Friday, June 20, 2008

9 Things You Didn't Know About Benjamin Franklin

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.

United States, 1938
Scott #803

In 1938, the United States issued a set of definitive postage stamps featuring images of the nation's first 29 presidents. This issue has affectionately become known as the Prexies issue. In addition to the 29 presidents featured on the stamps, fractional postage stamps were issued with images of non-presidents, such as Benjamin Franklin and Martha Washington, and the White House.

For those not familiar with fractional postage, some types of U.S. mail required a partial cent, even though there was no coinage for half cents in use in the United States at the time. Thus, a person could buy 2 half-cent stamps for a cent, and use them as additional postage for some classes of mail. Also, the half-cent stamp was used to round the 1-1/2 and 4-1/2 cent purchases up to the nearest whole cent. However, throughout its existence, the half-cent stamp was never used, by itself, in order to mail a letter as the minimum postage was never less than 1 cent.

The first stamp (in denomination order) is the half-cent Benjamin Franklin issue. As the United State's first Postmaster, he was chosen to appear on the first fractional value stamp.

Many people know that Ben Franklin supported having the turkey as the national emblem for the United States, as opposed to the majestic Bald Eagle, and know that he invented the lightning rod, but do you know these facts?

  • He never once sought public office. Benjamin Franklin was well-known and could have certainly achieved public office, but he never once ran for a political office.

  • He is related to the famous Folger's Coffee family. Ben's maternal grandfather (his mother's father), Peter Folger, was the ancestor to the founder of Folger's coffee, one of the best-known brands of coffee in the world.

  • He produced the first catalog in the U.S. Franklin issued a list of science and technical books that were available from a Philadelphia-based lending library. He is believe to have produced the first catalog and also the first return policy. He was inducted into the Direct Marketer's Association Hall of Fame for these honors.

  • He is in the American Mensa Hall of Fame. Because he was such a great thinker and innovative mind, he would have fit right in with today's society for the intelligent, Mensa. Franklin is an inductee into the American Mensa Hall of Fame.

  • He coined electrical terms still used today. The terms positive and negative, which signify the electric charge, which is another word he defined. He also gave us the word battery.

  • He invented bifocal glasses. Frustrated with having to switch between two pairs of glasses to correct his vision, Franklin cut two sets of lenses in half and mounted them together, creating the world's first bifocals.

  • He invented a musical instrument. Franklin invented the glass harmonica, also known as an armonica, which works on the same principle as rubbing one's dampened fingertips over the top of a goblet in order to produce a sound. Mozart and Beethoven even composed music for the armonica.

  • He invented prototypical "swimmies". Franklin was an adept swimmer and wanted to help others to swim. He invented crude flotation devices out of wood in order to help teach others to swim.

  • He spent half of his life in "retirement". With his self-made wealth, he was able to retire from working at the age of 42, halfway through his 84 years of life. Retirement for him was only the cessation of occupational work, though, as most of his statesmanship and political successes came in the second half of his life.

Stamp image courtesy of Bob at

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