The First American
In a page, it would be impossible to give a full accounting of, or acknowledgment for, everything that Founding Father Benjamin Franklin accomplished. Here, we will simply provide some of the highlights during his incredible life of 84 years.
Benjamin Franklin is considered by many historians, and others, as "The First American" due to his early insistence and campaigning to unite the Colonies that had been founded since Jamestown was first settled.
He was a true Renaissance Man, with professions and interests as wide and varied as author, civic activist, diplomat, freemason, humorist, inventor*, political theorist, politician, postmaster, printer, scientist and statesman.
Franklin was born on Milk Street, in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706. He was one of 17 children born to Josiah Franklin and one of 10 born by Abiah Folger, Josiah's second wife.
In order to seek a new start, when he was 17, he fled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he would work and reside the rest of his life, other than the occasional extended times he traveled and lived abroad in other countries.
At the age of 23, Franklin became successful as a newspaper editor and printer, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette. Under the pen name Richard Saunders, Franklin authored and published Poor Richard's Almanack (from 1752-1758), which offered seasonal weather forecasts, household hints, and various puzzles and other amusing articles. The Old Farmer's Almanac is based upon Franklin's creation.
In 1751, he founded and became the first president of the Academy and College of Philadelphia (later renamed the University of Pennsylvania). Franklin also organized and was the first secretary, and later president, of the American Philosophical Society.
He served for many years as the postmaster of Philadelphia and, in 1753, was appointed as the deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies. From this position he was able to create the first communications network for the soon-to-be nation. He was appointed as the first U.S. Postmaster General during the war.
Franklin assisted in the drafting of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, which he also signed as a delegate for Pennsylvania. He was the person who convinced the French to join the Colonists in their fight for independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania.
His funeral in Philadelphia was attended by approximately 20,000 people. Years earlier, when he was merely 22, he had written what he hoped would be his own epitaph, "The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And striped of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author."
Between 1771 and 1790, Franklin had written what he referred to as his memoirs, and was later published as The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, first published in 1793. Since that time there have been scores of printed editions, as well as numerous other biographies and accounts of his life.
* Although no patents had ever been filed in his name, some more well-known inventions by Franklin include bifocal glasses, the Franklin stove, glass harmonica, the lightning rod, the long-arm reaching device, political cartooning, swim fins, as well as a urinary catheter.
Franklin stated, "Of all my inventions, the glass harmonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction."