Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, on the 17th of January, 1706.
He was one of the most extraordinary human beings the world has
ever known. Born into the family of a Boston candle maker, Benjamin
Franklin became the most famous American of his time. He helped
found a new nation and defined the American character. Writer,
inventor, diplomat, businessman, musician, scientist, humorist,
civic leader, international celebrity and genius.
Benjamin Franklin was the tenth of seventeen children. As a child, his father planned for him to be a clergyman, but they were in no financial state for that to happen. Due to lack of money, Ben only attended one year of school. Instead of schooling him, his father sent him off to apprentice to his older brother at a printing shop.
From 1730 to 1748 Franklin worked hard in the printing business and became very successful. By 1734 he was public printer for New Jersey and Delaware as well and later became Maryland's official printer.
In 1728 at the age of 22, he started his own print shop with a partner, Hugh Meredith. The two of them published a weekly newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1730 Franklin bought Meredith's share of the business.
Franklin married Deborah Read, the daughter of his first landlady, in 1730. She was an uneducated woman who did not share Franklin's interest in books and science. She was devoted to him, however, and was a cheerful and thrifty wife. Franklin had three children: Francis Folger, who died in childhood of smallpox; Sarah, who married a merchant; and William, who became governor of New Jersey.
Franklin's most popular publication was 'Poor Richard's Almanack', which first appeared in 1732. The 'Almanack' was a calendar and weather forecast for the year, and it contained amusing stories, jokes, and proverbs. The homely sayings, which Franklin published under the pen name Richard Saunders, made him famous as a rustic philosopher. It was "Poor Richard" who said:
Early to bed, early to rise Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
By 1748 Franklin had earned enough money to leave his printing business. He bought a 300-acre farm near Burlington, N.J., and retired to give his time to science and public service. Ben filled many public offices. He was a clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1736 to 1751 and a member of the Assembly from 1751 to 1764. From 1737 to 1753 he served as deputy postmaster of Philadelphia.
Before stamps were used a person had to collect his mail at the post office and pay for it. Franklin stopped the money loss on unclaimed mail in Philadelphia by printing in his paper the names of persons who had mail awaiting them. He also developed a simple, accurate way of keeping post-office accounts.
In 1753 Franklin was made deputy postmaster general for all the colonies. At the time he took office weeks were required for mail to travel by stagecoach from one part of the country to another. Postage fees were set by weight and distance, and clerks and customers frequently argued about the distance between towns. Franklin ended these arguments. He invented a machine that, attached to the hub of a carriage, measured distance.
One of the most famous of his many inventions was the Franklin stove. Houses in his time were poorly heated by drafty open fireplaces. Franklin's stove stood in the fireplace, but its grate extended out into the room. This heater cast warmth in all directions. Pennsylvania's governor urged Franklin to patent his invention, but he refused. He wanted the stoves to be made cheaply so that many people could buy and use them. For more than a hundred years the Franklin stove brought comfort to thousands of families. The stove became popular again in the 1980s. Ben Franklin patented none of his inventions.
In his lifetime Franklin was recognized as one of the great scientific thinkers of the world. His contributions included pioneer studies of heat conduction and the origin of storms. His most important work, however, was done with electricity.
Benjamin Franklin is best known as one of the Founding Fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
He also negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.
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