Painting of Benjamin Franklin reading a batch of papers next to a classical bust.

Benjamin Franklin

(1706 - 1790)

Benjamin Franklin quit school at the age of ten and became an apprentice to his brother, a printer, two years later. Franklin worked as a printer from 1718 to 1748. In that time he wrote seventeen editions of Poor Richard’s Almanack, became a Freemason, fathered an illegitimate child, made fundamental discoveries about electricity, helped organize Philadelphia’s first fire brigade, and printed the first American political cartoon. Franklin invented, among other things, the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the odometer.

All Writing

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1755

Voices In Time

1735 | Philadelphia

Code of Conduct

Benjamin Franklin on the joy of virtue.More

No nation was ever ruined by trade.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1774


In September 1776, fearing illness from night air, John Adams asked Benjamin Franklin to close the window of their room in a New Jersey inn. “I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds,” Franklin responded, launching into “a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration” in favor of leaving windows open. “I was so much amused,” Adams wrote in his journal, “that I soon fell asleep and left him and his philosophy together.”

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1735

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1773

There is much difference between imitating a good man, and counterfeiting him.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1738

Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and sloth, or the Gout will seize you.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1734

Plough deep while sluggards sleep.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1758

A change of fortune hurts a wise man no more than a change of the moon.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1732

Voices In Time

1789 | Philadelphia


Benjamin Franklin promotes the proper usage of English.More

Speak and speed; the close mouth catches no flies.

—Benjamin Franklin, c. 1732


While minister to France in 1778, Benjamin Franklin met Voltaire at the Academy of the Sciences. On hand was John Adams, who wrote that “neither of our philosophers seemed to divine what was wished or expected” of them by the crowd. Eventually, the two embraced and kissed each other on the cheek, an act that Nicolas de Condorcet said provoked such enthusiastic approval that “it was said to be Solon who embraced Sophocles.”

Drink does not drown care but waters it, and makes it grow faster.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1749


Thomas Edison received three months of formal education at the age of eight before his mother homeschooled him. Benjamin Franklin quit school at age ten, Charles Dickens at twelve.

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.

—Benjamin Franklin, 1776

Voices In Time

1784 | Paris

Daylight Savings

Benjamin Franklin suggests using sunshine instead of candles.More

Issues Contributed