SunSpecial: A Man for all Seasonings   Leave a comment

Ben Franklin, today recognized as one of Americas’ Founding Fathers, was more well known during his lifetime as quite the character. While he always considered himself a humble book and newspaper printer, there are almost endless facts; half-facts; fantasies; and outright lies about his work and habits that no one really knows what is true and what’s made up. There is enough evidence to believe that, among other things, Ben:

Invented Water Wings. Not the inflatable type children wear in backyard pools, but rather wooden flotation devices he used to help teach others to swim. Ben, himself, was such an accomplished swimmer he often swam places, rather than walked or took a horse or carriage. In 1968 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. No word on what he wore for a swimsuit, in the 1700’s, though.

Created many words commonly used today. While Ben didn’t invent electricity – it was always there, just no one thought to look for and understand it – Ben was among the first to conduct detailed research and experiments on electrical energy. As there were no words to describe what he discovered, he had to invent terms like ‘battery’; ‘conductor’; and even ‘electrician’. And while he actually didn’t stand outside in a thunderstorm flying a kite, trying to catch some lightening; he did hold the kite string, in a thunderstorm, from inside the relative safety of shed; and when electricity ran down the string, he couldn’t help himself to reach out and touch it, which, he reported, was a rather shocking experience.

Used at least nine distinct names in his writing. Today’s avatars and screen names have nothing on Ben. Over 200 years ago he wrote, reported, and commented on events of the day under at least nine pseudonyms, five of them women. Some of these choices were to hide is true identity; others were based on literary characters, to make a statement about cultural norms of that day, or to prove a point. But others – like Alice Addertongue and Busy Body – seem to have been created as much for Bens’ amusement, than for his audience.

And of course, Ben didn’t think the Bald Eagle was a fitting symbol for the United State, but he argued for the Wild Turkey, pointing out that the Eagle is a “…Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly… too lazy to fish for himself…”. The Turkey, on the other hand is “…a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of American… He is besides, …a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” .

So during these holidays, we should think of Ben – and the Turkey – and the Eagle – and what might have been. Because due to a twist of fate, Turkeys seemed to have gotten the worse of the deal. And it’s questionable if cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are fitting sides for Bald Eagle.

Franklin was also the first Postmaster General of the United States, and in 1847 his portrait was on the very first stamp, as well as multiple stamps since then.  George Washington is the only human with more stamp appearances, and the eagle has countless stamps with its image.  The Turkey has only one.

Franklin was also the first Postmaster General of the United States, and in 1847 his portrait was on the very first stamp, as well as multiple stamps since then. George Washington is the only human with more stamp appearances, and the eagle has countless stamps with its image. The Turkey has only one.

Posted November 30, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

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