ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology»
  • History of the Americas

Benjamin Franklin Renaissance Man

Updated on November 10, 2012
Benjamin Franklin portrait by  duplesrs
Benjamin Franklin portrait by duplesrs | Source

Franklin is credited with inventing the lightening rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, an odometer for carriages, the glass ‘armonica.’ He established the first public library in America and Pennsylvania’s first fire department.

Ben Franklin has been called “the First American” because of his campaigning for colonial unity when he was an author and the spokesman for several of the colonies  while he was in London. He did the same when he was ambassador to France.

Renaissance man is defined as someone who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in both the arts and the sciences. Franklin was certainly that. He was noted in a variety of fields of learning including writing, printing, political theory.. He was successful as an author, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman and diplomat.

I was in a program in college in which I had to take a variety of courses related to America such as Literature, Art, Philosophy, Music history, and Political Science. It seemed that no matter what courses I took, Benjamin Franklin would show up. In literature we read his Autobiography and some other writings. In music we found that he had invented a musical instrument.

Benjamin Franklin birthplace
Benjamin Franklin birthplace | Source

Working Class Roots

Ben Franklin was proud of his working class roots. He was the son of a tallow chandler who made soap and candles, Ben Franklin was the eighth child of seventeen. He was the tenth and last son of Josiah Franklin.

Josiah had converted to Puritanism. in the 1760’s.Puritanism was a Protestant reform movement in England to purify the Anglican religion from elements it had of Roman Catholicism. The Puritan wanted each congregation to govern itself, for the ministers to give sermons rather than perform rituals, and for members to study the Bible.

These values of self-government were passed on to Franklin and other founding fathers. and are somewhat the roots of American values. Importance of the individual and indignation against unjust authority are among the shard values. Hard work and equality were Puritan values that Franklin preached throughout his life, in his autobiography and Poor Richards Almanac.

Sketch of the Tun tavern in the revolutionary War.Birthplace of the Continental Marines
Sketch of the Tun tavern in the revolutionary War.Birthplace of the Continental Marines | Source
  • Benjamin Franklin had very little formal education. His parents could not afford more than a couple of years, which he spent at Boston Latin School after, that he taught himself through voracious reading.  He worked for his father for a while and at the age of twelve he became a printing apprentice for his brother James. When James would not let him publish letters he did so under an alias name. James was upset when he found out and Ben left for Philadelphia at the age of seventeen. He worked for several printers. and he went to London and worked for a while as a typesetter. In1726 he returned to Philadelphia with the help of Thomas Denham, a merchant, who gave him a job clerking, bookkeeping and as shopkeeper.

Glassharminica, a musical invention of Franklins
Glassharminica, a musical invention of Franklins | Source
  • At the age of twenty-one he organized a discussion group for issues of current affairs made up of artisans and tradesmen. It was called the Junto. They were readers but books were expensive and rare. So with their books they started a library. Franklin suggested a subscription library, which would pool funds to buy books. This was the start of the    Library Company of Philadelphia, which is now a scholarly and research library with 500,000 rare books, pamphlets and broadsides. They also have 160,000 manuscripts and 75,000 graphic items.

Sarah Franklin, Bens Daughter
Sarah Franklin, Bens Daughter | Source
Pennsylvania hospital
Pennsylvania hospital | Source

Some important dates in Franklin’s life:

  • 1670’s Ben Franklin’s father converted to Puritanism
  • 1706 Benjamin Franklin was born
  • 1723 Ben Franklin left his brothers paper and went to Philadelphia
  • 1726 After going to London Ben Franklin returns to Philadelphia to work as a merchant’s clerk.
  • 1727 Benjamin Franklin created Junto, a discussion group.
  • 1731 The charter for the Library Company of Philadelphia was composed by Franklin.
  • 1732 he hired the first American librarian, Louis Timothee.
  • 1728 Franklin became publisher of The Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • 1730 he established a common law marriage with Deborah Read. They had two children together. The first, Francis Folger Franklin was born in October of 1732 died of smallpox in 1736.
  • 1730 Franklin publicly acknowledge an illegitimate son William. The became estranged during the American Revolution when they were on opposing sides.
  • 1736 Franklin created the Union Fire Company, one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America. The same year he printed new currency in New Jersey based on an anti-conterfeiting technique of his invention.
  • 1731 he is initiated into the local Masonic Lodge and became Grand Master three years later. He also published the first Masonic book in the Americas.
  • 1733 The publication of Poor Richards Almanack.
  • 1743 Daughter Sarah Franklin was born.
  • 1774 Deborah died of a stroke.
  • 1743 he founded the American Philosophical Society.
  •  He    helped establish the Academy and College of Philadelphia. He was appointed president of the academy in 1749.
  • 1749 was also the year he became Justice of Peace in Philadelphia and two years later was elected to the Pennsylvania assembly.
  • 1750 he published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lightening is electricity by flying a kite in a storm.1753 Franklin received the royal Society’s Copley Medal and became of few Americans to become a Fellow of the Society a few years later.
  • 1751 with Dr. Thomas Bond he obtained a charter from Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital. It was the first hospital to be established for the future United States.

1753 Franklin received honorary degrees from both Harvard and Yale.

  • 1756 he organized the Pennsylvania Militia.
  • 1762 Oxford University awarded Franklin an honorary doctorate for his scientific accomplishments.
  • 1790 Franklin died April 17. About 20,000 people attended his funeral.

declaration of Independence
declaration of Independence | Source

The American Revolution

As the revolution approached and began with the fighting at Lexington and Concord Franklin was chosen as the delegate to the second Continental Congress. He was appointed a member of the committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Because of gout he was unable to attend all meeting but he did make some small changes in the draft sent to him by Thomas Jefferson.


The Continental congress established the United States Post Office and Franklin became the first Postmaster General.


From 1776-1785 he was sent to France as commissioner for the United States.


Franklin was also the American minister to Sweden although he never visited there.

By the time he returned home in 1785 he was nearly as popular as to George Washington as the champion of American independence.

As a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution Franklin is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.


Please leave comment

I would appreciate any comments you wish to make to this article. Please comment and vote.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy W

      Thanks for the comments and vote.

      I had a high school teacher who read and had us read a lot of Poor Richards Almanac. I also got a dose in college. Being in the American Studies program I though I could not take a course without running into good old Ben franklin-library science, music, English, you name it there was good old Ben inventing something.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for compiling all of this interesting information about Ben Franklin. I did not realize that he came from such a large family! Anyone can become educated if they are a voracious reader and turn their minds to learning something of importance. Some of the most interesting people I know may or may not have earned degrees but keep an interest in life long learning. Ben Franklin was certainly an intelligent founding father of the U.S.

      Greatly enjoyed reading this hub. Thank! Up and useful votes!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I would have to agree with you although all the founders had special qualities.Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      David99999 7 years ago

      Yes...Old Ben was a renaissance man. He is probably the most fascinating American leader in history. Great hub!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'm not sure that anyone could be that diverse in the modern world but Franklin was,indeed, an interesting person.

    • Wealthmadehealthy profile image

      Wealthmadehealthy 7 years ago from Somewhere in the Lone Star State

      This was very, very interesting. Thanks for writing it for all of us to read. Some of it rather amazed me...such as the part concerning the Masons. That was new knowledge and shed a different light on some things for me. Wonderful read.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Rod Marsden

      I don't think having illegitimate children was all that odd back then. What may have been odd, was taking responsibility for it. It has been something like 50 years since I read his autobiography so my memory isn't all that detailed. As I recall it was in the form of advice to his son. He did talk about older women in positive terms although with some humor as well.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      KoffeKlatch Gals

      I think because Franklin did not have the social status of some of the other founders and he played the part of an uneducated working class person people tend to overlook some of his accomplishments. As i noted in college it about drove me crazy to run across something of Franklin in every subject I studied.I know it was partly because I was in American Studies.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      Galileo was a renaissance man and he, too, had illegitimate offspring. He did what he could for his illegitimate daughter.

      France was dead set weird in Ben Franklin's day. Anything and everything went on there. Maybe he wasn't game to put down all the details about these French women he knew in his writings about France.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      dahoglund, I have to say Ben Franklin does fit the description of a Renaissance Man. He certainly led an interesting life.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for your comments. Your hubs sound interesting.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Great hub! Ben Franklin is my very favorite historic person. I wrote 2 hubs on Ben. One is called " Ben Franklin, America's First Environmentalist" and the other is "Making and Saving Money Ben Franklin's Way". The more I learn about the man, the more amazing I find him to be. Thanks for a well written and informative article.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      It was crossing my mind that a variety of things influenced Franklin. first was his upbringing in the Puritan religion.Secondly he became a Deist, almost the opposite in a way. Third he became a Mason.

      His sex life is a bit ambiguous. He was a hit with the ladies in France but it may have been platonic because he was no longer a young man at the time.The woman,as I recall were older women. He talks about some of this in his autobiography.

      His own illegitimate son did give him empathy for the unwed mothers.

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 7 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      Street cred for writing this great hub. You mention that his father was converted to Puritanism, but the astonishing contradiction in Franklin's life is his illegitimate son.

      It means that Franklin had a roving eye, which is one of my interests regarding his life. Franklin is ever portrayed as a Puritan, yet his life doesn't indicate this belief. After his wife died, did he remarry?

      What did he do in France, with all of the French maidens about--was there a little Ben abandoned after he left?

      I know these things aren't crucial, but they do show that Franklin's vast mind needed distractions--and that he was likely more a bohemian inventor than a puritan reformist. One of the contradictions of American religious leaders--oh to be so mortal.

      Thanks dahoglund, great hub.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      There's a lot to be said for street knowledge. It is something I don't have.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      That's what struck me back in college is how many things Franklin was involved in. I suppose with the smaller population of the times it was easier to stand out.I was also struck by how little formal education he had. Maybe formal education can be a narrowing experience rather than a help.

      thanks for commenting.

    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      Good stuff.

      Franklin was typical of the Freemasons of his age in terms of his aspirations. Unlike other Freemasons, however, he was a genius.

      Some months ago I checked out Philadelphia for a story I was writing and I was somewhat surprised at how many institutions, especially scientific ones in this particular American city, actually have Benjamin Franklin's name attached to them.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for the comment.Franklin was a man of many accomplishment, although he may have sacrificed in terms of his personal and family life.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 7 years ago

      Ben Franklin , a true hero of his time , and an interesting study too. Well done.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent. An enjoyable article.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you very much for reading it and commenting.I am glad you enjoyed it.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      A very comprehensive Hub on the great Ben Franklin. I enjoyed the read.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I agree that Jefferson was quite diverse in his interests and accomplishments.Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great and informative Hub. Franklin was a renaissance man in the truest sense. His interest and mastery of such a diverse variety of subjects is quite remarkable. Thomas Jefferson is similar in this respect.