5 Things You Didn't Know About Ben Franklin

On January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston. A brilliant inventor, publisher, politician, and ambassador, the founding father wore many different hats in his lifetime.  Here are 5 fascinating things you didn’t know about the man on the $100 bill...

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He Only Had Two Years of Formal Education. The man considered the most brilliant American of his age rarely saw the inside of a classroom. Franklin spent just two years attending Boston Latin School and a private academy before joining the family candle and soap making business.  But he used his money to buy books and further his education. Despite being almost entirely self-taught, Franklin later helped found the school that became the University of Pennsylvania and received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the College of William and Mary, the University of St. Andrews and Oxford.

Franklin Became a Hit Writer as a Teenager In the 1720s, a 16-year-old Franklin began submitting comments and essays under the pen name “Silence Dogood” to his brother’s weekly newspaper, the New England Courant. In those pieces, he pretended to be a widow offering her thoughts on many topics, including fashion, women’s rights, marriage, and religion. His letters were so popular that he even received marriage proposals. Eventually, however, Franklin admitted that he was the author, much to the embarrassment of his brother James, the newspaper’s owner.

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Franklin Was Slow in Supporting American Independence Franklin was one of the last of the Founding Fathers to support the American colonies’ independence from Great Britain. He was previously an outspoken supporter of King George III, and following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, he had stated that the tea company should be paid for its losses. It wasn’t until Franklin publicly announced that he supported American independence that some people stopped wondering if he was a spy for the British.

His Son Was a Supporter of The British Along with the two children he had with his wife, Deborah Read, Franklin also fathered an illegitimate son named William around 1730. The two were once close friends and partners—William helped Franklin with his famous kite experiment—but they later had a major falling out over the American Revolution. Willian was a Tory who strongly supported Great Britain. William Franklin ultimately ended up in a colonial prison for being against the war for independence and later moved to England. The two never spoke again.

Franklin Is a Member of The Hall of Fame For Swimmers Franklin was apparently a water lover, and one of the first things he invented were hand paddles made of wood that he used in the Charles River while he was swimming. He knew so many different swimming strokes that while he lived in England, a friend said he would help him open a swimming school. Franklin declined the offer, but he remained a proponent of swimming instruction for the rest of his life. His aquatic exploits have since earned him an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.