamin Franklin, a man of many talents

By Jack Swift

I have for many years been amazed at the quantity and quality of work some folks are able to produce. As I look back and see people who have made a definite difference during their lifetime, I am in awe of their tenacity and work ethic they have exhibited. I feel that statesmen, scientists, engineers, artists and people in other fields as well have made great contributions toward making our lives better. I appreciate that.

I have decided to profile a man of history in this column that is perhaps one of the most prolific men who has lived: Benjamin Franklin He was a philosopher, diplomat, publisher, editor, scientist, inventor and writer. He became a dominant figure in each of those fields.

Franklin was born into humble circumstances but became well known in his day as well as an historical icon. The folks in his country as well as Europe where he spent time admired him. He was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the 15th of 17 children fathered by Josiah Franklin: seven by his first wife and 10 by his second wife.

His father was a soap and candle maker by trade. He joined his father in that trade for a while but was soon dissatisfied. He left there and at the age of 12 was apprenticed to his brother in the printing business.

His brother wouldn’t let him write for his newspaper so Franklin unbeknownst to his brother wrote for his brother’s newspaper, The New England Courant, under the pseudonym Mrs. Silence Dogood. When his brother found out, he was angry and Franklin went to New York but he ultimately settled in Philadelphia, his base for the rest of his life. He bought The Pennsylvania Gazette from his former boss and was quite successful as a publisher.

As a statesman, he was on the committee that penned the Declaration of Independence. He also was one of the signers of that great document. Franklin invented the Franklin Stove, which was a great improvement over the heating apparatus at that time. He invented bifocal glasses that enabled folks to see both far and near. Oh, and lets not forget, he invented the harmonica.

Almost everyone remembers the story of his investigation of electricity. Flying a kite with a key at the handheld end was a practical way to prove that lighting was a form of electricity but a dangerous way to do it. As a statesman, he was chosen in 1781 as one of the American diplomats to bring about peace with Great Britain.

As a philosopher, his Poor Richard’s Almanac was a great success in that his sayings are still used today. One of his Poor Richard sayings is, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Another saying is, “God helps them who helps themselves.” At the signing of the Declaration of Independence he said, “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I have included only a few of the accomplishments of Franklin. I might add that the State of Franklin (1784-1788) that was formed following the Revolutionary War was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin.

It is still a wonder to me how a man could accomplish what Franklin accomplished. He died April 17, 1790 in Philadelphia at the age of 84.