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Benjamin Franklin House in London is the sole surviving former residence of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Today the house remains largely as it did when Franklin lived there, and provides a fascinating look into his life and times.
Benjamin Franklin House history
Built around 1730, the beautiful Georgian residence at 36 Craven Street was occupied by Franklin for nearly 16 years between 1757 and 1775. Though strictly in London as chief colonial diplomat, during his time in the city Franklin also undertook a number of other pursuits, including writing his Autobiography, developing his new glass armonica design, and even inventing a new alphabet!
While Franklin lived on Craven Street, his close friend and son-in-law of his landlady William Hewson ran an Anatomy School in the building. During excavations in 1998, the remains of 15 bodies were found in the house’s basement – secretly buried in a windowless room beneath the garden.
Following the assertion that they were around 200 years old, it became apparent that Hewson had been using the bodies in dissections to further his anatomical studies. As procuring bodies for dissection did not become fully legal until 1832, the practice required an aspect of secrecy. It is therefore likely that Hewson sourced some of his subjects from ‘resurrectionists’ – otherwise known as bodysnatchers!
Benjamin Franklin House today
Today the site is a Grade I listed building and operates as a museum examining the time Franklin spent in London as well as his wider life and work. Many of the house’s original features remain, such as the floorboards, ceilings, and staircases, allowing visitors to walk the very footsteps of the famous statesman.
Artefacts belonging to Franklin are currently on display at the house, such as his leather wallet and a letter to his sister, while a number of other items relating to him may be viewed. A replica glass armonica based on Franklin’s design can be played, while some of the bones used in Hewson’s anatomical work are also on display.
One of the best ways to visit Benjamin Franklin House is through their ticketed events. These include the Historical Experience, in which the house becomes a stage for the theatrical retelling of Franklin’s story, and the Architectural tour, in which the story of the Georgian building itself is explored.
Getting to Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin House is located in Central London near Strand, with Charing Cross station a 2-minute walk away. Regular Underground and overground trains stop at Charing Cross, while a number of bus services also run to Strand, a 2-minute walk away.
Look through the viewing portals in the "ghost structure" to see the foundations of Franklin's home.
Franklin Court was the site of the handsome brick home of Benjamin Franklin, who lived here while serving in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. Franklin died here in 1790 the house was torn down 22 years later. Today the site contains a steel "ghost structure" outlining the spot where Franklin's house stood and features the Benjamin Franklin Museum, a new museum that explores Franklin's life and character through artifacts, animations, and hands-on interactives. The Franklin Court complex also includes a working reproduction of an 18th century printing office, an architectural/archeological exhibit, and an operating post office.
Plan your visit to the Benjamin Franklin Museum and the Franklin Court sites with information on our website.
See photos of the courtyard in the Photo Gallery. Explore Benjamin Franklin's life and legacy in the People section.
The Development of Franklin Court
After decades as renters, Benjamin and Deborah decided to build a home for themselves on land behind their Market Street properties. Having arranged with master carpenter Robert Smith to build the house in the quiet garden courtyard, Franklin left for London and entrusted his wife with managing the details of building and furnishing their home. His letters to her often included specific instructions about the work that needed to be done. Look for excerpts from their letters on the viewing portals and on paving through the outdoor exhibit.
The Franklins never lived in the home together. Deborah lived in the house with daughter Sally (Sarah), son-in-law Richard Bache and their children until her death in 1774. Sally and her family continued to live in the house with Franklin after his final return to Philadelphia in 1785.
Franklin made major improvements to the property in the five years before his death. He built a printing shop, bindery, and foundry for his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. He added a new wing that included a large dining room, library, and additional bedrooms. He also built two substantial rental properties on Market Street flanking an arched carriageway into his court.
Franklin's Heirs Transform the Court
After Franklin’s death in 1790, the Baches inherited the house, but they took to living in the country and traveling to England. Starting in 1794, they rented the house, most notably to the Chevalier de Friere, the Portuguese minister. Next, it became a boarding house, then an academy, later a coffee house, and finally, a hotel. Sally Bache returned to die in her home in 1808. Richard stayed on after her death and shared the house with the African Free School until his death in 1811.
By 1812, the land had so increased in value that the Bache heirs decided to tear down the house and rebuild Franklin Court with rental row houses. The new buildings faced a narrow street that ran the length of the block from Market Street to Chestnut Street. Known as Orianna Street, it was soon crowded with shops—silversmiths, bookbinders, printers, bakers, and shoemakers.
The only physical remains of Franklin’s once grand court and home are the arched carriageway he added as entry to his property, and his cellar kitchen.
Recreating Franklin Court
In 1948, Congress created Independence National Historical Park, which included Franklin Court. After the National Park Service began a closer investigation of the courtyard, archeologists located the outline and basement features of Franklin’s house. In 1972, experts met to decide whether to reconstruct Franklin’s house in preparation for the bicentennial of American independence. As evidence of the building’s original design was incomplete, they decided to create a representational design.
Philadelphia architects Robert Venturi, William Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown designed space frames following dimensions recorded in Franklin’s property insurance. The steel-framed “ghost structures” give scale to Franklin’s property. His house was large for the 18th-century city, and unusual because it sat within a garden court, away from Market Street. Viewing portals provide visitors with a glimpse of the original cellar kitchen to the Franklin mansion.
Since its opening on April 20, 1976, Franklin Court has received acclaim for its bold and innovative interpretation. In 1985, the Venturi and Rauch firm won the Presidential award for its design excellence.
In 2013, the site was renovated for new generations. New accessibility improvements made the ghost structure accessible to visitors with mobility impairments. But the most notable change occurred below the courtyard—the Underground Museum, which opened in 1976, closed to make way for the new Benjamin Franklin Museum, which explores Franklin's life and legacy using artifacts, videos, and computer interactives.
People on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are celebrating Benjamin Franklin's 300th anniversary with great style. In December 2005, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia launched a commemorative exhibit, entitled Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, which is scheduled to travel to St. Louis, Houston, Denver, and Atlanta before heading to Paris, France, in December 2007. In Washington, DC, the Library of Congress mounted an exhibit, Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words, that explores Franklin's achievements as a writer, publisher, inventor, and statesman through books, cartoons, maps, and other important documents. However, those who want to tread the very boards upon which Benjamin Franklin lived and conducted business as colonial agent, diplomat, writer, philosopher, and scientist will have to travel to London, England, to visit the Benjamin Franklin House, that city's contribution to the Franklin tercentennial celebrations.
Opened in January 2006 for the 300th anniversary, the Benjamin Franklin House is an interpretive challenge, for while it is meticulously restored, it contains no furnishings or other artifacts related specifically to Franklin. To overcome this deficiency, the house takes the approach of interpreting Franklin's London sojourn not as a historic site, but as a historical experience. It relies on an innovative mix of panel exhibits, multimedia effects, and actors in period costume to bring Franklin and the house to life.
Benjamin Franklin first sought lodging with the widow Margaret Stevenson at 36 Craven Street in 1757 and stayed there until the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775. Built about 1730, the house has been designated a Grade I Listed Building by English Heritage for exceptional significance, similar to the national historic landmark designation in the United States. Recently restored with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources, 36 Craven Street is located a block from bustling Trafalgar Square on a quiet side street of similar, modest, Georgian-style houses.
The experience begins at the nearby Players Theatre, where visitors are assembled into small groups before being led to the house and escorted immediately to the basement to view exhibit panels covering different aspects of Franklin's life. The panels include a timeline, a description of Franklin's role in the Enlightenment, and one on the occupants of 36 Craven Street. Following an introductory video on Franklin's life in London, an actress playing Polly, the landlady's adult daughter, opens the basement door and, in an otherworldly tone of voice, invites the group to visit the rest of the house and share her memories of Franklin.
An actress playing Polly, the adult daughter of Benjamin Franklin's London landlady, guides visitors through 36 Craven Street. (Courtesy of the Benjamin Franklin House.)
In the first floor parlor, a multimedia show and some furnishings represent a gathering of family and friends. The members of the group hear invisible "guests" banter about political issues of the day and witness the arrival of distinguished individuals. All experience music played on the glass armonica, an unusual musical instrument invented by Franklin while in London. Polly then leads the group upstairs to the two chambers that Benjamin Franklin lived in and used for writing and scientific pursuits. Images and voices fill the rooms, recalling Franklin's inventions, his mapping of the Gulf Stream, his relationship with fellow amateur scientist, the Englishman Joseph Priestley, his study of oxygen, and his unorthodox religious sentiments. Franklin's family life and his extended absence from his wife and children are also addressed in these rooms.
As an agent for the Pennsylvania colony, Franklin found himself embroiled in difficult political negotiations with the British Government while in London. The group watches and listens as he struggles through the controversial Stamp Act of 1765 and colonial resistance to the tax on tea. By 1775, relations between England and the Thirteen Colonies were beyond repair. The visit to the Benjamin Franklin House concludes with Polly urging Franklin to flee. He left England in 1775 and never returned.
As a "historical experience," the Benjamin Franklin House succeeds however, it has its drawbacks. The time allotted for viewing the exhibits in the basement, for instance, was not sufficient for this reviewer to read all the panels before the orientation video began. Polly's marriage to a well-known doctor of anatomy, William Hewson, and the discovery of a cache of human skeletal remains in the course of restoring the basement are mentioned only in passing. It took a trip to the museum's website to get the whole story. Furthermore, the highly structured and theatrical nature of the historical experience leaves little room for questions from the group or impromptu discussions.
On the other hand, the Benjamin Franklin House experience represents another way of using buildings to tell stories, especially when those stories have little to do with the architecture. Moreover, it brings to life a building that is otherwise devoid of original furnishings, documents, or other physical records of Franklin's time as a resident. Visitors can focus on Benjamin Franklin's own words and those of his contemporaries because they are free of all those polished and upholstered things that are so commonplace in other house museums. Franklin's wit and humanity fill the physically empty rooms, which is perhaps the most appropriate way of remembering him.
Franklin found writing success, but only while pretending to be a sassy widow
Young Ben Franklin moved on from his dad's candle shop to the world of his brother James' Boston print shop. Like many young men of the time, he was an indentured apprentice. Indentured children, says The Journal of Economic History, were typically bound to their workplace by a legal contract that required years of commitment.
At least Franklin was working in the world of letters, which clearly satisfied his drive to learn. Indeed, he began writing at a relatively young age, but no one seemed interested in publishing this nobody's work. Therefore, young Ben hatched a plan that makes it sound like he was about to go Mrs. Doubtfire on colonial Boston. If no one was going to publish a newcomer named Benjamin Franklin, they might publish a sharp-tongued widow named Silence Dogood. And, boy, wasn't it convenient if Silence Dogood left her letters on the steps of James Franklin's shop? All the easier for her to get published in his newspaper, the popular New-England Courant.
Mrs. Dogood became a hit. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, publishers never believed that Silence was a real woman. But, when Ben revealed that it had been him all along, it created animosity between him and his possibly jealous brother, James.
Frank(lin) Views: David Rubenstein
Frank(lin) Views podcast features thought leaders across disciplines on themes associated with Benjamin Franklin – the great diplomat, writer, inventor, scientist and more – including leadership, the purpose of history, modern day publishing, and diplomacy.
In Episode 1, we speak with the Franklinesque David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chair of Carlyle, a global private equity firm. He is a leader in ‘patriotic philanthropy,’ and has made transformative gifts for the restoration or repair of the Washington Monument, Monticello, Montpelier, Mount Vernon, Arlington House, Iwo Jima Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the National Zoo, the Library of Congress, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He is also the host of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations on Bloomberg TV and PBS and the author of The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians, a book published by Simon & Schuster in October 2019 and How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers, a book published by Simon & Schuster in September 2020.
Historical Experience & Architectural Tour
A visit to Benjamin Franklin House offers a unique look into Franklin’s life in London. More information about the Historic Experience and Architectural Tours, and how to book, can be found below.
Changes to ensure the safety of visitors and staff
- We are limiting groups to 4 people only. If your household group has more than 4 people, please contact us at [email protected] or +44 207 839 2006 to arrange your booking
- All staff and visitors (excluding those exempt under current UK government guidance) will be required to wear a mask inside the House – on entry, visitors will find a station with hand sanitiser, masks, and gloves
- Our staff will be regularly cleaning the public areas throughout the days we are open to the public to ensure a safe environment
When possible, we look forward to welcoming you again to Benjamin Franklin’s only surviving home in fulfilment of our mission to bring history and innovation to life!
Benjamin Franklin House Team
During the Historical Experience the eighteenth century spaces serve as stage for a drama that seamlessly blends live interpretation and cutting edge sound, lighting, and visual projection to tell the rich story of Franklin in London.
The Architectural Tour explores the Georgian features of House, along with its fascinating history encompassing Franklin’s long residence (1757-1775), the Hewson anatomy school, and the comprehensive conservation project that saved it from dereliction.
The Skeletons in Benjamin Franklin’s Basement
LONDON, 1998 – Renovators were working on turning Benjamin Franklin’s ambassadorial abode in London into a museum and stumbled across a shocking discovery: over 1200 human bones had been buried in a pit in the basement.
It was quite a fright for the renovators and conservationists doing repairs on 36 Craven, the house. In a pit one meter wide by one meter deep, more than 1200 pieces of bone were found: over a dozen bodies, six of which were children. Each of the bones dated back to Franklin’s day.
This raised some scary questions for the historical community. Why on earth were there skeletons in Benjamin Franklin’s basement? What was he doing with them? Did he kill the people himself? All of these were plausible questions, especially upon the first shock of such a find. Benjamin Franklin was the Grand Master of Masons of Pennsylvania– an influential member of the Masonic society at the time. Was it all part of some dark ritual, or secret experiment?
Well, it turned out the latter was actually true, but not in the way you might think.
During Benjamin Franklin’s time, in the 1700s, the Church and most people in general thought of anatomical study as a taboo. Not much was known about the human body because disections of cadavers were actually illegal. It was almost impossible to come by a steady supply of human bodies for dissection and study.
Benjamin Franklin had a student at the time- his best friend, William Hewson, an anatomy and science student. It’s likely that the pair were conducting secret, illegal dissections of pawned bodies in Benjamin Franklin’s basement.
Many of the skeletons have fractures and precise nicks and cuts that were most likely made from medical instruments. It’s likely that Hewson was turning to either grave robbing or professional “resurrection men” to acquire specimens for his experiments. Creepy, but plausible. It was a good place to set up shop. The only people going in of that house were Benjamin Franklin, Hewson’s best friend and teacher, and the landlady, who was his mother-in-law. There was a convenient wharf at one end of the street, where bodies could be smuggled in to and picked up from, and the basement of the building had a dirt floor. Hewson wouldn’t even need to go through the risky business of smuggling the bodies out. He just needed to bury them in the basement.
It’s likely that Benjamin Franklin was quite aware of his student’s illegal studies in his basement, but experts say he probably wasn’t involved. At least we can rest, relieved, in the knowledge that one of American’s Founding Fathers probably wasn’t a serial killer.
Town 5 North, Range 21 East. That was Franklin’s first designation as a quadrant of the Wisconsin Territory formed in 1836. The township covered 36 square miles, which was destined to make it the second largest city area-wise in the state of Wisconsin. In 1838, the locale was officially named Franklin in honor of statesman, author and inventor Benjamin Franklin.
The 1830s saw the first wave of European immigrants arrive from Ireland. Franklin’s array of natural resources made it an attractive location for foreigners who were accustomed to physical labor. The township was heavily forested with a variety of hardwoods including walnut, oak, aspen, lynn, sugar maple, ironwood and hickory. Since the 36-mile expanse also featured an abundance of wild game, wetlands and the Root River, it remained a favorite hunting ground for Native Americans as well as white settlers. The Irish were followed by Dutch immigrants in the 1840s and Germans in the 1850s. With each wave of settlers, Franklin grew into the largest farming community bordering the southern expanse of Milwaukee County.
The first recorded history of Franklin dates to December 20, 1839 when it was recognized as a civil town. By virtue of the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, the United States government established that lands be surveyed into townships and sold for $1.25 per acre with a minimum purchase of 80 acres. Surveying began in 1836 and land in Milwaukee County went up for sale in 1838. Prosperous farmers from northeastern states sought prime prairie land for large scale wheat crops, leaving the heavily wooded Franklin area for less wealthy immigrants. The Wisconsin Domesday Book noted that “It would seem that some at least of the American entrymen were persons in poor circumstance who could not afford to farm on the prairies, but who were able to make small clearings in Franklin which sold readily to Germans and other by reason of favorable location to the town.”
St. Martins Settlement
The early immigrants settled along routes of transportation and churches and businesses soon followed. St. Martins, Harrisburg, Painesville and Oakwood were examples of small hamlets that originated in various parts of Franklin. The most visible and well planned settlement was St. Martins, which developed after the arrival of Father Martin Kundig in 1847. He established Holy Assumption Parish and was a key force in platting the village in 1850. Because some German immigrants had trouble understanding the English-speaking Irish worshipers, construction of another Catholic church was requested. A portion of the land deeded to Holy Assumption Church in St. Martins was donated for construction of Sacred Hearts Catholic Church to accommodate the German congregation in 1858.
Franklin’s earliest known non-native settlers were Michael and William Sheehan who arrived from County Cork, Ireland, to register a claim in 1834. In 1836, the Sheehan brothers built Franklin’s first European-style log cabin in the 10600 block of St. Martins Road. Later, they were joined by their brother Patrick and his family along with other members of Michael’s family. A two-story addition was attached to the cabin during the 1850s to accommodate additional family members. Michael Sheehan died while rebuilding Holy Assumption Church in 1846, Patrick Sheehan died in 1896, and no records have been found for William Sheehan after 1869. The cabin remained in the family until Dennis Sheehan, the last of Patrick Sheehan’s sons, sold the farm to Michael Godsell in 1911.
Michael Godsell and his wife raised five children, including a son, Tom, who bought the farm in 1920. Tom Godsell married Mary Wallace in 1921 and they continued to live on the farm with their seven children until 1967. With the exception of the Tuckaway Country Club built on the former William Boldt and William Ludwig farms in 1966, Franklin’s rural landscape remained virtually unchanged throughout the 1960’s. However, Fanklin’s vast expanse of aging farmland soon became attractive to real estate developers, sparked by the transformation of the Godsell farm into the Mission Hills subdivision in 1965. It was Franklin’s first major development since the early 1950s when the Security Acres subdivision sprung up along S. 76th Street south of Puetz Road and the Towne subdivision was developed along Rawson Avenue S. 35th and 38th Street.
Early business in Franklin reflected the times. A five story windmill for grinding grain was moved from Kenosha County to St. Martins in 1868 and served farmers well until it was torn down in 1932. The Burwood Creamery located at 68th Street(Colby Road) and Ryan Road processed milk delivered by the farmers on horse-drawn wagons. Beer was brewed at the Gross Brewery in Franklin(St. Martins/Harrisburg) starting in the 1850’s, and sold at the tavern on the premises. The Gross Brewery benefitted from its connection to the Miller Brewing Company. Frederick Miller, founder of Miller Brewing, married Elisabetha Gross at Sacred Hearts Church(St. Martins/Franklin) in 1860. After their marriage, the majority of the beer produced by the Gross Brewery was sold through Miller Brewing until the Gross Brewery closed in 1896. (Remains of the brewery and tavern still exist.)
As autos became more popular, taverns emerged to provide social and recreational activities in Franklin. Most notable were Walter Heiden’s and the White Dove, both located along 76th Street (Center Street) and the Buckhorn Tavern at the intersection of 27th Street and Ryan Road. The White Dove and Buckhorn also served as post office stops. The White Dove, for example, was built by Ed and Marie Stremke on the site of a blacksmith shop in 1928 and was named after an American Indian named White Dove who carried mail along a trail which became known as Loomis Road (Hwy. 36) en route to Burlington. Dance halls at Heiden’s and the White Dove also hosted ceremonies for graduation classes from Franklin’s one room schools.
Ervin Tretow established Franklin’s first auto repair shop on Loomis Road in 1927 and it remains a family operation at the same location today despite the fact Old Loomis Road was by-passed when Hwy. 36 was reconstructed into a major divided highway which signaled the demise of the White Dove in 1968. Highway expansion also ended the existence of Poths General Store at the intersection of 76th and Rawson Avenue in 1955. Andrew Poths opened the store in 1916 and his son, Peter, continued serving the domestic needs of Franklin families until 1955.
Other long standing service stations included Joseph Acker’s Mobil Service at 76th Street and Ryan Road and Julius Jecke’s Sinclair Service at Loomis Road and Ryan. Jecke’s doubled as a tavern and later, an ice cream parlor.
For several decades, two long time family businesses anchored St. Martins Road. R.A. Mayer began selling Allis-Chalmers tractors in 1928 and he served as a town supervisor from 1934 to 1948. He was succeeded by a son, David, who served as a town supervisor and city alderman for nearly 40 years. Another St. Martins landmark was Herda’s Farm Implement and Feed Store which provided a vital link for the prosperity of all the farmers.
While Herda’s and R.A. Mayer Equipment have since closed, St. Martins Road remains a focal point of a community tradition when it hosts over 100,000 visitors every Labor Day weekend for an annual fair. Originally established as a venue for farmers to sell tools, equipment and fresh produce, the Labor Day Fair originated along Hwy. 100 in Hales Corners in 1865, but through the leadership of Franklin farmer Walter Barbian, it was moved to St. Martins in 1958. Changing times have transformed the annual event into more of a family festival.
From Rural To Suburban
As Franklin’s population nearly doubled during the 1950s, the new wave of “suburbanites” forced the town fathers to reexamine Franklin’s educational needs and Franklin School District No. 5 was formed in 1951. In 1953, Franklin’s four remaining one room school houses, Whelan, Green Valley, Riverside, and Stargard, were consolidated into a new elementary facility, Ben Franklin School, on S. 76th Street. Four years later, the District merged with Country Dale School and Willow Edge on the west end of town to form a single K through 8 district.
In December 1961, ground was broken for construction of Franklin High School on the Angerstein farm along S. 51st Street, just south of Drexel Avenue, and it opened in September 1962 with Romuald Kucinski serving as principal. The growing population also led to the construction of other elementary institutions, Pleasant View (1964), Robinwood (1967) and Forest Park Middle School (1970), before the decade had ended. Southwood Glen was added in 1991 and a new Ben Franklin School opened in 1999. The original Ben Franklin school was torn down and replaced by a condo development.
During the 1950s, the Town of Franklin sought to become a fourth class city to avoid being annexed by the City of Milwaukee. Doing so required a minimum population of 10,000, but the town was short of the number. However, including the inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Correction pushed Franklin’s population total to 10,006, and in 1956 Franklin was incorporated as a city. As late as 1962, though, the city was patrolled by just one policeman, Constable George Davitz.
After Franklin residents voted 704-220 to incorporate as a city on August 14, 1956, Robert MacDonald defeated Town Chairman Tom Godsell to become its first mayor. MacDonald served two terms through 1960. From 1962 through 1970, Franklin experienced some turbulent times under Mayor Ted Fadrow as the community struggled to balance civic and economic growth. A police department was established in 1964 and Franklin’s first paid firefighters were added in 1969. Ground was broken for Franklin’s present City Hall in 1970.
In 1964, the City of Franklin purchased the 54.5 acre Hardy farm on Ryan Road for the start of the Franklin Industrial Park. Two years later, the Park expanded to 59 net acres with purchase of a defunct U.S. Government Nike site on S. 60th Street. In 1985, Franklin tabbed its newly formed Economic Development Commission to sell 100 acres in the Industrial Park. As more manufacturing businesses arrived, another 450 acres was purchased for Phase II to develop the Franklin Business Park. At the park’s opening, the selling price per acre started at $69,000.
Today Franklin’s population has swelled to nearly 34,000, an increase of 14.6 percent since the 2000 U.S. census. That percentage increase is the largest among cities of more than 20,000 in southeast Wisconsin. In 1850, by contrast, Franklin had 1,248 residents of which 642 were foreign born.
As an indication of how far the city has progressed, Franklin is ranked 90th on Money Magazine’s list of 100 “Best Places to Live” in the nation for 2007. The study focused on smaller cities that offered “the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community”.
Sunday January 17: Benjamin Franklin was born in the City of Boston. His parents were Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger.
Attended South Grammar School (Boston Latin).
Attended George Brownell’s English School.
Franklin was briefly indentured as a cutler.
As an avid swimmer Franklin invented swim fins for his hands.
At age 12 started apprenticeship as a printer in his older brother, James, printing shop.
Moved out of his home into a boarding house.
Brother James started publishing The New England Courant, the first American newspaper to use literary content and humorous essays.
Franklin published his first letter in the Courant under the pen name of “Silence Dogood”, a fictional widow of a country minister who has strong opinions.
He became a vegetarian.
His brother James was charged with contempt against law authorities. Benjamin took over the printing business while James served time in jail.
Leaved Boston for New York where he failed to find employment. He proceeded to Philadelphia where he rented a room in John Read’s house. Franklin eventually married his daughter Deborah Read in 1730.
In Philadelphia he found work as a printer with Samuel Keimer.
Benjamin returned to Boston to open a printing shop but his father did not loan him the money.
Returned to Philadelphia and under the encouragement of Provincial Pennsylvania Governor William Keith traveled to London to buy printing equipment. His loan never materialized and was unable to travel back to America.
In London he was employed by printers Samuel Palmer and John Watts.
Published his first pamphlet in London “A Dissertation on Liberty & Necessity, Pleasure and Pain”.
Franklin returned to Philadelphia with a loan provided by Thomas Denham. To pay his debt he worked as a clerk, shopkeeper and bookkeeper in Denham’s imported goods store.
He returned to work for Samuel Keimer printing shop.
Suffered his first pleurisy attack.
In Philadelphia Franklin founded the Junto Club, a group of young men who met on Friday evenings to discuss intellectual, personal, business and community topics. The Junto Club lasted until 1765.
Franklin and Hugh Meredith opened their own printing shop with a loan from Meredith’s father.
Purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette from former employer Samuel Keimer. The Gazette became one of the most prominent publications in Colonial America.
Franklin bought Meredith’s share in the printing shop and became the sole owner.
Joined in common-law marriage with Deborah Read.
William Franklin is born out of wedlock to an unidentified mother.
Franklin joined the Freemasons
Published “Apology for Printers” defending freedom of the press.
Entered a partnership with Thomas Whitmarsh in South Carolina. Franklin provided printing equipment in return for one third of the profits over six years, creating the first commercial franchise.
Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read have their first child, Francis Folger Franklin.
Published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”. It became an instant best seller in the colonies.
Elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mason of Pennsylvania.
Brother James died in Newport, Rhode Island.
Franklin was appointed clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly.
His son, Francis Folger, died of smallpox at age 4.
Helped organize the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia which trained and organized firemen.
Appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia, his service continued until 1753.
Started campaign to clean Philadelphia’s docks, slaughter houses and tan yards.
Advertised his first model of the Pennsylvania fireplace for sale, also known as the Franklin Stove. He declined on principle on taking a patent for the sole right to sell it.
Benjamin Franklin and Deborah Read had a daughter, Sarah who they call “Sally”.
Benjamin’s father, Josiah Franklin, died at age 87.
Started electrical experiments after receiving an electric tube from Peter Collision.
Helped organize a volunteer militia.
Took David Hall as partner and Franklin retired from the daily operations of his printing business.
Wrote and published pamphlet “Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania”.
Helped organize the Academy of Philadelphia which later became the University of Pennsylvania.
Franklin had first gout attack.
Franklin, along with Dr. Thomas Bond, founded Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, to care for the “sick-poor and insane of Philadelphia”.
Abiah Folger, Franklin’s mother dies in Boston at age 84.
Conducted kite experiments by flying a kite in a thunderstorm proving that lightning is electrical. He published how to conduct the experiment in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Designed a flexible catheter for his brother who suffered from bladder stone.
To make a point about their own defense and colonial unity with the British against the French and Indians, Franklin printed his famous cartoon “Join, or Die” in the Pennsylvania Gazette. A decade later the cartoon would mean colonial unity against the British.
Attended the Albany Congress as representative of Pennsylvania proposing common defense for all colonies. The plan was rejected.
Franklin was elected to go to England as a colonial agent.
Awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Law from Oxford University.
Invented the glass armonica. Mozart and Beethoven later composed for it.
Mapped postal routes in the colonies.
Franklin lost his seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly.
Returned to London as colonial agent.
The Stamp Act was passed by the House of Commons.
At the expiry of his partnership with David Hall, Franklin sold his entire printing business to him.
Daughter Sarah married Richard Bache, a Philadelphia merchant.
The American Philosophical Society elected Franklin as its president. He was elected every year until his death.
Began writing his autobiography.
Deborah Read, his wife, died in Philadelphia.
Elected as Pennsylvania delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
Elected as Postmaster General of the Colonies.
King George III declared the American colonies in rebellion.
Franklin was appointed as part of the committee of 5 who drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Appointed to the French Court as one of the commissioners of the Continental Congress.
Negotiated Treaty of Alliance with France. France declared war on Great Britain.
John Adams, John Jay and Benjamin Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris which put an end to the war between the colonies and Great Britain.
Franklin wrote the essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” proposing the innovative concept of Daylight Savings Time.
Franklin described his invention of bifocal glasses.
Returned to the United States after 18 of years of service in Europe.
Invented instrument for taking books down from a library shelf.
Franklin wrote his will leaving most of his estate to his daughter Sarah.
Elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
Submitted the first antislavery petition before the U.S. Congress.
April 17 – Franklin died at age 84. He is buried in Christ Church burial ground in Philadelphia. The cause of his death was pleurisy.
Travel – Philadelphia, PA (Part One)
For the month of July and during the week preceding our Nation’s Independence Day celebration, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share the trip we made to Philadelphia back in 2009. During our visit we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott across the street from City Hall and it proved to be a great choice because the historic and visitor sites were all located within an easy walking distance from the hotel. We would suggest starting a visit to the city by stopping at the Independence National Historic Park Visitor Center. This is the best place to get information such as location, hours and fees for all of the Philadelphia historic sites but most importantly it is the place to pick up timed tickets for a tour of Independence Hall.
Independence Hall was originally known as the Pennsylvania State House which was used by their colonial government, later the building was loaned as a meeting place for the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolutionary War. It was here that the Congress appointed George Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. Independence Hall is known as the birthplace of the United States and in the Assembly Room is where the Continental Congress debated and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Later, the room was used to display the Liberty Bell and original paintings of the Founding Fathers.
TRAVEL NOTE: Tickets are required to tour Independence Hall the timed tickets are available for free on the day of a visit at the Independence Visitor Center starting at 8:30 a.m. Visitors can request a specific time and are limited to ten tickets, everyone needs a ticket even small children and infants. We advise visitors to arrive early for tickets because during the busy summer season tickets are often gone by 1 p.m.
Advanced Ticket Reservations are recommended if you required a specific date and time. Visitors can reserve tickets up to one year in advance through the National Park Reservation system. The tickets are free but there is a reservation fee of $1.50 per ticket, call 877-444-6777 or see the NPS website at www.recreation.gov for more information.
The Liberty Bell Center was completed in 2003 during an extensive recent renovation of the Independence National Historic Park Mall. When visitors enter the building they will see several exhibits that tell the story of the Liberty Bell through displays and video presentations before finally reaching the glass enclosed area where the historic Liberty Bell hangs from what is believed to be the original yoke made of American elm. Visible across the street is Independence Hall where the Liberty Bell was displayed for a very long time before it was moved into a glass pavilion located a short distance away on the Independence Mall during United States Bicentennial celebration in 1976 until it moved to the permanent location in the Liberty Bell Center.
The Liberty Bell, a symbol of America and freedom, was ironically cast in London, England and arrived in Philadelphia in 1753 where it hung in the Pennsylvania State House bell tower. The Liberty Bell has a circumference is 14 feet and weighs 2,080 pounds and the yoke from where it hangs weighs about 100 pounds. It is made of 70% copper and 25% tin with traces of other metals. The inscription at the top of the bell reads, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants therof”. Unfortunately, the first time the bell was rung, the 44 pound clapper cracked the bell. The bell was recast twice by local Pennsylvania craftsmen John Pass and John Stow, their names along with the city and the date appear on the front of the bell.
TRAVEL NOTE: Tickets are NOT required to visit the Liberty Bell Center, but the security lines can be very long during the busy summer months. Along with National security concerns after 9/11, a visitor tried to damage the Liberty Bell with a hammer in 2001. Since the incident visitors are no longer allow to touch the bell and it hangs out of reach guarded constantly by NPS security.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the most fascinating people of early American history who lived in colonial and revolutionary Philadelphia. At a young age of 17 he moved there from Boston. He was a printer, author and publisher, as well as a scientist, inventor, postmaster, statesman and diplomat.
Located a short distance from Independence Hall is Franklin Court which is currently undergoing an $18 million renovation. Located on the site of Benjamin Franklin’s home, which was destroyed in 1812, is a 54 foot high steel “Ghost Structure” which was designed by Robert Venturi to represent the former residence.
Also located in the area of Franklin Court is an underground museum with displays of portraits, inventions and other items associated with Benjamin Franklin. One of the featured inventions is a reproduction of an instrument known as an Armonica, when consists of a set of glass bowls which rotate on a shaft and musical tones are produced when a finger is pressed onto the moistened edges of the bowls.
Located on Market Street in the Franklin Court area is the only active U.S. Postal Office that is not required to fly the American flag since at the time that Franklin was the Postmaster in 1775 Pennsylvania was still an English colony. Upstairs in the same building is a small U.S. Postal Museum which displays a selection of Franklin memorabilia including several original Pennsylvania Gazettes and historically important U.S. stamps.
TRAVEL TIP: This U.S. Post Office in Philadelphia is the only place that uses the historic postmark of “B. Free Franklin” to cancel stamps when mailing letters and packages. Come prepared with your own pre-written postcard to mail and it will make a unique and inexpensive souvenir!)
Located several blocks from Independence Hall and it is one of the most visited historic sites in Philadelphia. Betsy Ross is supposed to have rented this home that was originally built in 1740 and she lived there between 1776 and 1779 after the death of her first husband. Betsy Ross was a local seamstress who has been credited as the person who created the first American Flag.
According to the story told by Betsy Ross’s grandson, William Canby, who told the Pennsylvania Historical Society at the time of the 1876 Independence Day centennial celebrations, that George Washington was a customer of Mrs. Ross while he was the General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Washington frequently visited Philadelphia to report to the Second Continental Congress and in June of 1776, he requested that Mrs. Ross create a flag according to his rough pencil drawing. She reviewed the design and made one suggestion, that the six point stars be changed to five point stars instead. As the years have passed, historians have found no documented proof to substantiate the claim but the legend still continues.
Christ Church and Burial Grounds
Christ Church is a privately managed historic site, part of the Independence National Historical Park, and located within walking distance from Independence Hall. Christ Church was originally founded in 1695 and the current building dates back to 1744. During and after the Revolutionary War many members of the Continental Congress, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams and other prominent Philadelphia parishioners like Betsy Ross have attended services and for this reason Christ Church has been given a very significant role in the birth of the nation.
Considered one of the finest examples of an Early American church the exterior of Christ Church has an impressive steeple which was added in 1754 making it the tallest structure within the British colonies for 56 years. Later, the interior was redesigned by Thomas Walter, the same architect who designed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Displayed with Christ Church is the baptismal font from the 1300s donated by All Hallows Church in London, England that was used when William Penn was baptized. The pulpit that was built in 1769 and the chandelier which was originally installed in 1740 is still in use today.
TRAVEL NOTE: Christ Church is currently an active Episcopal parish but visitors can enter the Church for free, but it is suggested that a minimal donation be given to help maintain the Church and the nearby Burial Grounds. Docent talks about the Church’s history, the famous parishioners and the historic artifacts are given on a regular schedule throughout the day.
In 1719, Christ Church purchased two acres of land at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets. The Christ Church Burial Grounds became the final resting place for over 4,000 of the parishioners including five signers of the Declaration of Independence. Today, over 1,300 of the historical markers still remain and in 2003 plaques were placed in front of some of the deteriorating gravestones with the words that once appeared and have faded away.
When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, he was buried in his family plot in the northwest corner of the burial grounds. In 1858, the descendants of Franklin requested that an opening be made in the brick wall and a metal fence was placed so the public could easily see Franklin’s grave site. Today, visitors show their respect for Franklin by leaving pennies on his grave as a remembrance of his words once written so long ago, “a penny saved is a penny earned.
TRAVEL NOTE: The Christ Church Burial Ground is open every day except during the months of January, February and December. There is a small admission price, maps and guided tours are available for an additional charge.