Ben Franklin Home


Michael Benton, Contributor

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ben franklin homeToday, if you were to look for the Ben Franklin House, Philadelphia would actually be the wrong place to start. The only surviving residence of this Founding Father is actually in London where he stayed for 16 years as a diplomat representing the colonies. The aptly named Ben Franklin House is an old Georgian townhouse only blocks from Trafalgar Square. The home has been converted into a Living History museum replete with original flooring, ceilings and fireplace. When Benjamin Franklin lived there, the landlady's daughter, Polly Hewson, became his "second daughter" and today an actor plays her role in the museum experience. The residences of Benjamin Franklin that have not survived include the home of his birth on Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts as well as his old brick home in Philadelphia. The site of his home in Philadelphia is now memorialized as Franklin Court which is within the Independence National Historic Park managed by the National Park Service. There you will find a steel structure outlining Franklin's home and an underground museum; however, the museum is closed until 2013 for renovations and installation of new exhibits.

Although he was born in Boston and spent many years in London and Paris, for Ben Franklin, home was in Philadelphia. This is the city where he spent the most time in his life and left the strongest legacy. He left the city of his birth after a quarrel with his brother for whom he had been working as a printer's apprentice. After a brief attempt at finding work in New York, Franklin followed a lead to Philadelphia and ended up working in the print shop of Samuel Keimer. Although he did make a two-year trip to London after his first year in Philadelphia, this was supposed to be a short journey to purchase printing equipment before he was stranded without the line of credit promised to him by the Governor of Pennsylvania. He returned to Philadelphia on a loan from a wealthy Quaker merchant which he worked off within months. Soon after that, Franklin finally got into business for himself with the mutual ownership of a print shop and the purchase of The Pennsylvania Gazette. Things went much better for Franklin after that and within a decade he was the Grand Master of the local Masonic Lodge and had helped establish the first subscription library in the world as well as one of the first volunteer firefighting brigades in the colonies.

Near Ben Franklin's house in Philadelphia are museums located in his former print shop and the first United States Post Office. Franklin was the first Postmaster-General appointed by the Continental Congress to head the Post Office in 1775. His print shop was the launching pad for not only Gazette but also his famous annual publication of "Poor Richard's Almanack" which was read by thousands of people in America as well as Europe. Franklin also printed publications of his kite-lightning experiment that included instructions for replication and confirmation by other scientists.