Chronological events in the life of Benjamin Franklin

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.

Elected the official government printer for Pennsylvania.

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.

Became the official printer for New Jersey.

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.

Appointed joint Deputy Postmaster General of the Colonies.

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.

Charted the Gulf Stream.

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.

Hutchinson Affair.

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.

Elected President of the Pennsylvania Executive Council.

Invented instrument for taking books down from a library shelf.

Signed the United States Constitution.

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.