As American Independence Day is fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to someone not usually thought of as an author in the truest sense of the word (though indeed he was), founding father Ben Franklin. Most notably, of course, he helped draft two of our country’s most important documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
But way before the humble candle maker’s son had those mighty authorial credits under his belt, he penned Poor Richard’s Almanack, a bestselling pamphlet for the colonists. The annual publication offered up everything from weather forecasts and tips on such subjects as how to gather grapes for wine, to infamous nuggets of wisdom like “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
What few people may know is that Franklin lived in London for nearly two decades, serving in a sense as America’s first diplomat during the increasingly contentious years leading up to the Revolution. Perhaps even lesser known is that his Georgian townhouse at 36 Craven Street near Trafalgar Square still exists and opened as a museum two years ago on the tercentenary of his birth.
Franklin lived there from 1757 to 1775, during which time he not only served as a statesman but also carried out numerous scientific experiments, perfecting his inventions of curiousities such as the glass armonica and more practical items like bifocals (sadly, he never patented any of his ideas). Today, his London home is the last surviving Franklin house in the world. If you happen to be visiting here this Fourth of July weekend, I recommend stopping by to check it out. –Joni Rendon