- June 16, 2020
- 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
- Transylanvia Library, Rogow Room, 212 S Gaston St, Brevard, SC 28712
View Map | Cost: Free
Ben Franklin performed by Larry Bounds
Living in the Age of Enlightenment, Ben Franklin was many things: 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, new governments and even making life a little more musical. Franklin upheld science and intellect and reason – scandalous man!
Franklin helped invent and reinvent the American government as well as himself. He was a Loyalist who transformed into a patriot and founding father. He proposed the Albany Plan, mirroring the Iroquois. He drew up the Articles of Confederation uniting the colonies under the British Crown – and then he signed their Declaration of Independence. As the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, he declared that the new government was a republic – if we can keep it.
Besides his experiments in electricity and inventions of bifocals, swim fins, the Franklin stove and the glass armonica, perhaps Ben Franklin should be best known for helping create a government with the flexibility to reinvent itself.
Larry Bounds has performed on the Chautauqua stage since 2002. Over the years he has portrayed Einstein, Churchill, Disney, Houdini, Crockett, Von Braun, Cronkite, and last year Andrew Jackson to numerous Chautauqua audiences nationwide.
Larry holds a bachelors degree in theatre and a masters in education from The University of Tennessee, and he is a National Board Certified educator. For 35 years he taught public high school. He was awarded his school’s Teacher of the Year in 2003 and was recognized as one of the Upstate’s Most Influential Educators by Parent Magazine in 2018.
He has performed as a professional magician since 1973, including 8 years entertaining with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The International Brotherhood of Magicians admitted him to the Order of Merlin in 2009. Larry is also an active member of Mensa, the International Churchill Society, and the South Carolina Treasure and Artifact Association.
Benjamin Franklin, the inventor who reinvented America
Ben Franklin has been called the first American. His life demonstrated the optimism, entrepreneurism, and imagination that enabled America to reinvent itself throughout its history. Franklin was a master of reinvention. Franklin, the distinguished, middle-aged, internationally known celebrity and proud Loyalist, transformed himself into a patriot and founding father. This metamorphosis in 1775 was not his first, nor would it be his last. And it was through his personal transformations that he also transformed this nation.
Franklin was born into the superstitious age of witch trials, but he became a beacon of reason and an icon of the Enlightenment. By demonstrating the power of the scientific method through his experiments in electricity, optics, and heat conduction, he improved the lives and safety of all Americans. Raised with a strong Protestant ethic, his journalism popularized rational thought while evangelizing secular morality. Incredibly successful in amassing wealth through the free market capitalism of his time, he established the socialistic institutions of public libraries, community fire departments, mutual aid societies, and public education. His political prowess would shape compromises that transformed a collection of Royal colonies into the stable democracy that would become the most powerful nation on earth.
Franklin was the fifteenth of 17 children born to a Boston soap and candle maker. Starting at the age of 8 he was formally educated for only two years in the hope that he would become a minister. But this precocious boy who read on his own from as far back as he could remember was not cut out to be a minister nor to follow in his father’s footsteps as a candle dipper and soap boiler. When Franklin apprenticed under his brother James as a printer he excelled. It was a career that allowed him to read all the time. In fact he quit attending church on Sundays to allow himself more time to read and study what he wished – which, by the way, did include volumes of sermons given to him and collected by his Uncle Benjamin.
As an apprentice printer he flourished. He was precise, hardworking, and creative. But his brother found him too independent, too imaginative, and too insubordinate. As the master with a contract that bound Franklin to James’ service until he was 21, he was often cruel to the boy. Thus it was that Ben Franklin performed his first major act of personal reinvention. At the age of 17 he fled Boston and settled in the city of Philadelphia (population 4000). He was no longer an apprentice, he worked as a tradesman, first as a printer’s assistant then as an independent printer. He worked long hours, produced work of high quality, and made sure people recognized his reputation for being industrious.
His passion for self-improvement, for continual personal reinvention, led young Franklin to organize the Junto, a networking club for local tradesmen who gathered once a week to discuss the issues of the day, analyze good and bad business practices, and drink beer. To make books available for individual improvement, Franklin started America’s first lending library and a school that would grow to become the University of Pennsylvania.
When his first son, William, was born to the bachelor Franklin and a “low woman” he redefined his position in society by taking his first love, the socially prominent Deborah Read, as his common law wife. She would help him raise his bastard son as her own and give birth to both a son, Francis, and a daughter, Sally. Deborah Franklin also proved herself to be a good business woman and loyal companion to her husband.
Franklin reinvented his local newspaper into a nationally syndicated paper made possible by Franklin’s improvements to the colonial postal system. As Philadelphia grew to a population of 20,000, Franklin guided the re-engineering of the city with paved road and improved sanitation. He also formed the first public fire department. And then, at the age of forty, with his colony’s most successful printing business, with a chain of franchised printers paying Franklin a percentage, with ownership of numerous investment properties, Franklin retired to pursue his interests in science and invention.
Having seen an entertaining demonstration of electricity being generated and stored, Franklin spent ten years researching the nature of electricity. He created much of the language we use today to describe electricity: “battery,” “electrical current,” “negative charge,” and “positive charge.” With his famous kite experiment he proved that lightning was just an electric spark. And later he proved this spark could be attracted and rendered harmless by employing his invention the lightning rod thus saving countless structures and lives. His pioneering work with electricity earned him honorary Doctorate degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale. “Dr. Franklin” was born.
Franklin would reinvent eyeglasses by creating the first bifocals. He reinvented the stove by studying heat conduction and engineering the high efficiency Franklin stove. He even reinvented the English alphabet by adding 6 new letters to make phonetic spelling easier. (This idea did not catch on, but the idea did influence Noah Webster to make language changes that give us the American versus English spellings that we have today.)
Franklin created an international reputation as one of the world’s great scientists just in time to reinvent himself yet again as a world famous diplomat. In the 1750s Franklin became an agent (lobbyist) in London representing the interests of several of the 13 colonies. A speech he made before Parliament was one of the primary reasons that the hated Stamp Act was repealed. Yet all this time Franklin was a staunch Loyalist working to keep the colonies unified happily with the rest of the British Empire. Despite Franklin’s efforts he could not get repeals of the Townsend Acts that taxed such things as glass, lead, and tea. And following the infamous Boston Massacre, Franklin’s response led to him being censured by Parliament. Franklin the Loyalist hoping to preserve the Empire became a Patriot who recognized the necessity of American independence.
Returning to the colonies in 1775, Franklin helped draft The Declaration of Independence; he then sailed to France and cajoled the French aristocracy into supporting American independence. His arrival in Paris has been compared to the Beatles arrival in America. He was a superstar who then returned to America as its senior founder and diplomat.
Franklin served as the new nation’s first Postmaster General and went on to help draft the US Constitution in which his ideas for representation in the House and Senate were adopted. In this final act of his storied career Franklin reshaped the structure of the American government. Franklin foresaw the success our nation has enjoyed for more than 200 years, a nation capable of infinite self-reinvention.