The lightning rod, bifocal glasses, swim fins, glass harmonica, urinary catheter, and Franklin stove. The first political cartoon. Poor Richardr’s Almanack. The first U.S. Postmaster General. One of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence. This vast array of contributions by Benjamin Franklin leaves no wonder as to why his face is on the $100 bill or a namesake to many commercial establishments and schools today. His prevalence in todayr’s society serves as a constant reminder of his commitment and service to the American people.
Many of us know Benjamin Franklin as one of the most well-rounded and revered men in American history. He was a blacksmith, printer, writer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, politician, Freemason, and founding father of the United States of America. His vast expanse of knowledge stemmed from his intellectual curiosity, some of which came from an internal drive and some from the period of Enlightenment thought. While this inquiry led him into these many fields, none have so highlighted his desire to serve those in his community like his experiments and inventions in science. His selfless demeanor shined as a beacon during a time when 18th-century America was struggling and in need of a leader; it was these inventions of Benjamin Franklinr’s that helped secure his role in politics and as the future founding father of America.
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Born on January 6, 1706, in Boston, Benjamin Franklin was the eighth child of Josiah Franklin (1657-1745) and Abiah Folger (1667-1752). While his mother was from Nantucket, his father was an immigrant from England, arriving just 23 years earlier. Benjamin grew up in a deeply religious family”he was baptized on the day of his birth. His father even offered young Benjamin as a tithe to God and had him attend Boston Grammar School. However, upon learning of Benr’s intellectual curiosity and limit-pushing nature, Josiah decided to withdraw him and have him attend Brownellr’s English School. Attending school turned out to be a challenge because the Franklinr’s had ten children to take care of, so they had Ben working as an apprentice for his father by the age of 10. Again, he found a growing discontent as a blacksmith and felt a strong urge for the sea. It must be noted here that a portion of Benr’s quizzical nature must be attributed to Josiah himself, as he enjoyed having people over for dinner at the Franklin household to stimulate his childrenr’s minds. Having done so much so, Josiah tried to appease Ben by letting him explore other options.
Young Benjamin loved books, and this desire to read and learn translated to printing where he served for nine years as an apprentice to his older brother James at a printing house. Ben liked the mechanical and manual challenges of the job, which required critical and analytical thinking to solve. He also saw how the power of words could transform and broaden oner’s mind; this later served as an outlet for his writing. Ben even published some works in The New England Courant, a journal of his brotherr’s printing company. Through this, he was able to express his wit and satire on topics such as politics, religion, education, womenr’s rights, and freedom of speech. One day, however, James was taken to jail on account of offence to the Assembly. From his jail cell, he wrote to Ben (then 17) that he was to take over as editor, which meant having to break Benr’s original apprenticeship contract. However, James mentioned another secret one. Feeling bound by this contract, Ben took the opportunity to go out and explore.
He first went to New York City until he realized that he could not find a job. He then went to Philadelphia and worked at a smaller print shop, slowly working his way up the ranks until he wound up as a pressman and compositor in a major print shop. One day in 1724 he went to London because the company needed him to get supplies, but the owner failed to give him letters of credit, so Ben ended up staying in London for a year and a half. Upon his return in 1726, he worked for a couple of print shops until he started his own (The Pennsylvania Gazette, which the first political cartoon Join, or Die was published) in partnership with Hugh Meredith.
As his credibility in the printing world was gaining, so was his image as a public figure. In 1727, he formed the Junto, a club aimed at discussing morality, politics, philosophy, and business. Ben even became the official printer of Pennsylvania in 1730 and bought out his partner. That same year he married Deborah Read (1707-1774) through a common-law marriage. The couple had two children together: a son, Francis (born 1732, died 1736) and a daughter, Sarah (1743-1808). Ben also had an illegitimate child, William Franklin (1731-1818), who would later become the Royal Governor of New Jersey.
The same year his first son was born, Ben joined the Freemasons and began his period as an author, writing Poor Richardr’s Almanack until 1758. The rewards did not stop coming for Ben Franklin. In 1736, he was appointed as clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly and a year later was named official postmaster for Philadelphia. His time as a politician was on the rise, but it was his initial interest in science in 1743 that helped jumpstart his lifelong career in service to the American people.
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