Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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B. Franklin, a Chronology


January 17, 1706 (New Style)--Born, the fifteenth child of a Boston candle-maker, Josiah Franklin, and seventh child of his second wife, Abiah Folger Franklin.

Brief acquaintance with school. A rebellious pupil.

Finished second grade, 1715 ,--Ended his formal education.

Apprenticed to his brother James the printer, 1717---They didn't get along. James published New England Courant Franklin, took over when James got jailed for contempt. When James returned, Ben rebelled and escaped to Philadelphia.


Arrived in Philadelphia 1723 --More or less penniless. Soon built a reputation as a strong swimmer, and diligent workman.

Met Governor Keith, who promised (but later failed) to purchase printing equipment in England.

1741, invented Franklin Stove.


First trip to England. 1724 ,--fathered an illegitimate son, unknown mother.


Returned to Philadelphia ,(?) 1725. ,--found that Deborah Reed had married John Rogers, who disappeared after stealing a slave. Built a thriving printing company, with sixty or more partners, as a sort of franchise business. In his spare time, founded the Junto, the First Fire Company, the second fire insurance company, lived with Deborah Reed in a common law arrangement. Had previously had an affair with an unknown woman, resulting in the birth of illegitimate son William.

Another son, Franky, born, died at age four of smallpox (1736) after Franklin had refused to have him vaccinated. One daughter, Sally. Founded Library Company of Philadelphia.

Became a hero of King George's War . 1730 ,--but aroused the jealousies of Thomas Penn the Proprietor, by raising ten thousand armed troops with one newspaper ad.

Published Poor Richard's Almanack, currency of New Jersey, Philadelphia Zeitung, .

--Became a favorite of Andrew Hamilton after writing favorably about Peter Zenger case (1735).

Began serious studies of electricity.

Founded University of Pennsylvania--1749,--later had a falling-out about teaching "practical" subjects, and not a divinity school, essentially a town and gown dispute.

Founded Pennsylvania Hospital with Dr. Thomas Bond--1751

Co-signed General Braddock's purchase of wagons and horses because farmers distrusted British. When all were lost in the defeat (1755), he was almost bankrupted as British dithered about repaying him, but eventually did so.

1748, Retired from business at age 42, with eighteen years of pension. Learned to be a gentleman, entered legislative politics, founded the Pennsylvania Hospital, became chairman of Quaker party when the second generation of Penn Family became Episcopalians. Appointed representative of Pennsylvania and sent to England to demand that Pennsylvania become a crown colony in order to be defended against Indians and Catholics.

In 1754, appointed Delegate to Albany Conference.


Second trip to England. 1757 ,--discovered the Gulf Stream, and the nature of hurricanes while a passenger. Settled down as ambassador, bought Craven Street house (now a few feet from Piccadilly), and enjoyed enormous success with important politicians, scientists, and authors, like Voltaire, Priestley, King George, Frederick the Great, Mozart and Beethoven, Lavoisier, and many others. Perfected the theory of electricity after a trip to see the torpedo fish off the coast of France. Eventually spent eighteen years as a retired rich gentleman, in England. Actively involved in Whig politics in Parliament. Throughout, showed himself to be strongly pro-British, continuing to advocate principles of Albany Conference. Following an uproar about lightning rods on St. Paul 's Cathedral, actively antagonized King George iii, who probably urged Wedderburn the Solicitor to excoriate him while he stood in silence in the Cockpit at Whitehall. After a period of depression, Franklin escaped back to America, barely in time to avoid arrest.


Arrived in Philadelphia, and two days later was made a delegate to the Continental Congress, urging war with England.

July 4, 1776,--authored Declaration of Independence with Thos. Jefferson.

Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, 1781. In 1783, appointed to negotiate peace with England along with John Jay, John Adams, and Henry Laurens.


Made Ambassador to France, 1783 --Charged with making France our ally in the revolution, and obtaining large grants of funds and gunpowder.

During his long stay in France, he affected the "Poor Richard" pose for French Society, and was spectacularly effective with the King and Prime Minister. Eventually, had the pleasure of negotiating the Treaty of Paris, ending the war and establishing the nation, while proudly wearing the same blue suit he wore at Wedderburn's earlier performance..


On return to America, 1785 ,--was greeted with universal acclaim, and eventually became the oldest Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, in 1789. The details of the debate were bitterly contested and secret, but it is known he suggested the tie-breaker of a bicameral legislature with two senators for each state, but multiple representatives by proportion to population. The issue was defined by John Dickinson, but the solution was Franklin's. The American Constitution has since outlived all other written Constitutions in history.

Died, April 17, 1790--Buried in Christ Church Cemetery, after a celebrated funeral parade. The President of Pennsylvania.

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Originally published: Saturday, July 01, 2017; most-recently modified: Thursday, May 09, 2019