Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Philadelphia's Famous Son: Benjamin Franklin

Who is this man on our one hundred dollar bill? Why has he been honored this way?
This same man used to be on our half dollar. Did you guess Benjamin Franklin? Because of his many achievements, Franklin is one of our best known founding fathers.

Benjamin Franklin may be Philadelphia’s most famous citizen. Born the fifteenth child (of seventeen children) to working class parents in Boston, Franklin had only two years of formal schooling. Without wealth, privilege or an excellent education, his prospects for success seemed minimal. However by the time Franklin died at the age of 85 he had achieved so much it seems almost impossible that one man could accomplish so many things in such varied fields. A writer, a scientist, a statesman, an inventor, and a businessman, Benjamin Franklin will forever be remembered and revered.

The stove invented by Benjamin Franklin is used to heat a room.
One of the most interesting of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin was an innovator who spent a lifetime finding ways to improve everything he touched. His inventions were many:
·      Franklin stove
·      Bifocal glasses
·      Lightning rod
·      Simple odometer to measure distances he traveled
·      Glass Armonica—musical instrument
·      Daylight Savings Time

This 9-foot tall bust of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia was created by James Peniston. He talked to elementary students about Franklin and asked them to bring old keys from home to be used in the statue. Casts of the keys were incorporated into the surface of the bust. 

Here you can see a closeup of the keys on the surface of the bust of Franklin. Why is Benjamin Franklin associated with keys?

Franklin worked to improve the lives of those around him. He founded the first surgical hospital in the United States. The building still stands in Philadelphia. Because there was no electricity, surgery could be performed only in the middle of the day when sunlight streamed through the skylight that lit the surgical suite. Operations were free to the patient. The hospital earned money by allowing spectators, for a fee, to watch surgery performed. Other of Franklin’s achievements include these:
--Colonial printer
--Experiments with electricity
--Introduced new crops to the United States
--Started the first insurance company
--Founded the University of Pennsylvania
--Started the first lending library
--Served as first postmaster of the United States
--Writer of Poor Richard’s Almanack and other works
--Established the first fire and police departments
--Started the American Philosophical Society
--Started the Leather Apron Club, an early union
--Drew the first political cartoon in an American newspaper
--Designed a phonetic alphabet
--Began printing America’s first German language newspaper 
--Launched a project to pave, clean, and light Philadelphia streets  

America's first surgical hospital is located in Philadelphia. If you look closely near the top of the building, you can see the large oval skylight that let in light so that surgery could be performed.

Franklin's political cartoon. What does it mean? Why is the snake cut into thirteen pieces? What does each piece represent?

Benjamin Franklin may be more widely known for his work in the establishment of the United States. He was appointed to the “Committee of Five” whose job it was to draft the Declaration of Independence. While Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft, Franklin provided much input for revisions. Saying, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately,” Franklin voted to accept the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. For the fledgling government he served as Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to France, and on the Committee of Secret Correspondence. He also convinced the French to support the American war effort by providing money, supplies, ships, sailors along with military leaders. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Franklin served as one of three commissioners to negotiate the terms of peace with Britain. A delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Franklin was a signer of the United States Constitution.
Franklin's glass armonica can be heard at Colonial Williamsburg. This one, played by Dean Shostak, dates to Franklin's lifetime.
Benjamin Franklin held more than 20 public offices. A complete list of them is at the end of this post. It is hard to believe that one man could be responsible for so much. It clearly demonstrates that others held Franklin in great esteem and had much confidence in his abilities.
Considering his many accomplishments is it any wonder that Benjamin Franklin was featured on one of the first United States postage stamps in 1847?

There is much, much more to learn about Benjamin Franklin. Take the time to find out about him in your school or pubic library. There also are many good Internet resources devoted to Franklin's life and time.

If you are in Philadelphia, spend a day at The Franklin Institute, an interactive museum. Here you can see many excellent science exhibits. At present there is an informative exhibition about mummies. Also, as part of the permanent collect is an exhibit about the human heart that includes a model of the heart that is so large you can walk through it. And in the exhibit about flight, there is one of the original airplanes built by the Wright brothers.

 Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

List of Public Offices Held by Benjamin Franklin:

--Clerk of the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly
--Deputy Postmaster at Philadelphia
--Common Council of Philadelphia
--Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia
--Representative from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly
--Alderman of Philadelphia
--Deputy Postmaster General of North America
--Commissioner to Albany Congress from Pennsylvania
--Pennsylvania Assembly's Representative to the King of England
--23rd Speaker of the House of the Pennsylvania Assembly
--2nd time Pennsylvania Assembly's Representative to the king in England
--Colonial Agent to the King of England
--Colonial Agent from New Jersey to the King of England
--Colonial Agent from Massachusetts to the King of England
--Philadelphia's Representative to Second Continental Congress
--1st Postmaster General of the United States
--Commissioner to Canada
--Delegate from Philadelphia to Pennsylvania state convention
--President of Pennsylvania convention
--Delegate to Congress from Pennsylvania Convention
--United States Minister to Sweden
--6th President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Try thirteen bloodlines.