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Benjamin Franklin was an ordinary man with an extraordinary supply of common sense who flourished in the eighteenth century and is still regarded as one of the finest of American products.

 

Franklin was born in Boston, but was one of the few Boston wise men to succeed in getting away from that city. His family was not distinguished and when he left Boston, after having run a newspaper with more brilliance than success, no committee of city officials appeared to bid him goodbye.

Franklin arrived in Philadelphia with enough money left to buy two rolls of bread and paraded the town wearing one loaf under his arm and eating the other. This successfully quarantined him from Philadelphia society and he was enabled to put all his time into the printing business with such success that he was sent to London in 1824 by the governor to get a printing outfit. He worked for eighteen months in a London printing house and was probably the most eminent employee that London Journalism ever had, though England has not yet waked up to this fact.

Franklin then returned to Philadelphia and purchased The Gazette , which he began to edit with such success that he frequently had to spend all day making change for eager subscribers. It might be well to mention here that at this time he was only 23 years old, having been born January 17, 1706, and having been a full-fledged editor at the age of 15. Genius often consists in getting an early start and keeping started.

At the age of 26 Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanac ," the sayings of a wise old man, had the largest circulation of anything printed in the Colonies, and people sought his advice on everything from love to chicken raising. At the age of 31 he was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. At 40 he had diagnosed lightning and had exhibited the first electricity ever in captivity in a bottle, having caught it with a kite string and a key. He had also charted the course of North American storms, and explained the gulf stream.

Franklin helped the Colonies to declare their independence and secured the treaty of alliance with France. At 79 he was elected governor of Pennsylvania. At 82 he helped write the Constitution of the United States. He also devised the American postal system. He died at the age of 84, and Philadelphia is prouder of his tombstone than she is of the Liberty Bell.

Through all his long and busy life Franklin never had time to dress up and adopt the social usages of his day. But this did not prevent him from dazzling the exquisite court of France at its most brilliant and useless period. He was one of the few men who gave to the earth more wisdom than he absorbed from it, but he never was a bonanza for the tailors. Had he spent his youth keeping four tailors and three haberdashers in affluence, Franklin relics would probably not command the high price which they now do.