What Is Ben Franklin Famous For?

by Nancy Hayden

Benjamin Franklin lived from January 17, 1706, to April 17, 1790. During his 84 years of life, he helped to shape the laws and to create a constitution that would serve as the foundation for the United States of America. For many men, that would be an amazing legacy. But Franklin went beyond his contributions as a founding father and made his mark as a writer and an inventor, among other skills.

Writer and Printer

Franklin's first occupation in life was that of a printer's assistant. As a boy in Boston, Franklin assisted his brother James, who published one of Boston's first newspapers, "The New England Courant." At 17 years of age Ben left home and ended up in Philadelphia. There he married, and he and his wife Deborah ran a print shop. In 1729 he purchased the "Pennsylvania Gazette." He gained attention for the civic-minded paper, in which he drew and published the first political cartoon. In 1733 he began publishing "Poor Richard's Almanac." The almanac contained witty articles and editorials penned by Franklin. It became well-known throughout the colonies and made him a wealthy man.

Philosopher and Civic Planner

Franklin was a bright and witty man who loved a good turn of phrase. His famous almanac was full of nuggets of wisdom that have been handed down through generations, such as "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." His success in printing afforded him time to focus on other needs within Philadelphia. He founded both the first college in Pennsylvania and the first public library. Franklin was adept as recognizing the challenges facing his city and working to resolve them. He led groups that formed the first volunteer fire department and Pennsylvania Hospital.

Scientist and Inventor

By 1749, Franklin was able to retire from printing and pursue other interests. Science fascinated Franklin, and he began working on inventions and performing experiments. He invented the Franklin stove to heat homes more safely and efficiently than with open fires. During this time he also invented swim fins and bifocal lenses for glasses. It was his interest in electricity, though, which would bring him fame as an inventor. Franklin flew a kite with a key attached to its string in a storm. The kite was struck by lightning, and the key sparked, proving that lightning contained electricity. This led to his invention of the lightning rod.


Franklin was one of the nation's eight founding fathers and one of the top statesmen involved in the American Revolution. He traveled extensively between America and Europe, serving as diplomat and negotiator with England, helping to convince Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. During the Revolutionary War he secured France as an ally for the U.S. Franklin is the only person to have signed all four documents vital to the nation's creation. He helped to write and signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and he also signed the Treaty of Alliance with France and the Treaty of Peace with England and France.

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