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21 Interesting Facts About Benjamin Franklin You Might Not Know 2024 

Ben-Franklin-Portrait

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What do lightning rods, kites, bifocal lenses, and turkeys all have in common? Benjamin Franklin, of course. 

As a predominantly self-taught man, Franklin made impressive feats as an intellectual, scientist, diplomat, inventor, and author. His innovations secured him as a forward-thinker and led him to groundbreaking discoveries that helped shape the world as we know it today. 

As one of the Founding Fathers of America, Franklin is well known for helping draft and sign the Declaration of Independence. A philanthropist at heart, he was arguably one of the most influential people ever to live. 

But let’s get into some more interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin. After all, his interests, talents, and work as a polymath spanned across a broad spectrum. Read on to discover 21 fascinating Benjamin Franklin facts.

21 Interesting Facts About Benjamin Franklin

Here are some interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin about his life, his legacy, and his important contributions to science, politics, and humanitarianism.  

1. Franklin Never Patented Any of His Inventions 

Despite creating some of the modern world’s most influential inventions, Franklin believed science existed for one primary purpose — serving others. Therefore, he never patented his creations so that as many people could benefit from them.

In his autobiography, Franklin states that we should share any opportunity to serve others through any invention and do so “freely and generously.” 

American-Flag

Image by Paul Weaver on Unsplash 

2. Franklin Was an Excellent Swimmer 

Benjamin Franklin started swimming when he was just a young child. At 20 years old, he swam 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) along the Thames River from Chelsea to Blackfriars.

Franklin believed everyone should learn to swim, viewing it as an essential life skill promoting health and safety. A couple hundred years later, the International Swimming Hall of Fame officially recognized Franklin for his efforts and contributions to the sport by inducting him in 1968. It was a swim-pressive feat! 

Benji-Swimmer

Image by Janosch Lino on Unsplash 

3. Franklin’s First Invention Was Swim Fins 

When he was 11, a young Franklin came up with the idea for hand paddles to help with his swimming. He designed the fins out of two oval pieces of wood with a hole in each board to put his thumb through to grip. The fins provided more thrust through the water when attached to his hands. 

Franklin noted that the fins did help him swim faster, but they tired his wrists. These fins are considered his first-ever invention. 

4. Franklin Became an Abolitionist 

Franklin didn’t publicly speak out against slavery until very late in his life. As a young man, he was an active participant in the slave trade. 

By the 1780’s (and at 80 years old), Franklin was very outspoken against slavery. He wrote several abolitionist petitions to Congress and became president of the Abolition Society — the first in the U.S.  

The society not only condemned slavery but also aided formerly enslaved people to transition to a new, liberated life. Franklin’s late perspective on slavery was highly progressive for the time. 

Benjamin-Statue-2

Image by Brett Wharton on Unsplash 

5. Franklin Had 16 Siblings 

Ben’s father, Josiah Franklin, had seven children with his first wife, Anne Child. Josiah then had ten more with his second wife, Abiah Folger (Benjamin’s mother). 

Ben was Josiah’s 15th child and youngest son. In total, Benjamin had seven sisters (three of them half-sisters) and nine brothers (four of them half-brothers). 

Of all his siblings, Benjamin was closest with his sister Jane. As the two youngest children,  “Benny” and “Jenny” (as they were affectionately referred to by their family), were close confidants to each other and remained so for the rest of their lives. 

6. Franklin Was a Patriotic Foodie 

Franklin loved food. He was also interested in its various health benefits, even becoming vegetarian for a stint. He was intrigued by foods from other cultures, such as tofu from Eastern Asia. 

While in Europe, he asked his wife, Deborah, to ship him local barrels of apples and cranberries. For Franklin, food was about more than filling your belly — it symbolized patriotism. He was also a fan of Indian corn and maple syrup. 

In addition to his many views on food, he was also interested in limiting food imports for the colonies from other countries and intended to focus on America’s crop growth and food production. 

Apples-Cranberries

Image by Anastasia Zenina on Unsplash 

7. Franklin Invented a Musical Instrument 

Franklin’s glass armonica comprises 37 glass bowls, each of a different thickness. The player rotated the bowls via a foot pedal. He or she would then touch the edge of each glass to produce a different musical sound. 

Even Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss used the instrument, of which thousands were manufactured. Franklin made it clear through his writing that the glass armonica was the invention that brought him the most personal satisfaction. 

Glass-Armonica

Image from Wikimedia Commons 

8. Franklin Wasn’t Able to Legitimately Marry 

Benjamin and Deborah Read had a common law marriage (also known as a non-ceremonial one) on 1 September 1730. Franklin was 24, and Deborah was 22. 

Although the two had a lot of love, affection, and respect for each other, they could not legally marry as Deborah couldn’t prove that her previous long-lost husband was dead.  

There wasn’t even a ceremony; Deborah moved into Franklin’s home, and the couple went on to have two children together, Francis and Sarah. 

9. Franklin Was a French Fashion Icon 

In 1776, the Continental Congress sent Franklin to France to gain French support for the American Revolution

While in France, Franklin dressed very plainly and with a fur hat. He became popular among the French Upper Class, with the Aristocats viewing him as pleasant, witty, and intelligent. 

Parisians, particularly the ladies, adopted this fur hat trend known as the “coiffure a la Franklin” (Coiffure is French for hairstyle).

Benji-Coiffure

Image from Picryl 

10. Franklin Created His Own Phonetic Alphabet 

Benjamin Franklin’s phonetic alphabet came about from his love for linguistics. He claimed his new alphabet was easier to learn and would reduce lousy spelling. 

Franklin removed six letters — C, J, Q, W, X, and Y, as he thought they were redundant and confusing. He believed that each letter should only make one sound. For example, he removed ‘C’ because one could replace it with ‘K’ and ‘S.’ He then added six of his own letters. 

Franklin’s alphabet did not take off as expected, although it was a true testament to his linguistic abilities (in addition to creating an alphabet, Franklin also studied five languages). 

11. Franklin Left the Remainder of His Money to Philadelphia and Boston 

After his death, Benjamin left $2000 each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. The instructions were that the money would be untouched for 200 years and must be invested in public services afterward. 

In 1990, Boston’s Ben Franklin Fund was worth $4.6 million, while Philadelphia’s was worth $2 million. Funds went to the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and job training programs for high school graduates. 

Benji-Memorial

Image by Dan Mall on Unsplash 

12. Franklin Electrocuted a Turkey to Prove it Would Taste Better 

To say that Franklin was fond of turkeys is an understatement. He even went so far as to commend the turkey as a courageous bird and a true native of America, unlike the ill-tempered eagle (America’s official bird). But do you know what else Franklin was a fan of? Electricity. 

A famous story describes how he electrocuted a turkey at a party because he believed the meat would be more tender than eating a traditionally slaughtered one. However, Franklin got the short end of the stick when he ended up electrocuting both himself and the bird. Afterwards, he roasted the bird in his fireplace on an electrified rotisserie. 

To say the least, his guests were shocked. 

Turkey interesting facts about benjamin franklin

Image by Jonathon Cooper on Unsplash 

13. Franklin Theorized the ‘Ben Franklin Effect’

The Ben Franklin Effect boils down to the idea that you can make someone like you more by asking them to do you a small favor. 

The Founding Father came up with the theory and explained it in his autobiography. The story goes like this: Franklin asked to borrow a book from one of his political opponents. He knew he would be working with this man in the future, and so he wanted to build a lasting relationship with him. 

This psychological phenomenon is based on cognitive bias or dissonance, and it’s understood that it can bring personal and professional benefits.  

14. There’s a Crater on the Moon Named After Franklin 

With a telescope, you can locate the 35-mile (56-kilometer) wide crater between the Mare Crisium and the Mare Tranquillitas northwest of the Apollo 17 landing site. It’s a very visibly distinct crater because of its almost perfectly round shape and rim. 

The committee of experts that make up the International Astronomical Union named the crater after Franklin to recognize his significant scientific contributions. The crater naming was a major nod to his extensive experiments on electricity. 

Moon

Image by Christian Cagni on Unsplash 

15. Franklin Designed the First Ever Coin that Circulated the United States 

The Fugio Cent was the first official coin in circulation that Congress authorized. Sometimes also referred to as the ‘Franklin Cent,’ Benjamin Franklin designed it. 

The sundial on the coin symbolizes time, and ‘fugio‘ is Latin for ‘I fly.’ Together, they express the idea ‘time flies’ – a condensed phrase attributed to Franklin. On the back of the cent, 13 interlinking rings symbolize the union of the 13 colonies. 

Be sure to check out these interesting facts about the Constitution, signed in the same year the Fugio Cent was released. 

16. Franklin Didn’t Actually Discover Electricity 

Now, it’s not unknown that Benjamin was a pioneer in the electrical field. Although he did not invent electricity (of course — we have Mother Nature to thank for this), he made significant contributions, with his most famous experiment involving a kite and a storm.  

In 1752 (and with the help of his son, William), Benjamin went into the middle of a storm to fly a kite. He wanted to prove that electricity and lightning were the same thing. The kite picked up an electrical charge, which traveled down its string to a metal key. When Franklin touched the key, he got an electric shock. 

This experiment proved what Franklin had thought — that lightning and electricity were connected. 

Lightning

Image by Evg Klimov on Unsplash 

17. Franklin Only Had Two Years of Formal Education

It’s hard to believe that such a gifted polymath as Franklin was a predominantly self-taught man. He spent only two years attending Boston Latin School. At 12 years old, he was already an apprentice at his brother James’ printing shop. 

Despite a lack of proper formal education, Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania. He was also awarded honorary Master of Arts degrees from Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and the University of St. Andrews. 

Books

Image by Robin Worrall on Unsplash 

18. There’s a 30-Ton Statue of Him at the Franklin Institute 

Made out of white Seravezza marble, the statue is 20 feet (6.1 meters) high, weighs 30 tons, and sits on an even more impressive 92-ton Rose Aurora pedestal. Talk about memorable! 

The statue sits in a spectacular shrine-like palace, enveloped in rare Italian, Portuguese, and French marble within the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. 

James Earle Fraser sculpted the colossal statue between 1906 and 1911, although it was only officially dedicated to Franklin by Congress on 12 April 1976.  

Benji-Statue-1

Image by Dan Mall on Unsplash 

19. He’s A Guinness World Record Holder 

Now, this is a strange one. Ben Franklin holds the Guinness World Record for being the first (recorded) person to resuscitate a ‘creature’ (in Franklin’s case, it was a chicken) who died from electric shock. He revived the chicken by blowing into its lungs. 

Interestingly, Franklin had a theory about lightning causing blindness in those it struck. When the chicken came back to life, it was also seemingly blind. This confirmed Franklin’s idea that electricity and lightning were the same — one of his most important discoveries. 

20. Franklin Founded the First Volunteer Fire Company in the United States 

Also referred to as Franklin’s Bucket Brigade, the Union Fire Company of 1736 was the first volunteer fire department in the country. 

In colonial America, fires were a massive problem because nearly all buildings were wooden. Franklin’s work with electricity and lightning further strengthened his desire for safety.

The Union’s first members were well-regarded tradesmen who gave up their free time to save buildings and lives. Many firefighting services today are still volunteer-based. 

Benji-100-dollar-bill

Image by Adam Nir on Unsplash 

21. He Is the Only Person to Sign All Four Documents Leading to the Creation of the United States 

Franklin is the only man and founding father to sign all four documents that helped form the United States. He played an imperative role in America’s journey toward colonial independence. 

The first document was the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Next, he signed the Treaty of Alliance, Amnity, and Commerce with France in 1778. Then it was the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the United States in 1782. Lastly, he signed the Constitution in 1787. 

Benji-Franklin-Congress

Image by Geralt on Pixabay 

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