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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790)
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle."

-- Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin was one of the most prominent of the Founders and early political figures and statesmen of the United States.

One of the earliest Founders, Franklin was noted for his curiosity, writings, ingenuity and diversity of interests. His wise and scintillating writings are proverbial to this day. He shaped the American Revolution, despite never holding national elective office; a leader of the Enlightenment, he gained the recognition of scientists and intellectuals across Europe and the United States. As an agent in London before the Revolution, and Minister to France during, he more than anyone defined the new nation in the minds of Europe.

His success in securing French military and financial aid was the turning point for American victory over Britain. He invented the lightning rod; he was an early proponent of colonial unity; historians hail him as the "First American". The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania marked Franklin's 300th birthday in January 2006 with a wide array of exhibitions, and events citing Franklin's extraordinary accomplishments throughout his illustrious career.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts to a tallow-maker, Franklin learned printing from his older brother and became a newspaper editor, printer, and merchant in Philadelphia, becoming very wealthy. He spent many years in England and published the famous Poor Richard's Almanack and the Pennsylvania Gazette. He formed both the first public lending library and fire department in America as well as the Junto, a political discussion club.

He became a national hero in America when he convinced Parliament to repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. A diplomatic genius, Franklin was almost universally admired among the French as American minister to Paris, and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. From 1775 to 1776, Franklin was Postmaster General under the Continental Congress and from 1785 to his death in 1790 was President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania.

Franklin was interested in science and technology, carrying out his famous electricity experiments and invented the Franklin stove, medical catheter, lightning rod, swimfins, glass harmonica, and bifocals. He also played a major role in establishing the higher education institutions that would become the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania and the Franklin and Marshall College. In addition, Franklin was a noted linguist, fluent in five languages. He also practiced and published on astrology.

Franklin was also noted for his philanthropy and several liaisons, including that which produced his illegitimate Loyalist son William Franklin, later the colonial governor of New Jersey. Towards the end of his life, he became one of the most prominent early American abolitionists. Today Franklin is pictured on the U.S. $100 bill.

Ancestry
Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, was born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, England on December 23, 1657, the son of Thomas Franklin, a blacksmith and farmer, and Jane White. His mother, Abiah Folger, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger, a miller and schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Morrill, a former indentured servant.

Around 1677, Josiah married Anne Child at Ecton, and over the next few years had three children. These half-siblings of Benjamin Franklin included Elizabeth (March 2, 1678), Samuel (May 16, 1681), and Hannah (May 25, 1683).

Sometime during the second half of 1683, the Franklins left England for Boston, Massachusetts. While in Boston, they had several more children, including Josiah Jr. (August 23, 1685), Ann (January 5, 1687), Joseph (February 5, 1688), and Joseph (June 30, 1689) (the first Joseph having died soon after birth).

Josiah's first wife Anne died in Boston on July 9, 1689. He married to Abiah Folger on November 25, 1689 in the Old South Church of Boston by the Rev. Samuel Willard.

Josiah and Abiah had the following children: John (December 7, 1690), Peter (November 22, 1692), Mary (September 26, 1694), James (February 4, 1697), Sarah (July 9, 1699), Ebenezer (September 20, 1701), Thomas (December 7, 1703), Benjamin (January 17, 1706), Lydia (August 8, 1708), and Jane (March 27, 1712).

Early life
Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a maker of candles and soap, whose second wife was Benjamin's mother. Josiah's marriages produced 17 children; Benjamin was the fifteenth and youngest son. He attended Boston Latin School but did not graduate. His schooling ended at ten, then worked for his father, and at 12 he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer who published the New England Courant, the first truly independent newspaper in the colonies.

While a printing apprentice, he wrote under the pseudonym of 'Silence Dogood' who was ostensibly a middle-aged widow. His brother and the Courant's readers did not initially know the real author. James was not impressed when he discovered his popular correspondent was his younger brother. Franklin left his apprenticeship without permission and in so doing became a fugitive.

At the age of 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, seeking a new start in a new city. When he first arrived he worked in several printer shops around town. However, he was not satisfied by the immediate prospects. After a few months, while working in a printing house, Franklin was induced by Pennsylvania Governor Sir William Keith to go to London, ostensibly to acquire the equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia.

Finding Keith's promises of backing a newspaper to be empty, Franklin worked as a compositor in a printer's shop in what is now the Church of St Batholomew the Great, Smithfield. Following this, he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 with the help of a merchant named Thomas Denham, who gave Franklin a position as clerk, shopkeeper, and bookkeeper in Denham's merchant business.

Upon Denham's death, Franklin returned to his former trade. By 1730, Franklin had set up a printing house of his own and had contrived to become the publisher of a newspaper called "The Pennsylvania Gazette". The Gazette gave Franklin a forum for agitation about a variety of local reforms and initiatives through printed essays and observations. Over time, his commentary, together with a great deal of savvy about cultivating a positive image of an industrious and intellectual young man, earned him a great deal of social respect. Even after Franklin had achieved fame as a scientist and statesman, he would habitually sign his letters with the unpretentious 'B. Franklin, Printer'.

Franklin was initiated into the local Freemason lodge in 1731 (new style), and became grand master in 1734, indicating his rapid rise to prominence in Philadelphia. He edited and published the first Masonic book in America, a reprint of James Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons that same year. He remained a Freemason for the rest of his life.

Deborah Read
In 1724, while a boarder in the Read home, Franklin had courted Deborah Read before going to London at Governor Keith's request. At that time, Miss Read's mother was wary of allowing her daughter to wed a seventeen-year old who was on his way to London. Her own husband having recently died, Mrs. Read declined Franklin's offer of marriage.

While Franklin was finding himself in London, Deborah married a man named John Rodgers. This proved to be a regrettable decision. Rodgers shortly avoided his debts and prosecution by fleeing to Barbados, leaving Deborah behind. With Rodgers' fate unknown, and bigamy an offense punishable by public whipping and imprisonment, Deborah was not free to remarry.

Franklin himself had his own actions to ponder. In 1730, Franklin acknowledged an illegitimate son named William, who eventually became the last Loyalist governor of New Jersey. While the identity of William's mother remains unknown, perhaps the responsibility of an infant child gave Franklin a reason to take up residence with Deborah Read. William would be raised in the Franklin household but eventually broke with his father over the treatment of the colonies at the hands of the crown, but was not above using his father's notoriety to enhance his own standing.

Franklin established a common law marriage with Deborah Read on September 1, 1730. At a time when many colonial families consisted of six or more children, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin eventually had two (in addition to raising William). The first was Francis Folger Franklin, born October 1732. In one of the most painful moments of Franklin's life, the boy died of smallpox in the fall of 1736. A daughter, Sarah Franklin, was born in 1743. She eventually married a man named Richard Bache, had seven children, and cared for her father in his old age.

Deborah's fear of the sea meant that she never accompanied Franklin on any of his extended trips to Europe, despite his repeated requests.

Success as author
In 1733, Franklin began to issue the famous Poor Richard's Almanac (with content both original and borrowed) on which much of his popular reputation is based. Adages from this almanac such as "A penny saved is twopence clear" (often misquoted as "A penny saved is a penny earned") and "Fish and visitors stink in three days" remain common quotations in the modern world. He sold about ten thousand copies a year.

In 1758, the year in which he ceased writing for the Almanac, he printed "Father Abraham's Sermon," one of the most famous pieces of literature produced in Colonial America.

Franklin was well-known as a humorist and a collection of his humorous writings can be found in the book: "Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School."

Franklin's Autobiography, published after his death, has become one of the classics of the genre.

Inventions and scientific inquiries
Franklin was a prodigious inventor. Among his many creations were the lightning rod, the armonica, the Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, and the flexible urinary catheter. Although Franklin never patented any of his own inventions, he was a supporter of the rights of inventors and authors and was responsible for inserting into the United States Constitution the provision for limited-term patents and copyrights.

In 1743, Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society to help scientific men discuss their discoveries. He began the electrical research that, along with other scientific inquiries, would occupy him for the rest of his life (in between bouts of politics and moneymaking).

In 1748, he retired from printing and went into other businesses. He created a partnership with his foreman, David Hill, which provided Franklin with half of the shop's profits for 18 years. This lucrative business arrangement provided leisure time for study, and in a few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with the learned throughout Europe and especially in France.

These include his investigations of electricity. Franklin proposed that "vitreous" and "resinous" electricity were not different types of "electrical fluid" (as electricity was called then), but the same electrical fluid under different pressures. He was the first to label them as positive and negative respectively, and the first to discover the principle of conservation of charge. In 1750, he published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that appeared capable of becoming a lightning storm.

On May 10, 1752, Thomas Francois d'Alibard of France conducted Franklin's experiment (using a 40-foot-tall iron rod instead of a kite) and extracted electrical sparks from a cloud. On June 15, Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment and also successfully extracted sparks from a cloud (unaware that d'Alibard had already done so, 36 days earlier). Franklin's experiment was not written up until Joseph Priestley's 1767 History and Present Status of Electricity; the evidence shows that Franklin was insulated (not in a conducting path, as he would have been in danger of electrocution in the event of a lightning strike). (Others, such as Prof. Georg Wilhelm Richmann of St. Petersburg, Russia, were spectacularly electrocuted during the months following Franklin's experiment.)

In his writings, Franklin indicates that he was aware of the dangers and offered alternative ways to demonstrate that lightning was electrical, as shown by his use of the concept of electrical ground. If Franklin did perform this experiment, he did not do it in the way that is often described, flying the kite and waiting to be struck by lightning, (as it would have been dramatic but fatal). Instead he used the kite to collect some electric charge from a storm cloud, which implied that lightning was electrical. See, for example, the 1805 painting by Benjamin West of Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity from the sky.

Franklin's electrical experiments led to his invention of the lightning rod. He noted that conductors with a sharp rather than a smooth point were capable of discharging silently, and at a far greater distance. He surmised that this knowledge could be of use in protecting buildings from lightning, by attaching "upright Rods of Iron, made sharp as a Needle and gilt to prevent Rusting, and from the Foot of those Rods a Wire down the outside of the Building into the Ground;...Would not these pointed Rods probably draw the Electrical Fire silently out of a Cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible Mischief!" Following a series of experiments on Franklin's own house, lightning rods were installed on the Academy of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in 1752.

In recognition of his work with electricity, Franklin received the Royal Society's Copley Medal in 1753, and in 1756 he became one of the few eighteenth century Americans to be elected as a Fellow of the Society. The cgs unit of electric charge has been named after him: one franklin (Fr) is equal to one statcoulomb.

On October 21, 1743, a storm blowing from the north-east denied Franklin the opportunity of a witnessing a lunar eclipse. In correspondance with his brother, Franklin learned that the same storm had not reached Boston until after the eclipse, despite the fact that Boston is to the north-east of Philadelphia. He deduced that storms do not always travel in the direction of the prevailing wind, a concept which would have great influence in meteorology.

Franklin noted a principle of refrigeration by observing that on a very hot day, he stayed cooler in a wet shirt in a breeze than he did in a dry one. To understand this phenomenon more clearly Franklin conducted experiments. On one warm day in Cambridge, England in 1758, Franklin and fellow scientist John Hadley experimented by continually wetting the ball of a mercury thermometer with ether and using bellows to evaporate the ether. With each subsequent evaporation, the thermometer read a lower temperature, eventually reaching 7 °F (-14 °C). Another thermometer showed the room temperature to be constant at 65 °F (18 °C). In his letter “Cooling by Evaporation,” Franklin noted that “one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day."

Musical endeavors
Franklin is known to have played the violin, the harp, and the guitar. He also composed music, notably a string quartet in early classical style, and invented (a much improved version of) the glass harmonica, which soon found its way to Europe.

Public life
Franklin and several other members of a philosophical association joined their resources in 1731 and began the first public library in Philadelphia. The newly founded Library Company ordered its first books in 1732, mostly theological and educational tomes, but by 1741 the library also included works on history, geography, poetry, exploration, and science. The success of this library encouraged the opening of libraries in other American cities, and Franklin felt that this enlightenment partly contributed to the American colonies' struggle to maintain their privileges.

In 1736 Franklin created the Union Fire Company, the first volunteer firefighting company in America. In the same year he printed a new currency for New Jersey based on innovative anti-counterfeiting techniques which he had devised.

As he matured, Franklin began to concern himself more with public affairs. In 1743, he set forth a scheme for The Academy and College of Philadelphia. He was appointed President of the Academy in November 13, 1749, and it opened on August 13, 1751. At its first commencement, on May 17, 1757, seven men graduated; six with a Bachelor of Arts and one as Master of Arts. It was later merged with the University of the State of Pennsylvania, to become the University of Pennsylvania, today a member of the Ivy League.

In 1753, both Harvard and Yale awarded him honorary degrees.

In 1751, Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond obtained a charter from the Pennsylvania legislature to establish a hospital. Pennsylvania Hospital was the first hospital in what was to become the United States of America.

Franklin became involved in Philadelphia politics, and progressed rapidly. In October 1748 he was selected as a councilman, in June 1749 he became a Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia, and in 1751 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly. On August 10, 1753 Franklin was appointed joint deputy postmaster-general of North America. His most notable service in domestic politics was his reform of the postal system, but his fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his subsequent diplomatic services in connection with the relations of the colonies with Great Britain, and later with France.

In 1754 he headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress. This meeting of several colonies had been requested by the Board of Trade in England to improve relations with the Indians and defense against the French. Franklin proposed a broad Plan of Union for the colonies. While the plan was not adopted, elements of it found their way into the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.

In 1757, he was sent to England by the Pennsylvania Assembly as a colonial agent to protest against the political influence of the Penn family, the proprietors of the colony. For five years he remained there, striving to end the proprietors' prerogative to overturn legislation from the elected Assembly, and their exemption from paying taxes on their land.

His lack of influential allies in Whitehall led to the failure of this mission. In 1759, the University of St Andrews awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1762, Oxford University awarded Franklin an honorary doctorate for his scientific accomplishments and from then on went by "Doctor Franklin." He also managed to secure a post for his illegitimate son, William Franklin, as Colonial Governor of New Jersey.

During his stay in London, Franklin became involved in liberal politics. He was a member of the Club of Honest Whigs, alongside radical thinkers such as Richard Price.

In 1756, Franklin became a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (now Royal Society of Arts or RSA, which had been founded in 1754), whose early meetings took place in coffee shops in London's Covent Garden district, close to Franklin's main residence in Craven Street (the only one of his residences to survive and which is currently undergoing renovation and conversion to a Franklin museum). After his return to America, Franklin became the Society's Corresponding Member and remained closely connected with the Society. The RSA instituted a Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1956 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Franklin's birth and the 200th anniversary of his membership of the RSA.

Later years
On his return to America (1762), Franklin became involved in the Paxton Boys' affair, writing a scathing attack on their massacre of Christian American Indians, and eventually persuading them to disperse. Many of the Paxton Boys' supporters were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German Reformed or Lutherans from the rural west of Pennsylvania, leading to claims that Franklin was biased in favour of the urban Quaker elite of the East. Because of these accusations, and other attacks on his character, Franklin lost his seat in the 1764 Assembly elections. This defeat, however, allowed him the opportunity to return to London, where he would seal his reputation as a pro-American radical.

In 1764, Franklin was dispatched to England as an agent for the colony, this time to petition the King to resume the government from the hands of the proprietors. During this visit he would also become colonial agent for Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. In London, he actively opposed the proposed Stamp Act, despite accusations by opponents in America that he had been complicit in its creation. His principled opposition to the Stamp Act, and later to the Townshend Acts of 1767, would lead to the end of his dream of a career in the British Government, and his alliance with proponents of colonial independence. It also led to an irreconcilable break with his son, William who remained loyal to the British.

In September 1767, Franklin visited Paris with his usual travelling partner, Sir John Pringle. News of his electrical discoveries was widespread in France. His reputation meant that he was introduced to many influential scientists and politicians, and also to King Louis XV. The good will that was built up between Franklin and the French would later prove useful in the American War of Independence, during which he was a United States commissioner there.

While living in London in 1768, he developed a Phonetic alphabet in A Scheme for a new Alphabet and a Reformed Mode of Spelling. This reformed alphabet discarded six letters Franklin regarded as redundant, and substituted six new letters for sounds he felt lacked letters of their own; however, his new alphabet never caught on and he eventually lost interest.

In 1771 Franklin travelled extensively around the British Isles staying with, among others, Joseph Priestley in Leeds and David Hume in Edinburgh. In Dublin, Franklin was invited to sit with the members of the Irish Parliament rather than in the gallery. He was the first American to be given this honor.

1773 saw the publication of two of Franklin's most celebrated pro-American satirical essays: Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One, and An Edict by the King of Prussia. He also published an Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer, anonymously with Francis Dashwood. Among the unusual features of this work is a funeral service reduced to six minutes in length, "to preserve the health and lives of the living".

Franklin obtained some private letters from Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson and lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver which proposed restrictions on colonists' freedoms, and sent them to America. The discovery that it was he who had illegally distributed the letters meant the end of his political career in London, and the end of hopes for a peaceful solution to the escalating trans-Atlantic dispute. He was dismissed as deputy postmaster-general for North America, and left London in March 1775.

By the time Franklin arrived in Philadelphia on May 5, the War of Independence had begun. The Pennsylvania Assembly unanimously chose him as their delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In 1776 he assisted in writing the Declaration of Independence, radically editing Jefferson's draft.

In December of 1776, he was dispatched to France as commissioner for the United States. He lived in a home in the Parisian suburb of Passy, donated by Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont who would become a friend and the most important foreigner to help the United States win the War of Independence. Franklin remained in France until 1785, and was such a favorite of French society that it became fashionable for wealthy French families to decorate their parlors with a painting of him.

He conducted the affairs of his country towards the French nation with great success, which included securing a critical military alliance and negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1783). When he finally returned home in 1785, he received a place only second to that of George Washington as the champion of American independence. Le Ray honored him with a commissioned portrait painted by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

After his return from France, Franklin became an abolitionist, freeing both of his slaves. He eventually became president of The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.

In 1787, while in retirement, he agreed to attend as a delegate the meetings that would produce the United States Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. He is the only Founding Father who is a signatory of all three of the major documents of the founding of the United States: The Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris and the United States Constitution. Franklin also has the distinction of being the oldest signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. He was 70 years old when he signed the Declaration, and 81 when he signed the Constitution.

Also in 1787, a group of prominent ministers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania proposed the foundation of a new college to be named in Franklin's honor. Franklin donated £200 towards the development of Franklin College, which would later merge with Marshall College in 1853. It is now called Franklin and Marshall College.

Between 1771 and 1788, he finished his autobiography. While it was at first addressed to his son, it was later completed for the benefit of mankind at the request of a friend.

In his later years, as Congress was forced to deal with the issue of slavery, Franklin wrote several essays that attempted to convince his readers of the importance of the abolition of slavery and of the integration of Africans into American society. These writings included:

1. An Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, (1789)
2. Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789), and
3. Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade (1790).

On February 11, 1790, Quakers from New York and Pennsylvania presented their petition for abolition. Their argument against slavery was backed by the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society and its president, Benjamin Franklin. Because of his involvement in abolition, its cause was greatly debated around the states, especially in the House of Representatives.

Religious beliefs
Franklin's parents had intended for him to have a career in the church. As a teenager, however, he became disillusioned with organized religion, after ". . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." He attacked Christian principles of free will and morality in a 1725 pamphlet, A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain.

Later in life Franklin would become more accommodating of the utilitarian function of Christianity. He paid his annual subscription to Philadelphia's Presbytarian minister in recognition of the church's service to the community. In a letter to Thomas Paine, he wrote of his belief in the moral utility of faith: "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it."

However, like most deists, Franklin did not believe in an interventionist God, thinking it "great vanity in me to suppose that the Supremely Perfect does in the least regard such an inconsiderable nothing as man". He consistently attacked religious dogma and promoted tolerance, arguing that morality was dependant upon a person's actions rather than their religious beliefs: "I think opinions should be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the case with me."

Death and afterwards
Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the extremely advanced age (for that time) of 84 (while weighing over 300 pounds), and was interred in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1728, as a young man, Franklin wrote what he hoped would be his own epitaph: "The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author. He was born on January 6, 1706. Died 17." Franklin's actual grave, however, simply reads "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin."

At his death, Franklin bequeathed £1000 (about $4400 at the time) each to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, in trust for 200 years. The origin of the trust began in 1785 when a French mathematician named Charles-Joseph Mathon de la Cour wrote a parody of Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack called Fortunate Richard. In it he mocked the unbearable spirit of American optimism represented by Franklin. The Frenchman wrote a piece about Fortunate Richard leaving a small sum of money in his will to be used only after it had collected interest for 500 years.

Franklin, who was 79 years old at the time, wrote back to the Frenchman, thanking him for a great idea and telling him that he had decided to leave a bequest of 1,000 pounds each to his native Boston and his adopted Philadelphia, on the condition that it be placed in a fund that would gather interest over a period of 200 years. As of 1990, over $2,000,000 had accumulated in Franklin's Philadelphia trust since his death. During the lifetime of the trust, Philadelphia used it for a variety of loan programs to local residents.

From 1940 to 1990, the money was used mostly for mortgage loans. When the trust came due, Philadelphia decided to spend it on scholarships for local high school students. Franklin's Boston trust fund accumulated almost $5,000,000 during that same time, and eventually was used to establish a trade school that, over time, became the Franklin Institute of Boston. (excerpt from Philadelphia Inquirer article by Clark De Leon)

The lasting legacy of Benjamin Franklin has resulted in the appearance of his image in various places. Franklin's likeness adorns the American $100 bill. As a result, $100 bills are sometimes referred to in slang as "Benjamins" or "Franklins." From 1948 to 1964, Franklin's portrait was also on the half dollar. He has also appeared on a $50 bill in the past, as well as several varieties of the $100 bill from 1914 and 1918, and every $100 bill from 1928 to the present. Franklin also appears on the $1,000 Series EE Savings bond. As a tribute to Franklin's legacy, the city of Philadelphia contains around 5,000 likenesses of Benjamin Franklin, about half of which are located on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

In 1976, as part of a bicentennial celebration, Congress dedicated a 20-foot high marble statue in Philadelphia's Franklin Institute as the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. Many of Franklin's personal possessions are also on display at the Institute. It is one of the few National Memorials located on private property.

In 1998, workmen restoring Franklin's London home (Benjamin Franklin House) dug up the remains of six children and four adults hidden below the home. The Times reported on February 11, 1998:

Initial estimates are that the bones are about 200 years old and were buried at the time Franklin was living in the house, which was his home from 1757 to 1762, and from 1764 to 1775. Most of the bones show signs of having been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been drilled with several holes. Paul Knapman, the Westminster Coroner, said yesterday: "I cannot totally discount the possibility of a crime. There is still a possibility that I may have to hold an inquest."

The Friends of Benjamin Franklin House (the organization responsible for the restoration of Franklin's house at 36 Craven Street in London) note that the bones were likely placed there by William Hewson, a young surgeon who lived in the house for 2 years and who had built a small anatomy school at the back of the house. They note that while Franklin likely knew what Hewson was doing, he probably did not participate in any dissections because he was much more of a physicist than a medical man. Hewson ironically died of septicaemia on May 1, 1774 which he contracted from cutting himself while dissecting a putrid corpse.

Franklin in popular culture
1. Benjamin Franklin is one of the main inventors of Gregory Keyes' Age of Unreason trilogy.
2. A fictionalized but somewhat accurate version of Franklin appears as a main character in the stage musical 1776. The film version of 1776 features Howard da Silva, who originated the role of Franklin on Broadway.
3. A young Benjamin Franklin appears in Neal Stephenson's novel of 17th century science and alchemy, Quicksilver.
4. Walt Disney's cartoon Ben and Me (1953), based on the book by Robert Lawson, counterfactually explains to children that Ben Franklin's achievements were actually the ideas of a mouse named Amos.
5. Franklin surprisingly appears as a character in Tony Hawk's Underground 2, a skateboarding video game. Players encounter Franklin in his hometown of Boston and are able to play as him thereafter.
6. Proud Destiny by Lion Feuchtwanger, a novel mainly about Pierre Beaumarchais and Benjamin Franklin beginning in 1776's Paris.
7. Ben Franklin appears in the LucasArts Entertainment Company Game Day of the Tentacle.
8. Benjamin Franklin is portrayed in a central role in the PBS cartoon Liberty's Kids voiced by Walter Cronkite.
9. The 2004 movie, National Treasure, has the main characters trying to collect clues left by Benjamin Franklin to discover a treasure that he supposedly hid. The character played by Nicolas Cage was named "Benjamin Franklin Gates", in following with the Gates family tradition to name sons after Franklin and his contemporaries.
10. The Franklin Templeton Investments firm (originally Franklin Distributors, Inc.) was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin and uses his portrait in their logo.
11. Franklin was summoned via witchcraft into the twentieth century for a 2-part episode on the TV show Bewitched.
12. The children's novel, Qwerty Stevens: Stuck in Time with Benjamin Franklin, has the main characters using their time machine to bring Ben Franklin into modern times and then to travel back with him to 1776.
13. A 1992 Saturday Night Live spoof of Quantum Leap, "Founding Fathers", had Ben Franklin traveling through time with George Washington and
Thomas Jefferson to help modern day Americans with deficit reduction, only to find twentieth century reporters are only interested in scandal and sensationalism.
14. The science-fiction TV show Voyagers! had the main characters helping Ben Franklin fly his kite in one episode and save his mother from a fictionalized Salem Witch Trial in the next episode.
15. Comedian Stephen Colbert interviewed Franklin on his March 1, 2006 show, questioning him about his national bird proposal, his inventions, how he died, and whether he took money from Jack Abramoff.
16. In the novel Fahrenheit 451, the government claims that Benjamin Franklin was the first fireman. In the novel, firemen do not put out fires, but instead start them in order to burn books.
17. The city of Philadelphia contains around 5,000 likenesses of Benjamin Franklin—half of which are located on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

 
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