Good Day Brethren and Friends…
and “Hear Ye, Hear Ye.”….
At our September Stated Meeting, Monday, September 19th, we’ll be treated with a visit by none other than Most Worshipful Brother Ben Franklin, as portrayed by our own friend and Brother to many here in Virginia Freemasonry, RW Don McAndrews, PDDGM. In attendance will also be our own Grand Master of Masons here in Virginia, Most Worshipful James W. Golladay Jr. Dinner will be prepared by our own Quantico-Freedom Assembly No. 6, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls—with a stellar menu consisting of: pot roast, potatoes, veggies, and gravy and, of course, a surprise dessert. Dinner commences at 6:00 p.m., after which we’ll migrate up to the Lodge room and hear from our Illustrious Brother Franklin at 6:50 p.m. Attire will be khakis or dress pants with Masonic polos. Please be sure to invite your families, friends, EAs, FCs, and other visitors… Official Visits are certainly an order of the day. We are so proud to claim Bro. Franklin, among others, as one of our “own” in this great and humble Craft of ours.
A Bit About BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,
Franklin became a Freemason as a young man, in 1731. In 1734, Benjamin Franklin produced the first book about Freemasonry that was printed in North America. Franklin based his Constitutions—which contained the history, laws, and regulations of Freemasonry—on the English edition published in 1723. Able and active, he served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania just three years later and as Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749. Alongside his many endeavors, Franklin held many lodge and Grand Lodge offices. Near the end of his life, his Pennsylvania brethren honored Franklin as “An illustrious Brother” of “distinguished merit” entitled to the “highest veneration.”
When MW Benjamin Franklin was just 24 years of age, months before he had ever passed the Tiled portals of any Masonic Lodge, he has made a profoundly deep influence on Freemasonry in not only Pennsylvania, but throughout the world.
While in London, 1725-26, the young printer had undoubtedly learned something about the Craft, the membership of which was then almost entirely comprised of nobility, and which was attracting more or less attention in the public prints. The knowledge thus obtained, whether orally or from the publications of the day, limited and vague though it must have been, appears to have quickened the ambitious philosophic brain
of the young printer upon the subject of Freemasonry, and whetted his desire to be numbered amongst the elect; an ambition not to be realize under existing conditions, as he was then still under the lawful Masonic age and a journeyman printer, a virtual stranger in the community, and, as a mere soap-boiler’s son, lacking both social and financial standing. This applies to him during his sojourn in London, as well as in Philadelphia, at this critical period.
Upon his return to Philadelphia, this desire became even stronger when he learned that a Lodge had either been set up here, or was contemplated by the resident Brethren. In the year 1727, Franklin organized a secret society of his own known as the “Leather Apron Club”–a name itself allegorically suggestive of our great Fraternity.
In 1731, the name of the Club was changed, and the character of the Club was also revised, so as to become a purely literary one and took the name of “Junto.” Its chief element, “secrecy”, patterned after the Masonic Fraternity, was, however, retained, otherwise it became literary in character, or as Franklin himself wrote “a club for Mental improvement.” The eventful outcome of this club, running side by side as it were, with
the Craft, was the formation of the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731 and the American Philosophical Society in 1743, in both of which Franklin was the leading spirit. Benjamin Franklin achieved his life-long ambition to become a Mason in February of 1731. It was here that he performed one of his finest services to Masonry and to people everywhere, to which we are all indebted.
Benjamin Franklin’s Inventions
Benjamin Franklin was many things in his lifetime: a printer, a postmaster, an ambassador, an author, a scientist, a Founding Father. Above all, he was an inventor, creating solutions to common problems, innovating new technology, and even making life a little more musical.
Despite creating some of the most successful and popular inventions of the modern world, Franklin never patented a single one, believing that they should be shared freely: “That as we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others, we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”…exemplifying our Tenets perfectly.
Here are but a few of Benjamin Franklin’s most significant inventions:
Franklin is known for his experiments with electricity – most notably the Kite Experiment- a fascination that began in earnest after he accidentally nearly electrocuted himself in 1746. By 1749, he had turned his attention to the possibility of protecting buildings—and the people inside—from lightning strikes. Having noticed that a sharp iron needle conducted electricity away from a charged metal sphere, he theorized that such a design could be useful, wherein he said:
“May not the knowledge of this power of points be of use to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, ships, etc., from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to fix, on the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of iron made sharp as a needle…Would not these pointed rods probably draw the electrical fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible mischief.”
Franklin’s pointed lightning rod design proved effective and soon topped buildings throughout the Colonies.
Like most of us, Franklin found that his eyesight was getting worse as he got older, and he grew both near-sighted and far-sighted. Tired of switching between two pairs of eyeglasses, he invented “double spectacles,” or what we now call bifocals. He had the lenses from his two pairs of glasses – one for reading and one for distance – sliced in half horizontally and then remade into a single pair, with the lens for distance at the top and the one for reading at the bottom.
Ben Franklin was an avid swimmer, just 11 years old when he invented swimming fins—two oval pieces of wood that, when grasped in the hands, provided extra thrust through the water. He also tried out fins for his feet, but they weren’t as effective. He wrote about his childhood invention in an essay titled “On the Art of Swimming”:
“When I was a boy, I made two oval [palettes] each about 10 inches long and six broad, with a hole for the thumb in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand. They much resembled a painter’s [palettes]. In swimming, I pushed the edges of these forward and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back. I remember I swam faster by means of these [palettes], but they fatigued my wrists.”
In 1742, Franklin—perhaps fed up with the cold Pennsylvania winters—he invented a better way to heat rooms. The Franklin stove, as it came to be called, was a metal-lined fireplace designed to stand a few inches away from the chimney. A hollow baffle at the rear let heat from the fire mix with the air more quickly, and an inverted siphon helped to extract more heat. His invention also produced less smoke than a traditional fireplace, making it that much more desirable.
Franklin was inspired to invent a better catheter in 1752 when he saw what his kidney (or bladder) stone-stricken brother had to go through. Catheters at the time were simply rigid metal tubes—none too pleasant. So Franklin devised a better solution: a flexible catheter made of hinged segments of tubes. He had a silversmith make his design and he promptly mailed it off to his brother with instructions and best wishes.
“Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction.” So wrote Franklin about the musical instrument he designed in 1761. Inspired by English musicians who created sounds by passing their fingers around the brims of glasses filled with water, Franklin worked with a glassblower to re-create the music (“incomparably sweet beyond those of any other”) in a less cumbersome way. The armonica (the name is derived from the Italian for “harmony”) was immediately popular, but by the 1820s it had been nearly forgotten. Both Mozart and Beethoven produced music from Brother Ben’s invention.
A few of the many additional inventions of Brother Franklin:
He started by touring America’s major postal centers, studying ways to standardize streamline mail delivery. Along the way, Franklin charted the distances between postal stations by attaching a geared device to the rear wheel of his horse carriage. Every 400 revolutions made by his carriage wheel would cause the device to click ahead one mile (1.6 kilometers). By the end of Franklin’s tour, he had gathered a stunningly accurate survey of early colonial roads.
AMERICAN CELEBRITY STATUS.
First gaining acclaim as a respected electrical scientist, then as a statesman and international voice of the new United States, Franklin was handed honorary degrees and awards throughout Europe. France, especially, took to the portly American (England’s honeymoon with Franklin ended after he sided with the Americans during the Revolutionary War, of course). When Franklin came to France as the United States’ first ambassador, Parisians snapped up all manner of Franklin kitsch. His image was plastered on snuff boxes and medallions, and engravings of the man adorned the walls of any stylish French apartment. After Franklin died, the first published edition of his autobiography would be a French translation.
Like all good American celebrities, Franklin, as a MASON, also had a charitable cause. In the years before his death, Franklin freed his two slaves, George and King, and became a vocal abolitionist. “Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils,” he wrote in 1789.
In 1787 Franklin became the President of the Philadelphia Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, often referred as the Abolition Society. The Society was formed by a group of abolitionist Quakers and Anthony Benezet in 1774. The Abolition Society was the first in America and served as inspiration for the formation of abolitionist societies in other colonies. The group focused not only in abolishing slavery but also in education, moral instruction and employment. In Address to the Public, a letter dated November 9th, 1789, Franklin wrote wholeheartedly against the institution of slavery. He argued that slaves have long been treated as brute animals beneath the standard of human species. Franklin asked for resources and donations to help freed slaves adjust to society by giving them education, moral instruction and suitable employment. On February 3rd, 1790, less than three months before his death, Franklin petitioned Congress to provide the means to bring slavery to an end. When the petition was introduced to the House and the Senate it was immediately rejected by pro-slavery congressmen mostly from the southern states. A committee was selected to study the petition further and on March 5, 1790 it claimed that the Constitution restrained Congress from prohibiting the emancipation and trade of slaves. Slaves and slavery were indirectly mentioned in the 1787 Constitution. By this time Franklin’s health was fragile and on April 17 he passed away at age 84. It was on January 1st, 1863, during the President Abraham Lincoln’s administration, that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed giving freedom to about 3 million slaves.
REACHING DEVICE “THE LONG ARM”
At 5 feet, 11 inches, Franklin was actually on the tall side for a Founding Father: Not a guy you would expect to invent a reaching device. But Franklin liked his books — even going so far as to become a vegetarian at 16 so he could save more money for his books — and by late adulthood, Franklin’s homes were jammed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
To reach the top shelves without using a step ladder, Franklin fashioned a “long arm” in his workshop. It was simply a piece of wood with two “fingers” mounted on the end. By pulling on a cable, Franklin could bring the fingers together to grip a book off a high shelf.
Although they’re rarely seen in libraries, versions of the long arm remain popular among anybody needing a bit of extra reaching power. Dwarfs (adults who are under four feet tall) will sometimes carry reaching arms to grasp door handles and countertops. Highway cleanup crews carry stainless steel arms to pick up litter on the side of the highway, people suffering from severe arthritis will use reaching devices to take the strain off their joints—it was even applicable in those days(as in today’s period), to use his “device” to grab a ‘cold beverage’ without having to get up out of one’s seat. How apropos.
It seems like political cartoons have been around forever, but Ben Franklin was actually the person to start this trend. He is the author of the first ever published political cartoon. Using humor as a way to convey political messages is something that was never used before until Franklin gave it a try. The political cartoon that Franklin created was published back in 1729. This was a huge deal not only because he himself published this paper, but because he also wrote different articles that were contained in the paper using various aliases. The political cartoon that he made was actually extremely popular and became a symbol of unity at the time that it was published (AND, certainly, NEEDED.). Below: The 1st ever Political Cartoon.
“Ye First Political Cartoon.”
Another of Franklin’s major accomplishments is the publishing of Poor Richard’s Almanac. His almanac was extremely popular and it actually sold over 10,000 copies each year. It was such a major book that it was actually translated into Italian. It is the Almanac by Ben Franklin that changed the way that information was learned.
FIGHT AGAINST THE STAMP ACT
Not only was he known for inventing things, but he was also known for putting a stop to the Stamp Act. He was a huge factor in the repeal of the Stamp Act that took place in 1757. His fight to repeal this act that placed a tax on stamps made him one of the leading figures in the fight to pursue different interests in England.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
There are few documents that hold the importance that the Declaration of Independence does. He was one of the five men that was picked to help draft the Declaration of Independence. Having the task of drafting this document was a huge responsibility and clearly shows what a prominent figure Ben Franklin was during his life.
Washington and Franklin were not alone among the Founding Fathers; as twenty-one signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
There are many Universities that have notable pasts, but Ben Franklin is one of the people that were influential in getting a university started. He is the figure that is most responsible for the creation of this prestigious university. He was actually the founder of this University and it is still ranked as one of the best universities in the country. It is a university that is known for research all throughout the world. It only makes sense that the university that Franklin founded would be the one that is known for being a school focused on the pursuit of information.
Not only was he fervently dedicated to the Craft as an active Mason for 60 years, but he made a lasting impact on American society with his inventions, discoveries, and accomplishments. An intellect, author, editor, inventor, scientist, politician, and most importantly, Freemason, it’s no secret that Bro. Ben Franklin has left his mark on American history. Born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, MA as the fifteenth of seventeen children, Bro. Franklin grew up with the intent to pursue a career in journalism. He started his career as an apprentice printer for his brother, James Franklin, the creator of the first independent newspaper in the colonies. At age 24 he then continued on to work for the Pennsylvania Gazette, where prior to his initiation, he would make light of Freemasonry in writings. Some historians believe that this was his way to promote himself to his district’s lodge. He was initiated in either 1730 or 1731 at St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. Once he was a member, his style of writing changed in the Gazette, where his tone shifted towards tremendous praise about Freemasonry in America, especially in Pennsylvania. He is remembered for his whole life of service and unmatchable genius. He was an excellent philosopher and ambassador that not only laid the foundation of Masonic history, BUT the entire country as a whole with his diplomacy and political skills. It’s nearly impossible not to draw parallels between Masonic ideas and the way Bro. Franklin lived. He made tremendous improvements in the lives of people who needed it but never forced his way into the lives of OTHERS—isn’t that EXACTLY what we ALL DO, as Freemasons—daily?
Brother Ben can’t wait to meet you on the 18th in YOUR Lodge, John A. Lejeune.
Sincerely and Most-Fraternally,