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Happy Birthday to Benjamin Franklin

January 17, 2013

Today marks (what would have been) Benjamin Franklin’s 307th birthday.  He is a unique person in American history and in the world.  His life was full of achievement and some contradiction.  He is the man that said “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  However, his portrait appears on the $100 bill.  He called the book he published for 25 years Poor Richard’s Almanac, yet, when he died he was one of the richest men in America.


ben_franklinBenjamin Franklin was one of six people to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  Yet, his son William supported King George against the Revolutionists, was arrested by the Continental Army, imprisoned and then deported to England where he had only had only one short meeting with his father during the rest of his life.


Franklin’s birthday was January 17, 1706, but he was actually born on January 6, 1706 before a change made in 1752.  In 1752 Britain and the British Empire adopted the Gregorian Calendar.  This caused an 11 day addition to every previous date.  So Franklin’s January 6 birthdate became January 17.  Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull on February 24, 1582, correcting the Julian Calendar (that began in 45 BCE).  Julius Caesar devised the Julian Calendar assuming the Earth traveled around the Sun in 365.25 days when it actually took 11 minutes less time.  The cumulative shortfall through 1582 was 10 days.  This was corrected by adding 10 days to every date (from 325 AD or Common Era), reducing the number of leap years every four centuries from 100 to 97 and changing the cycle around the Sun to 365.2425 days. By the time the British adopted it, the change was 11 days.  The original motivation was for Easter to be celebrated at the appropriate time of the year and adjustments were made to the Easter Tables devised in the 6th Century.


Franklin had an extraordinary life.  His many sayings have become ingrained in our consciousness such as:

  • Never leave that ’til tomorrow, which you can do today.
  • Dost thou love life?  Then, do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
  • We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride and four times as much by our folly.
  • If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.
  • It’s easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow.
  • But for age and want, save while you may, no morning sun will last the day.
  • A child and a fool imagine twenty dollars and twenty years can never be spent.



There are many others, but these come easily to mind.


Happy Birthday Ben!


Additional reading: Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.  Or – any of the 1000+ biographies of Franklin.


I have a few remaining copies of Franklin’s Way to Wealth that I used as a speech handout celebrating Franklin’s 300th birthday.  The first people that email me their postal mailing address will get one, as long as they last.  My email:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen Anna Adesso CPA permalink
    January 19, 2013 8:30 pm

    I just finished reading the “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” a few days ago. It is a relatively short book (about 225 pages) and an easy read. Franklin is still relavant today and well worth the time to get to know him.

    Thanks Ed for reminding us of this very American sucess strory.

  2. January 23, 2013 9:15 am

    Thanks Ellen for you comments. Franklin’s autobiography has stood the test of time.

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