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20 Things You Didn’t Know About Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing celebrates 20 years in business this month! To honor this milestone, we’re sharing 20 fun facts about our namesake, the face of the $100 bill and one of our country’s founding fathers. Some of these facts from The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia may surprise you!

  1. Ben became a vegetarian when he was 16 years old. His favorite foods were potatoes, rice, and bread (he loved his carbs), but later in life he started incorporating fish into his diet.
  2. Ben played several instruments, including the violin, harp, and the guitar. He also made his own glass armonica, which he played by touching the edge of the spinning glass with damp fingers.
  3. Ben started the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia.
  4. Ben was one of 16 children; he was his father Josiah’s second-youngest child and youngest son.
  5. While he’s arguably Philadelphia’s most famous resident, Ben was born in Boston on Jan. 6, 1706.
  6. Or was he? In 1752, Great Britain switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and skipped 11 days, meaning his birthday switched to Jan. 17. We don’t know how Ben chose to celebrate his birthday.
  7. Ben wanted to be a sailor when he grew up. But his father had lost an older son of his at sea, so he sent Ben off to learn from his older brother, who was in the printing business. He later opened a print shop and published the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Poor Richard’s Almanack. Eventually, he established the first commercial franchise system in the Americas when he expanded his print shop to other colonies.
  8. Ben was as postmaster of Philadelphia and co-deputy postmaster of British North America. In 1775, he became the first postmaster general of the United States.
  9. Ben invented a pair of swim fins for his hands at age 11, and he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968 for his many contributions to the sport.
  10. Ben invented the Franklin stove, an iron furnace that used less wood than other furnaces at the time.
  11. Ben also invented bifocals. As his vision worsened as he got older, he cut lenses from a pair of glasses that allowed him to see things close up and lenses from another pair of glasses that allowed him to see things far away. He put half of each lens in a single frame to invent bifocals.
  12. Ben wrote under several pseudonyms, including Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, and Richard Saunders.
  13. Ben is credited with discovering the Gulf Stream.
  14. Ben had three children and eight grandchildren.
  15. Ben is the only person in history to have signed all four documents that helped to create the U.S. They were the Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Alliance, Amity, and Commerce with France, the Treaty of Peace between England, France, and the U.S., and the U.S. Constitution.
  16. Ben founded the American Philosophical Society.
  17. Ben didn’t discover electricity, as is commonly believed. But he did prove that lightning and electricity are connected in his famous kite experiment.
  18. Ben is frequently misquoted. You may have heard the phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned” attributed to him, but he never actually said that. He actually wrote in the 1737 Poor Richard’s Almanack “ A penny saved is two pence clear.”
  19. In the 1750s, Ben helped to found the first hospital in the colonies. Pennsylvania Hospital still operates today in Philadelphia!
  20. Ben wrote an autobiography, the first of its kind to achieve widespread attention, and it was published after his death in 1790.