Benjamin Franklin: Firefighter

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“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Ben Franklin

“In the first Place, as an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure, I would advise 'em to take care how they suffer living Coals in a full Shovel, to be carried out of one Room into another, or up or down Stairs, unless in a Warmingpan shut; for Scraps of Fire may fall into Chinks and make no Appearance until Midnight; when your Stairs being in Flames, you may be forced, (as I once was) to leap out of your Windows, and hazard your Necks to avoid being oven-roasted.”--Ben Franklin.

In the 18th century, fire prevention was a serious issue. Fire codes as we know them now didn’t exist and many buildings were made of wood. In a visit to Washington DC, Franklin realized that DC was far more prepared for a fire than his home, Philadelphia. A man of action, Franklin began to investigate what improvements could be made in Philadelphia. As a part of his plan, Franklin undertook efforts to raise public awareness of how fires were being fought in Philadelphia. At the time, volunteers fought fires. Franklin insisted that this was not enough, and made the public aware of the measures cities such as Boston were taking to fight fighting fire. In December of 1736, the Union Fire Company was formed. As more men became interested in joining the fire company, they were encouraged to form their own organizations, increasing the fire coverage in Philadelphia. Thanks to Franklin’s initiative, Philadelphia became one of the safest cities in the world in terms of fire prevention.

Ben Franklin at the Bottom of the Sea

Twenty-three miles off the coast of North Carolina, living in Onslow Bay, is a temperate reef named after Ben Franklin. It seems slightly odd that a coral reef would bear Ben Franklin’s name; however, there is a good explanation. The Ben Franklin Temperate Reef is frequently under the influence of the Gulf Stream – which was originally charted by… Benjamin Franklin.

According to Barbara Tuchman in The First Salute, “American captains, advised by whales, understood the location of the Gulf Stream and crossed over it, instead of running against it for days.” This allowed American merchant ships to make the crossing much faster than English mail ships. As Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin became aware of this trend and conducted experiments of his own to test the track of the stream. Franklin offered this information to Anthony Todd, Secretary of the British Post Office, but as this was in 1770, (before the war) the English opted to ignore the American advice. “Ben Franklin’s report on the Gulf Stream was withheld until after the war, when it could no longer help the British,” adds Tuchman.

As is the case with his other more famous discoveries (such as electricity) Ben Franklin brought attention to a natural phenomenon which continues to aid and enhance modern life. For that achievement, a temperate reef named in Ben Franklin's honor seems very fitting.

To learn other exciting details about Benjamin Franklin, visit Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, on display through July 8th.

Spy School: Invisible Ink

Grab your quill pen and parchment, and get ready to enroll in the Ann Arbor District Library Spy School! Learn how to craft a pot of invisible ink from household ingredients and use invisible ink antidotes to reveal secret messages as we travel back into the exciting world of spies from the American Revolution. Track down a spy gang, draw a hidden treasure map, and write mysterious letters using simple ingredients and kid-friendly recipes. It's science, it's history, and it's a lot of imagination! This program is geared toward children grades K-5. No registration required; all supplies provided.

When: Monday June 20th, 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Where: Traverwood Branch Program RoomInvisibleInkInvisibleInkSpy LetterSpy Letter

Book Discussion : "The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin"

Please join us for a discussion of The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin on Wednesday June 8, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Leading historian of the American Revolution Gordon S. Wood's illuminating portrait of BF is more of a study than a biography. It follows the twists and turns of Franklin's life - from the commoner to the gentlemen, from Royalist to Patriot - with great insight. We come to see Franklin as complex and often contradictory, and much more interesting than the "mythology that has blinded generations of American to the man he really was".

Ben Franklin in Adult Fiction

Even though Benjamin Franklin is a real person in history, he has also been a character in a variety of works of fiction for both children and adults. It’s always interesting to see how authors decide to portray a real person in a fictionalized setting and story. AADL has some books that are some good examples of this. If you’re looking to see what’s out there, check out these adult fiction titles:

The Franklin Affair After the death of his mentor, Benjamin Franklin scholar R. Taylor is given 18th-century documents proving Benjamin Franklin committed a terrible crime. As Taylor attempts to solve the mystery, he is tackled with sabotage and blackmail in this suspenseful historical thriller.

Murder By The Waters: Further Adventures Of The American Agent Abroad In this mystery set in 1758, Ben Franklin is on his way from America to Europe and gets caught up in several mysteries he must help solve by using his scientific knowledge and wit.

A Calculus Of Angels Set in 1722, Ben Franklin is Sir Isaac Newton’s apprentice during Europe’s second Dark Age, and is one of the many trying to save Europe from destruction as a battle ensues between visible and invisible worlds. A sure-fire combination of fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. (Part of The Age of Unreason Series.)

To learn more about the REAL Ben Franklin and see what is happening with Ben around AADL, including the BIG exhibit and special programming, see here.

EMU Professor John G. McCurdy Discusses Ben Franklin's America

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Professor John G. McCurdy will be your guide back in time to the eighteenth-century world that Benjamin Franklin inhabited. Franklin's Boston, Philadelphia, and London were alive with divisive controversies, racial strife, and constant international tension. It was also a time of new media, new ideas, and the creation of the American self. Learn what lessons Ben Franklin's America has for us at the dawn of the millennium.

John G. McCurdy is an Associate Professor of History at EMU and author of "Citizen Bachelors: Manhood and the Creation of the United States" (Cornell, 2009).

Held in conjunction with the Downtown Library May 4 - July 8 exhibit, Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World

Tuesday June 7, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Ben Franklin's Amazing Alphabet

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Ever wonder why spelling in English is so difficult? Ben Franklin sure did, and he attempted to do something about it! Did you know that in 1768, Ben Franklin invented a new English alphabet that could make spelling easier? It did so because each letter in Ben’s alphabet represented exactly one sound! Widely known today as “Benjamin Franklin’s Phonetic Alphabet,” Franklin’s proposal did away with the consonants c, j, q, w, x, and y, which he thought were redundant. It also introduced six new letters to differentiate sounds he felt were not well represented by the alphabet we know today, like the difference between the "long o" in “own” and the "short o" in “pond”. Ben’s reasoning was that if letters more closely represented a single sound, spelling would be a lot easier! His alphabet never really caught on, but if it had, we might all find spelling a lot easier today!

For more information on Franklin’s alphabet and a sample of text written in it, click here! For AADL books on spelling for kids and the history of English spelling, click here!

The Boston Bequest

Gift of MoneyGift of Money Let's continue the story of the Benjamin Franklin bequest to Philadelphia and Boston. One of the outcomes of the Boston bequest was the establishment of the Franklin Institute of Boston, which is known today as the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. It's interesting to learn about American history. Read more about Benjamin Franklin and other famous Americans using the Biography and Genealogy Master Index. Like Russel Crowe, are you curious about local history? Check out the "The Making of Ann Arbor" or "Ypsilanti Gleanings".

Ben Franklin: Educational Pioneer

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In a city with such a significant university presence, it seems fitting to remember the contribution that Benjamin Franklin made on the landscape of higher education in the United States.

Through the years, the founding fathers have provided a popular option for college & university names: Thomas Jefferson University, James Madison University, Franklin & Marshall College. And lest we forget the numerous homages to George Washington – The George Washington University, Washington & Lee University, Washington University in St. Louis, Washington & Jefferson College, Washington College. Yet interestingly, each institution was established by an unrelated party and named in the founding father’s honor (with Ben & George possibly donating some money to a few of their namesakes). One university which was established by a founding father bears what seems to be a much more egalitarian name: The University of Pennsylvania, founded by Benjamin Franklin.

Initially established as The Academy and College of Philadelphia in 1749, the first class of twelve students graduated eight years later in 1757 (I bet the 250 year class reunion a few years ago was something!). Benjamin Franklin had a vision for an institution which would not emphasize the training of clergymen, but would instead focus on the education of a business and governing class. After a number of name changes, board of trustee shake-ups and administration squabbles, the current University of Pennsylvania was formed. Unlike other American Colonial Colleges, Franklin’s University of Pennsylvania was the first institution of higher education to offer a modern liberal arts curriculum. Over 250 years later, the University remains one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education.

Exploring the history of Benjamin Franklin’s University is aided by the University of Pennsylvania Archives. Similar research is possible for Ann Arbor’s University at its own archives: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

To learn other exciting details about Benjamin Franklin, visit Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, on display through July 8th.

The Ann Arbor District Library also makes exploring the history of our own city possible through sites such as The Making of Ann Arbor and The Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program which can be found on AADL’s Local History Page.

Benjamin Franklin, word inventor

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Until the middle of the 18th century electricity was little more than a parlor trick used to amuse the masses. One such performer peaked Ben Franklin’s curiosity and set him on a course of experimentation that would open up the new field of electrical science and ultimately pave the way to create the electrical conveniences on which we depend today.

Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia” published in 1751 was one of the earliest works on electricity. It was created from a series of letters Franklin sent to Peter Collinson between 1747 and 1751. Included in the book are accounts of the famous kite and key experiment, his work with Leyden jars, lightning rods and charged clouds. In describing these various experiments Franklin would coin a number of scientific terms like battery, conductor, charge, discharge, negative, minus, plus, electric shock, and electrician.

This book would bring Ben Franklin considerable international recognition and make him known for many words still used in modern scientific lexicon.

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