Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ben Franklin’s Jig

*…in this world nothing can be said, to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the home of one of America’s most colorful historical figures-- Benjamin Franklin 1706-1780.  Franklin is known as the 18th  centuries' First Citizen and for good reason. He was an accomplished writer, inventor and politician. In his early years he was a good student but he was taken out of school and apprenticed to his older brother as a printer. The books he printed opened a whole new world of ideas for the young Franklin.

In his long career he published the highly successful Poor Richards’ Almanac, which included illustrations, proverbs and parables of his own creation. His “sayings” are still famous today. His inventions literary changed the world. Just to name a few-- the Franklin stove, bifocals, the odometer, and the lightning rod.

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

He discovered electricity *-- he learned how it works, how to store it and how to use it. His other scientific pursuits included investigations into mathematics and map making. He was a successful businessman but he gave back to the community he lived within. He established the first lending library, the first volunteer fire station and the first post office. 

He helped draft the American Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. He was a skilled diplomat and was American’s first ambassador to France. In his later years he founded the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia--he spent many happy hours poring over the books kept by this society. Franklin also was the first president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

“Eat to live, and not to eat.”

Franklin had a many faceted personality. Today he would most likely be considered eccentric. He was “free thinker” who believed that he must strip nude everyday to expose his skin to an “air bath”. He was an avid ladies’ man who chased anything in skirts despite the fact he was married. Unlike most of his contemporaries he acknowledged a son born out of wedlock--this could have ruined his career but it didn't.

“ To err is human, to repent is divine, to persist is devilish.”

Franklin once involved in a project became obsessive. He would not allow anything to distract or dissuade him from his goals. This personality trait and his connection to the Philadelphia Philosophy Society led to one very strange encounter a cleaning lady had with his ghost in the 1880s. The society keeps a written account of her experiences in its archives.

This cleaning lady often reported seeing Ben Franklin’s ghost at night wandering the halls and hurrying along through the bookshelves. One night as she was working near the stacks she was knocked violently out of the way by Franklin. It appears she was in his path and he had no patience or interest in detouring around her. The archive record indicates this cleaning lady was shaken up by his “ungentlemanly behavior.”

Franklin’s ghost is also seen outside this Philadelphia building. Witnesses have seen him moving hurriedly along the street. Several witnesses have seen an even more unusual sight--they have seen a figure that looks just like Franklin dancing down the street. Their accounts describe him doing a jig as if he is very pleased about something. No reasons are put forth as to why he is so pleased. I imagine a life filled with this many accomplishments is as good a reason as any.

* It can be said many have discovered electricity--some before Franklin. 

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