Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great American Communicators: Benjamin Franklin

This is another handout from my series on Great American Communicators that I taught to my students in the middle school English class in a large home school co-op.

Benjamin Franklin’s Contributions to Communications

  • Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706, the 15th of the 20 Franklin children! There must have been a whole lot of communicating going on in his house when he was a kid!
  • He stopped going to school when he was 10 (his parents couldn’t afford it) but he LOVED to read!
  • He apprenticed as a printer -- but he hated working for his brother James and so he ran away.
  • His pseudonym (false name) for writing letters to his brother’s paper was “Mrs. Silence Dogood”!
  • At age 24 he started the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper.
  • He created the Poor Richard’s Almanack from 1732 to 1757. It was a yearly book with a calendar, list of events, advice, witty sayings, weather predictions, etc.
  • He founded the first public library in Philadelphia.
  • He established the postal system.
  • He founded a college.
  • He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751.
  • He was sent to England several times to protest their treatment of the American colonies.
  • He went as the ambassador to France to persuade them to support the colonies in the Revolutionary War.
  • As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, he helped write the Declaration of Independence.
  • He was the only man to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris AND the Constitution.
  • He wrote essays against slavery.
  • He tried to invent an easier alphabet, but it never caught on.
  • He wrote an autobiography, The Life of Benjamin Franklin.
  • I’m not even listing his scientific inventions – just the things that are about communications!

Can you unscramble these words and phrases that appear on this page? riptren, dusymepon, zegatet, clamkaan, clubip rilybar, lopast ystesm, bodarasams, easyss, tunconsittio, goubarthopyai, habalpet

Here are some of Benjamin Franklin's proverbs:  



  • An empty bag cannot stand upright.
  • Be always ashamed to catch thyself idle.
  • The doors of wisdom are never shut.
  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  • God helps them that help themselves.
  • Hunger never saw bad bread.
  • If you'd have a servant that you like, serve your self.
  • Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee.
  • A lie stands on one leg, the truth on two.
  • A man without a wife is but half a man.
  • Nothing but money is sweeter than honey.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Pay what you owe and you'll know what's your own.
  • A quarrelsome man has no good neighbors.
  • The rotten apple spoils his companion.
  • Speak little, do much.
  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
  • Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.
  • Visits should be short, like a winter's day.
  • Well done is better than well said.
  • A good example is the best sermon.
  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies.
  • Let thy child's first Lesson be obedience, and the second will be what thou wilt.
  • Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
  • A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
  • God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.
What do these proverbs mean? Can you write some of them in your own words?

Put a star by the ones that talk about working hard and not being lazy.

P.S. Benjamin Franklin spent many years in Philadelphia, including a lot of time working in the building that is now known Independence Hall.  We visited historic Philadelphia this summer; you can see our pictures of the sites here: Historic Philadelphia.

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