Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States, was so interested in electricity that he chanced flying a kite during a thunderstorm? His objective was to collect electrical charges in a Leyden jar, a device for storing static electricity, and demonstrate the relationship between lightning and electricity. On June 10th, 1752, as the skies thundered and rain poured down, he attached a long string to a silk handkerchief topped with a wire that acted like a lightning rod. He fastened a metal key to one of the strings. As the kite climbed higher and higher, he moved his fingers near the key to feel distinct electric sparks.
A printer by trade, Franklin became a successful publisher whose works included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanac. His governmental career spanned service in both state legislature and foreign diplomacy, including Pennsylvania, England, and France. He was responsible for signing major historical documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris, and the United States Constitution. An inventor, founder of the first common library and University of Pennsylvania, Franklin had very little formal education, but proved a very curious, lifelong thinker -- and genius.
The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- Benjamin Franklin's First Kite: How He Drew Lightning From the Storm Clouds. (1896, Feb 17). Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922)
- Benjamin Franklin, Printer, Inventor, Philosopher, Educator, Diplomatist, and Statesman.: Estabrook Measures Franklin. (1896, Jun 07). Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922)
- Stories Of Fact and Fancy For the Boys and Girls: Name Of Your School Benjamin Franklin, Known to Boys and Girls Chiefly Because Of Experiment With A Kite. (1925, Aug 30). The Sun (1837-1995)
- Franklin's Kite Claims Sustained: Letter Written By Him Tells Of Electricity Detecting Tests. (1925, Oct 03). The Hartford Courant (1923-1995)
- Ben Franklin's Kite Was No Myth: Records Prove It Did Draw Electricity From the Clouds. (1924, Dec 26). Los Angeles Times (1923-1995)
- Benjamin Franklin's First Kite Experiment Has Anniversary: Theories, Discoveries of Famous Experimenter in Determining Peculiarities of Levclen Jar and Characteristics of Charges Foundation of Electricity. (1931, Jan 25). New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962)
- 10,000,000 Voltage Made In Pittsfield: Demonstration Is Planned Today, Kite Anniversary. (1932, Jun 10). Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960)
- Kaempffert, W. (1942, Mar 29). Franklin and Electricity: Benjamin Franklin's Experiments. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Nash, L. M. (1962, Mar 18). Go Fly a Kite!: It's Not Only Fun; It's a Symbol of Man's Loftiest Aspirations. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963)
- Winchester, J. H. (1963, Jun 26). Kites Flying Higher Than Ever: They've Been Used For Everything From Laying Cables to Spying On the Enemy. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Our Heritage: Benjamin Franklin. (1990, Oct 04). Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003)
- Zoroya, G. (1996, Nov 27). At 290, Benjamin Franklin Has Hit the Big Time. Los Angeles Times (1996-Current)
- Weather History. (2003, Jun 10). The Spokesman-Review (1894-2009)
- Best, John Hardin. Benjamin Franklin on Education. Classics in Education. no.14. New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1962. e-book
- Franklin, Benjamin. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959. E302 .F82 1959
- Franklin, Benjamin and Gutman, Amy. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. e-book
- Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity From the Sky, by Benjamin West, 1816, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
- Special News Slide, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries
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