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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | June 10, 2009


June 10, 1752 – Franklin Flies A Kite During A Thunderstorm

Didn’t he know that was dangerous? Or was he filming the very first episode of Jackass?

On this day in 1752, Benjamin Franklin flies a kite during a thunderstorm and collects a charge in a Leyden jar when the kite is struck by lightning, enabling him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning. Franklin became interested in electricity in the mid-1740s, a time when much was still unknown on the topic, and spent almost a decade conducting electrical experiments. He coined a number of terms used today, including battery, conductor and electrician. He also invented the lightning rod, used to protect buildings and ships.

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, to a candle and soap maker named Josiah Franklin, who fathered 17 children, and his wife Abiah Folger. Franklin’s formal education ended at age 10 and he went to work as an apprentice to his brother James, a printer. In 1723, following a dispute with his brother, Franklin left Boston and ended up in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer.

Following a brief stint as a printer in London, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and became a successful businessman, whose publishing ventures included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homespun proverbs advocating hard work and honesty in order to get ahead. The almanac, which Franklin first published in 1733 under the pen name Richard Saunders, included such wisdom as: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Whether or not Franklin followed this advice in his own life, he came to represent the classic American overachiever. In addition to his accomplishments in business and science, he is noted for his numerous civic contributions. Among other things, he developed a library, insurance company, city hospital and academy in Philadelphia that would later become the University of Pennsylvania. (H/

Wow, remember the days when men of wisdom and honor populated my fair city? Yeah, me neither.

Topics: HHH | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. Old NFO Says:
    June 10th, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Heh- must not have been too good a hit, he survived… :-)

  2. RT Says:
    June 10th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    He would’ve gone bananas during yesterday’s storms. :)

  3. Alan B Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 3:50 am

    Respect to a Founding Father of the USA and a polymath!

    Some lesser known (?) facts mostly involving his links with the UK:

    His grandfather was born in England and emigrated / imigrated to America where Benjamin was born.

    He visited England several times and one of his homes in London is a museum to him:

    He received several awards, including an honourary doctorate from Oxford Uni. after which he styled himself Dr Franklin. He was awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society, and was elected as a Fellow in 1756 – one of few Americans with that honour in the 18th Century.

    When he visited Ireland, he was invited to sit with the members of the Irish Parliament instead of being in the gallery – the first American to be given this honour.

    Many other links with the UK. Some of us, at least, know a bit about him & honour him and his achievements. (I read his autobiography as a young man.)

    In 1736, Franklin created the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia, one of the first volunteer firefighting companies in America (also known as Franklin’s Bucket Brigade).

  4. Mrs. Crankipants Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 6:34 am

    He invented bifocals!

  5. Morgan Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Not only was the kite-flying episode a breakthrough in science, it helped cement Franklin’s popularity with the French; you know, back when the French were okay? I think.

  6. Alan B Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Re #5 Morgan

    He was your ambassador to France for a while.

  7. Morgan Says:
    June 11th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    That he was, and he knew how to handle them.