Little Bits of History

America’s Renaissance Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

April 17, 1790: Benjamin Franklin, printer, statesman, inventor, and scientist, dies. He was born on January 17, (January 6 in the old style calendar) 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children. He was the tenth and last Franklin son. His father was a tallow-maker and his mother was the senior Franklin’s second wife.

Franklin was forced to quit school at age ten and was apprenticed to his older brother by age twelve where he began to learn the printing trade. He fled his apprenticeship at age seventeen, becoming a fugitive, and ran to Philadelphia. In 1727, at the age of 21, Franklin created the Junto, a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community.” Several other organizations sprang up around Philadelphia just like young Ben’s.

One of the great pastimes for Junto members was reading. However, books were scarce and expensive. Franklin set up a way to store books and lend them out, a library. The members pooled their books and monies (in order to buy new books), and joined in a subscription service in order to share them. By 1730, Franklin set up a printing house of his own and became the publisher of a newspaper. In 1731 the Library Company of Philadelphia was given it’s charter and Franklin hired the first American librarian in 1732, Louis Timothee.  In 1733 he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac.

He invented the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and a flexible urinary catheter. He studied electricity and refrigeration. He was a philosopher and political dissident. He played four stringed instruments. He was a central figure in the shaping of the American Revolution and secured much of the help from the French. He died at the advanced age of 84 weighing over 300 pounds at the time of his death, having said, “I guess I don’t so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.”

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”

“Serving God is doing good to man, but praying is thought an easier service and therefore more generally chosen.”

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – all from Benjamin Franklin

Also on this day, in 1973 FedEx began operations.

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