1. He had a knack for pranks. Franklin was never above causing a bit of mischief for his friends and family. When he was a teenager, Ben worked for his older brother’s newspaper, The New-England Courant. When his brother refused to publish one of Ben’s letters, Ben adopted a false identity – that of a widow named Silence Dogood – and started writing letters in her name. These, of course, got published and became pretty popular. Eventually, he put an end to the prank when Mrs. Dogood started receiving marriage proposals from readers.
2. He was never President of the United States. Franklin is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “only U.S. President to have never been U.S. President”. This references the fact that many people even today mistakenly assume that Franklin served as President of the United States like other well-known Founding Fathers including Washington, Jefferson and John Adams. While he was never president, Franklin did serve as governor of Pennsylvania. He was also the first United States ambassador to France and Sweden and the first ever U.S. Postmaster General.
3. He was an avid chess player. In fact, Franklin was inducted in the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999. Not only was Franklin a prolific player, he was also responsible for popularizing the sport in America. Franklin also wrote a highly-influential essay titled “The Morals of Chess” detailing the rules of conduct for playing the game.
5. One of his pranks turned out to be his most successful endeavor. Throughout his life, Ben Franklin managed to accrue quite a large wealth and one of its main drivers was Poor Richard’s Almanack, a best-selling pamphlet that was sold all over the colonies. Oddly enough, this publication first appeared as a prank inspired by writer Jonathan Swift. Swift created an alter ego named Isaac Bickerstaff who published an almanac which forecasted, among other things, the death of real almanac maker John Partridge who had annoyed Swift.
6. He could have been a lot richer if he wanted to. Franklin’s mind brought him wealth, but he could have made a lot more money if he had patented his inventions. However, he refrained from doing so, feeling that it was enough to know that others are helped by his creations. Because of this, other tinkerers were free to work and improve on Franklin’s designs which sometimes allowed for significant technological advances taking place in a short amount of time.
7. He created the first volunteer fire department in America. As mentioned above, the Junta inspired Franklin to come up with many ideas to help society. He initially started out by writing a series of articles in the Pennsylvania Gazette where he expressed the need for better fire prevention methods. This led to the formation of the Union Fire Company in Philadelphia in December 1736. Unofficially, the department became better known as Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade.
9. He perfected the glass harmonica. Although sometimes it is claimed that Franklin was actually the inventor of this musical instrument, others had previously designed objects that were similar in function and purpose. Even so, Franklin’s glass harmonica was quite revolutionary and unique in its design, which is why the real inventor is still a bone of contention. Either way, it was Franklin’s creation that became popular and remained the blueprint for all future glass harmonica designs. Some of the biggest composers of all time—like Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart—composed pieces for this instrument.