Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789


portrait of Benjamin Franklin
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon D. Benjamin Franklin.
Johann Elias Haid (d. 1809).
Mezzotint, 1780.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-45185.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Benjamin Franklin gave over sixty years of his life to public service, but he never turned his back on his trade -- printing. Apprenticed to a Boston printer at the age of twelve, his talent and ambition drove him to Philadelphia after five years, seeking new challenges. Seven years later, in 1730, he purchased a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette; the paper flourished due to editor Franklin's wise and witty writing. Poor Richard's Almanack, Franklin's most popular publication (1732-1757), earned him so much money that for the first time in his life, he could enjoy the luxury of leisure time. He began to experiment with electricity, establishing himself as a gifted scientist.

Besides his skills as a printer and a writer, Franklin had many civic interests. In Philadelphia, he involved himself with public welfare, fire-fighting, and education. His civic involvement led to political activities, and by 1751, Franklin was in the Pennsylvania legislature, where he served for twelve years. During the Revolutionary War, he acted as American Minister to France, successfully gaining French support for the new American nation. Enormously popular among the French, Franklin had his own printing press at Passy, and he frequently printed American propaganda and witty amusements for his friends. Franklin's last public service was in the Constitutional Convention, where he enjoyed the respect and admiration due to a living legend.