When was Benjamin Franklin Born?


Michael Benton, Contributor

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benjamin franklin bornBenjamin Franklin, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1706, began his life in humble surroundings. Benjamin's father was Josiah Franklin and his mother was Abiah Folger. Through two marriages, Benjamin was the youngest of Josiah's ten sons and thus had little to expect in inheritance. For Ben Franklin, birth was at a house on Milk Street and he was baptized across the road at the Old South Meeting House. Franklin's father had emigrated to America in 1683 with his first wife and their children. Franklin's mother was descended from an early Puritan Pilgrim family; her father was a famous clerk of the court who was imprisoned for his stance in defense of working people against wealthy landowners. As both of his parents were Congregationalists, Franklin was raised in a Puritan household and much of his earliest influence would have included preachers such as Cotton Mather. Josiah hoped that his son would follow the path of the clergy through schooling, but he could not afford to send his youngest boy through such an academic career. Franklin only had two years of formal education but continued reading voraciously on his own. It was in 1718, at the age of 12 that Benjamin would commence an apprenticeship at the print shop owned by his brother James.

Ben Franklin's birthday was January 17th, 1706 but in the Old Style or Julian Calendar which was used at the time, it would have been January 6th and this is the day on which Franklin celebrated his birth each year. Although he was born in Boston, Franklin would spend most of his birthdays in Philadelphia and many of them in Paris or London. For Benjamin Franklin, birthday after birthday would pile up to a relatively astounding 84 years of age before his death. The life expectancy was barely 40 years at the time but Franklin understood the benefits of moderation and corresponded with many doctors about methods of healthier living. Franklin led an active life and retained his sharp wit into his later years. Many of the quips and quotes of Benjamin Franklin actually come from the last years of his life and the autobiography he put together for posterity.

At the age of 24, Franklin had publicly acknowledged the birth of his illegitimate son, William Franklin. Benjamin did everything he could to help William become an established member of society and he was highly successful. William Franklin became the Governor of New Jersey while it was still under British rule. Unfortunately, William's politics were very opposite of his father's. While Benjamin Franklin was working on the movement towards Revolution, William was a staunch loyalist who helped coordinate attacks on rebels in his state. William would have his own illegitimate son in 1760, born in London and named William Temple Franklin. Temple, as he was known, would be join his grandfather in Philadelphia before the war and then join him as a secretary during Benjamin's diplomatic duty in France. Temple would be the end of the patrilineal line of Franklins.