There was a man named Josiah Franklin. He owned a candle and soap shop in Boston, Massachusetts. The sign for the shop was shaped like a blue ball. Josiah had children, but there were often not living at home. Josiah invited guests to his home to talk and teach his children, but the guests were not aware that they were invited to teach the Franklin children. Both Josiah and his wife felt strongly about educating their children; they took their childrens' education very seriously. Benjamin, one of their children, always listened to the guests; he was a very bright child. Benjamin taught himself to read when he was only five years old. His parents wished that they could send Ben to school, but they were very poor.
Once three very important men visited Josiah and told him of a new law which said that children must attend school. Josiah sent Ben to the Boston Latin School because the only expenses were books and fire wood. At the Latin School all the children were expected to learn fables by heart. The fables had lessons which the school master thought was an important part of learning. Ben's best friend's name was Nathan. Ben helped Nathan learn the fable "The Wolf and the Kid", while Ben learned "The Dog and his Shadow". At the time of the recital of the fables the school master said, "and Ben will recite "The Wolf and the Kid", which was Nathan's fable. Ben thought, "If I say that it is Nathan's fable, then the school master will get into trouble. If I recite the fable, then Nathan will get into trouble." Ben did nothing; he simply stood there looking up into the sky. Everyone said that Ben was lazy and that he could not even learn one fable. Josiah Franklin stood up and explained his son's behavior and the school master was very embarrassed.
Josiah and Nathan's father both took their sons to the Writing School. Ben was good in every subject except math. An example of the type of math that Ben had trouble with is; 848 plus 262 equals 101010. Poor Ben would get a zero but his teacher would not explain the math to him.
Ben loved science and frequently did experiments. His first experiment was paddles to make him swim faster. When he tried his newly invented paddles he found that although he could swim faster the paddles hurt his wrists. Next he made a kite which could pull him across the pond and he found this an enjoyable experience. Ben and Nathan bought parts of a sailboat which they repaired and made perfect.
When Ben got older he became his father's apprentice in the candle and soap shop. Ben, the only son who worked in the family business, treated the customers well and helped his father. After working with his father for several years Ben became his brother's apprentice in a print shop. Ben made a deal with his brother. His brother would pay for half the cost of Ben's dinner and Ben would pay for his own food, and the leftover money would be spent on books.
Ben wrote stories for the local newspaper about the problems Boston was having. When he wrote these articles he used a pen name and even his brother did not know that Ben was the author of the articles. Ben thought that if he wrote about the problems of the city, the other Bostonians would be embarrassed and would fix the problems before other people made jokes about Boston. Eventually people found out that Ben was the author of these articles and Ben's brother became jealous and mean to him.
Ben left Boston and moved to Philadelphia where he set up his own printing business. He printed the famous "Poor Richard's Almanac" a best seller and decided that he would be print it every twenty-five years. He never stopped experimenting and is known for inventions such as; bifocal glasses, the rocking chair and his most famous experiment showing how lightening can produce electricity. Ben became a famous politician, a minister to France, and traveled to Europe and talked about the American cause. He died on April 17, 1790.
QUESTIONS 1. Where did Ben live when he was young? 2. What was Ben's father's name? 3. What was his father's occupation? 4. What was the color and shape of the sign above his father's shop? 5. How did the Franklin children become educated? 6. What did Ben do during while the guests were talking? 7. What accomplishment did Ben do at the age of 5? 8. Why couldn't Ben go to school regularly? 9. How many men came to Josiah to tell him about the new school law? 10. What was the new law? 11. What school did Ben go to, at first? 12. What was his best friend's name? 13. What did people think of Ben when he was supposed to recite a able? 14. Why didn't Ben speak, at the recital? 15. Who explained Ben's behavior, at the recital? 16. What was the school master's mistake? 17. Where did Ben go to school next? 18. Who else went to that school? 19. What was Ben's weak subject? 20. Can you solve Ben's math problem? 21. What was Ben's first experiment? 22. What was the outcome of this experiment? 23. What was his second experiment? 24. What was the outcome of the second experiment? 25. How did Ben make a sailboat? 26. Who was he first an apprentice to? 27. Later, he became an apprentice for whom? 28. What was Ben's brother's occupation? 29. What deal did Ben make with his brother? 30. Why did he make this deal? 31. What did Ben write stories in the newspaper about? 32. Where did Ben move to after he left Boston? 33. What was his occupation there? 34. What famous book is Ben Franklin known for? 35. What were some of his inventions? 36. Which country was he a minister to? 37. When did Ben Franklin die?
ANSWERS 1. Boston 2. Josiah 3. candles and soap 4. a blue ball 5. their parents and guests 6. Ben listened and learned 7. taught himself to read 8. the family was too poor 9. 3 10. all children must attend school 11. Boston Latin School 12. Nathan 13. he was lazy 14. he didn't want to embarrass either Nathan or the school master 15. his father 16. announced Nathan's fable as Ben's fable 17. Writing School 18. Nathan 19. math 20. he didn't carry properly 21. swimming paddles 22. swam faster but his wrists hurt 23. a kite to pull him across the pond 24. he had fun being pulled across 25. with spare parts 26. his father 27. his brother 28. a printer 29. dinner half paid for by his brother 30. money for books 31. problems in Boston 32. Philadelphia 33. printer 34. "Poor Richard's Almanac" 35. bifocals, rocking chair and electricity 36. France 37. April 17, 1790