Benjamin Franklin Net Worth At Death – How Did He Get Rich?

Benjamin Franklin Net Worth At Death

Benjamin Franklin had an estimated net worth of $10 Billion at death. He is best known as one of the Founding Fathers who never served as president but was a respected inventor, publisher, scientist and diplomat. The majority of his income came from his career as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher.

Benjamin Franklin was a polymath, inventor, scientist, printer, politician, freemason, and diplomat. Franklin contributed to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and he negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

His scientific interests included research into electricity, mathematics, and mapmaking. Franklin, a writer known for his wit and wisdom, also wrote Poor Richard’s Almanack, invented bifocal glasses, and established the first successful American lending library.

To calculate the net worth of Benjamin Franklin, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as student loans and credit card debt, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Benjamin Franklin
Net Worth: $10 Billion
Monthly Salary: $10 Million+
Annual Income: $100 Million+
Source of Wealth: Writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, and political philosopher

Early Life

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in what was then known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in Boston.

Josiah Franklin, an English-born soap and candlemaker, had seven children with his first wife, Anne Child, and ten more with his second wife, Abiah Folger. Franklin was his 15th and youngest child.

Franklin learned to read at a young age, and despite his success at the Boston Latin School, he dropped out of school at the age of ten to work full-time in his father’s candle and soap shop. However, dipping wax and cutting wicks did not pique the young boy’s interest.

Josiah apprenticed 12-year-old Franklin at the print shop run by his older brother James, possibly to discourage him from going to sea like one of his other sons had.

Despite the fact that James mistreated and frequently beat his younger brother, Franklin learned a lot about newspaper publishing and adopted a similar brand of subversive politics from the printer.

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Silence Dogood

When James refused to publish any of his brother’s writing, Franklin, then 16, adopted the pen name Mrs. Silence Dogood, and “her” 14 imaginative and witty letters delighted readers of his brother’s newspaper, The New England Courant. However, James became enraged when he discovered that his apprentice had written the letters.

Tired of his brother’s “harsh and tyrannical” behavior, Franklin fled Boston in 1723, despite the fact that he still had three years on a legally binding contract with his master.

He fled to New York before settling in Philadelphia and starting work for another printer. For the rest of his life, he made Philadelphia his home.

Living in London

Franklin traveled to London in 1724, encouraged by Pennsylvania Governor William Keith to open his own print shop, to purchase supplies from stationers, booksellers, and printers. When the teen arrived in England, he felt duped because Keith’s letters of introduction did not arrive as promised.

Despite being forced to work in London’s print shops, Franklin made the most of the city’s amenities, attending theater performances, mingling with locals in coffee shops, and continuing his lifelong passion for reading.

Franklin, a self-taught swimmer who made his own wooden flippers, performed long-distance swims on the Thames River. (In 1968, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an honorary member.)

Franklin’s first pamphlet, “A Dissertation upon Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain,” was published in 1725 and argued that humans lack free will and thus are not morally responsible for their actions. (Franklin later denied this and burned all but one copy of the pamphlet that remained in his possession.)

Wife and Children

After moving from Boston to Philadelphia in 1723, Franklin stayed at the home of John Read, where he met and courted his landlord’s daughter Deborah.

When Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726, he discovered Deborah had married in the interim, only to be abandoned by her husband months later.

In 1730, the future Founding Father rekindled his romance with Deborah Read and married her as his common-law wife. Franklin had an unmarried son, William, who was raised by the couple at the time. Francis, the couple’s first son, was born in 1732 but died four years later of smallpox. Sarah, the couple’s only child, was born in 1743.

Franklin moved to London twice, in 1757 and 1764, both times without Deborah, who refused to leave Philadelphia. The couple last saw each other during his second stay. Franklin would not return home until Deborah died of a stroke in 1774, at the age of 66.

Franklin’s son William was appointed as New Jersey’s royal governor in 1762, a position arranged by his father through his political connections in the British government. Franklin’s later support for the patriot cause enraged his loyalist son. When the New Jersey militia deposed and imprisoned William Franklin as royal governor in 1776, his father chose not to intervene on his behalf.

Life in Philadelphia

Franklin worked as a bookkeeper, shopkeeper, and currency cutter after returning to Philadelphia in 1726. In 1728, he returned to a familiar trade, printing paper currency in New Jersey, before partnering with a friend to open his own print shop in Philadelphia, where he published government pamphlets and books.

Franklin was appointed as Pennsylvania’s official printer in 1730. He had already established the “Junto,” a social and self-improvement study group for young men that met every Friday to discuss morality, philosophy, and politics.

When Junto members wanted to broaden their reading options, Franklin aided in the formation of America’s first subscription library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, in 1731.

Franklin published “A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency” in 1729, advocating for an increase in the money supply to stimulate the economy.

Franklin used the proceeds from his money-related treatise to buy The Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper from a former boss. The struggling newspaper under his ownership was transformed into the most widely read paper in the colonies and one of the first to turn a profit.

He had less success in 1732, when he launched the first German-language newspaper in the colonies, the Philadelphische Zeitung, which only lasted a few months. Nonetheless, Franklin’s fame and fortune grew during the 1730s.

Franklin amassed real estate and businesses and founded the volunteer Union Fire Company to combat Philadelphia’s dangerous fire hazards. He became a Freemason in 1731 and rose through the ranks to become Grand Master of the Masons of Pennsylvania.

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Poor Richard’s Almanack

Franklin published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack at the end of 1732.

The almanac, which Franklin published for 25 years, included proverbs and Franklin’s witty maxims such as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” and “He that lies down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”

Scientist and Inventor

Franklin expanded into science and entrepreneurship in the 1740s. His pamphlet “A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge” was published in 1743 and served as the founding document of the American Philosophical Society, the colonies’ first scientific society.

By 1748, the 42-year-old Franklin had become one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest men, and he joined the Pennsylvania militia. He delegated his printing business to a partner in order to devote more time to scientific research. In 1748, he moved into a new home.

Inventions

Franklin was a prolific inventor and scientist who created the following items:

  • Franklin stove: Franklin’s first invention, around 1740, provided more heat while using less fuel.
  • Bifocals: Anyone who has grown tired of switching between two pairs of glasses understands why Franklin invented bifocals, which could be used for both distance and reading.
  • Armonica: Franklin’s inventions took on a musical bent when he began work on the armonica, a musical instrument made up of spinning glass bowls on a shaft, in 1761. Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart both wrote music for the unusual instrument.
  • Rocking chair
  • Flexible catheter
  • American penny

Franklin also discovered the Gulf Stream on his way back from London across the Atlantic Ocean in 1775. He began to wonder why the westbound trip always took longer, and his measurements of ocean temperatures led him to the discovery of the Gulf Stream. This knowledge resulted in a two-week reduction in the previous sailing time from Europe to North America.

Franklin even proposed a new alphabet “scheme” that would eliminate the letters C, J, Q, W, X, and Y as redundant.

Franklin’s self-education earned him honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, the University of Oxford in England, and St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Franklin published a pamphlet on youth education in Pennsylvania in 1749, which resulted in the establishment of the Academy of Philadelphia, now known as the University of Pennsylvania.

Electricity

Franklin performed the famous kite-and-key experiment in 1752 to demonstrate that lightning was electricity, and he soon invented the lightning rod.

His investigations into electrical phenomena were published in England in 1751 as “Experiments and Observations on Electricity.” He coined new terms for electricity that are still in use today, such as battery, charge, conductor, and electrify.

Slavery

Franklin hired the first of several enslaved people to work in his new home and print shop in 1748. Over the next few decades, Franklin’s views on slavery evolved to the point where he considered the institution to be inherently evil, and he freed his enslaved people in the 1760s.

He became more vocal in his opposition to slavery later in life. Franklin was the president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and wrote numerous anti-slavery tracts. In 1790, he petitioned the United States Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade.

Election to the Government

Franklin was elected to the city council of Philadelphia in 1748 and a justice of the peace the following year. In 1751, he was elected a Philadelphia alderman and a representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly, positions he held until 1764, when he was re-elected annually. He accepted a royal appointment as deputy postmaster general of North America two years later.

When the French and Indian War broke out in 1754, Franklin urged the colonies to band together for common defense, which he dramatized in The Pennsylvania Gazette with a cartoon of a snake cut into sections with the caption “Join or Die.”

He represented Pennsylvania at the Albany Congress, which adopted his proposal for a unified government for the thirteen colonies. The colonies, however, did not ratify Franklin’s “Plan of Union.”

The Pennsylvania Assembly appointed Franklin as the colony’s agent in England in 1757. Franklin sailed to London to settle a long-standing dispute with the colony’s proprietors, the Penn family, taking William and his two enslaved people but leaving Deborah and Sarah behind.

He spent much of the next two decades in London, where he was drawn to the city’s high society and intellectual salons.

After returning to Philadelphia in 1762, Franklin toured the colonies to inspect their post offices.

Stamp Act and Declaration of Independence

Franklin returned to London as the colony’s agent after losing his seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764. Franklin returned during a period of strained relations between the United Kingdom and the American colonies.

The Stamp Act, passed by the British Parliament in March 1765, imposed a highly unpopular tax on all printed materials for commercial and legal use in the American colonies. Some colonists mistook Franklin’s purchase of stamps for his printing business and nomination of a friend as the Pennsylvania stamp distributor for the new tax as implicit support for the new tax, and rioters in Philadelphia even threatened his house.

However, Franklin’s passionate condemnation of the tax in Parliamentary testimony contributed to the Stamp Act’s repeal in 1766.

Two years later, he published “Causes of the American Discontents Before 1768,” and he soon became an agent for Massachusetts, Georgia, and New Jersey. Franklin stoked the flames of revolution by sending Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s private letters to America.

The letters, which called for the restriction of colonists’ rights, sparked outrage when they were published in Boston newspapers. Following the scandal, Franklin was removed as deputy postmaster general, and he returned to North America in 1775 as a patriot.

Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and appointed as the colonies’ first postmaster general. He was appointed commissioner to Canada in 1776, and he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence.

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Life in Paris

Franklin was elected commissioner to France after the United States voted for independence in 1776, making him the country’s first ambassador to France. He set sail to negotiate a treaty for military and financial assistance from the country.

Much has been written about Franklin’s time in Paris, particularly his rich romantic life during his nine years abroad following Deborah’s death. He even proposed marriage to a widow named Madame Helvetius at the age of 74, but she declined.

Franklin was embraced in France for his wit and intellectual standing in the scientific community as much as for his status as a political appointee from a fledgling country.

His reputation gained him respect and access to closed communities, including King Louis XVI’s court. His astute diplomacy resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. Franklin returned to the United States in 1785, after nearly a decade in France.

Drafting the U.S. Constitution

Franklin was elected to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which wrote and ratified the new United States Constitution.

At the age of 81, Franklin was the oldest delegate, but he fashioned the Great Compromise, which resulted in proportional representation in the House of Representatives and equal representation by state in the Senate. In 1787, he was a founding member of the Society for Political Inquiries, which was dedicated to increasing knowledge of government.

Franklin was never elected President of the United States of America. However, as one of the eight Founding Fathers, he was instrumental in the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

He also held several government positions, including election to the Pennsylvania Assembly and appointment as the colonies’ first postmaster general, as well as diplomat to France. He was a true polymath and entrepreneur, which is why he is often referred to as the “First American.”

Death

Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at the home of his daughter, Sarah Bache, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was 84, had gout, and had complained of ailments for some time, finishing the final codicil to his will just over a year and a half before his death.

He left the majority of his estate to Sarah and only a small portion to his son William, whose opposition to the patriot cause still irritated him. He also contributed to scholarships, schools, and museums in Boston and Philadelphia.

When Franklin was 22, he wrote his epitaph: “The body of B. Franklin, Printer (Like the Cover of an Old Book, Its Contents torn Out And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding) Lies Here, Food for Worms.” But the work will not be lost; for, as he believed, it will appear again in a new and more elegant edition revised and corrected by the author.”

However, the stone on the grave he shared with his wife in Philadelphia’s Christ Church Cemetery simply reads, “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1790.”

Accomplishments

The image of Franklin that has survived through history, as well as his likeness on the $100 bill, is a caricature—a bald man in a frock coat holding a kite string with a key attached. But his range of interests was so broad that it seems a shame.

Founding universities and libraries, the post office, shaping the fledgling United States’ foreign policy, contributing to the Declaration of Independence, publishing newspapers, warming us with the Franklin stove, pioneering scientific advances, allowing us to see with bifocals, and lighting our way with electricity—all from a man who never finished school but shaped his life through abundant reading and experience, a strong moral compass, and an unwavering commitment. Franklin shed light on areas of American life that still glow with his attention.

Favorite Benjamin Franklin Quotes

He that displays too often his wife and his wallet is in danger of having both of them borrowed.

 

To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.

 

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

 

If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.

 

Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody.

 

Energy and persistence conquer all things.

 

To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.

View our larger collection of the best Benjamin Franklin quotes.

Further Reading

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