Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis 1778.jpg
Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis, 1778
6th President of Pennsylvania
In office
October 18, 1785 – November 5, 1788
Vice PresidentCharles Biddle
Peter Muhlenberg
David Redick
Preceded byJohn Dickinson
Succeeded byThomas Mifflin
United States Minister to Sweden
In office
September 28, 1782 – April 3, 1783
Appointed byCongress of the Confederation
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJonathan Russell
United States Minister to France
In office
March 23, 1779 – May 17, 1785
Appointed byContinental Congress
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byThomas Jefferson
1st United States Postmaster General
In office
July 26, 1775 – November 7, 1776
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byRichard Bache
Postmaster General British America
In office
1753 – January 31, 1774
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byVacant
Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly
In office
May 1764 – October 1764
Preceded byIsaac Norris
Succeeded byIsaac Norris
Personal details
BornJanuary 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705]
Boston, Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedApril 17, 1790(1790-04-17) (aged 84)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyIndependent
Deborah Read
(m. 1730; died 1774)
ChildrenWilliam Franklin
Francis Folger Franklin
Sarah Franklin Bache
ParentsJosiah Franklin
Abiah Folger

Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSA FRSE (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705][1] – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions.[2] He founded many civic organizations, including the Library Company, Philadelphia's first fire department[3] and the University of Pennsylvania.[4]

Franklin earned the title of "The First American" for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation.[5] Franklin was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, "In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat."[6] To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin "the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become."[7]

Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23.[8] He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard's Almanack, which he authored under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders". After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.

He pioneered and was the first president of Academy and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania. He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.

He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national communications network. During the revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the late 1750s, he began arguing against slavery and became an abolitionist.

His life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status as one of America's most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honored more than two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.


Benjamin Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, soaper, and candlemaker. Josiah Franklin was born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, England on December 23, 1657, the son of blacksmith and farmer Thomas Franklin and Jane White. Benjamin's father and all four of his grandparents were born in England.

Josiah Franklin had a total of seventeen children with his two wives. He married his first wife, Anne Child, in about 1677 in Ecton and emigrated with her to Boston in 1683; they had three children before emigration, and four after. Following her death, Josiah was married to Abiah Folger on July 9, 1689, in the Old South Meeting House by Reverend Samuel Willard, and would eventually have ten children with her. Benjamin, their eighth child, was Josiah Franklin's fifteenth child overall, and his tenth and final son.

Benjamin Franklin's mother, Abiah Folger, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts Bay Colony, on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger, a miller and schoolteacher, and his wife, Mary Morrell Folger, a former indentured servant. Mary Folger came from a Puritan family that was among the first Pilgrims to flee to Massachusetts for religious freedom, sailing for Boston in 1635 after King Charles I of England had begun persecuting Puritans. Her father Peter was "the sort of rebel destined to transform colonial America."[9] As clerk of the court, he was jailed for disobeying the local magistrate in defense of middle-class shopkeepers and artisans in conflict with wealthy landowners. Benjamin Franklin followed in his grandfather's footsteps in his battles against the wealthy Penn family that owned the Pennsylvania Colony.

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