Old Wife, Old Dog, Ready Money

Ben was muscular, barrel-chested, and almost six feet tall. Ladies were drawn to him, and he enthusiastically reciprocated their attentions. Though his father desired that he become a preacher, and history paints him as cool-headed and logical, Ben struggled to keep his passions in check, and it didn’t always work. He was a ladies man, some even say a womanizer. His first child, a son named William, was born illegitimate, and though Ben had a common-law marriage (the result of youthful imprudence),  he also had many infatuations.

For all the different hats Ben wore throughout his life – inventor, scientist, postmaster, printer, diplomat, writer, and one of the founders of the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin had a robust – and experienced view of carnal matters. Long before “Dear Abby” type advice columns, Franklin wrote a letter in 1745 to a single man about the best way to deal with the chap’s “impulses” outside of marriage. Famously called, “Advice on the Choice of a Mistress,”  the letter wasn’t published in collections of Franklin’s papers during the 19th century because it was considered too licentious.

Here’s a bit more about Benjamin Franklin: His Poor Richard’s Almanack (published yearly for 25 years) brought him both fame and economic success;

He experimented with energy and proved that lightning was electricity, work that lead to the invention of the lightning rod. Indeed, Franklin coined many of the words still used in modern electronics, including “battery,” “charge,” “positive” and “negative.”

His own poor eyesight lead him to invent bifocals, but Franklin also created a flexible urinary catheter to ease his older brother’s discomfort from kidney stones.  He invented the odometer, swim fins, and the glass armonica, a musical instrument he designed in 1761. To reach the top shelves without using a step ladder, he fashioned a “long arm” in his workshop, a piece of wood with two “fingers” mounted on the end which, by pulling on a cable, would enable someone to grip a book off a high shelf. His Franklin Stove provided more heat and less smoke than an ordinary fireplace, while his “Franklin lights” were an improvement on glass globes used in London to provide street lighting.

Hoping to offer a greater alternative of doing work within the summers, versus winters by growing the quantity of daylight through the summers and lowering it through the winters, Ben Franklin suggested the Daylight Financial Savings Time.

In 1736, Franklin began America’s first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia, and years later, set up America’s first fireplace insurance coverage firm.  He was the first to review the Gulf Stream and put it on a map; he also established the University of Pennsylvania.  He invented a 24-hour, three-wheel clock that was much simpler than other designs of the day. He introduced American colonists to kale, Swiss barley, rhubarb and kohlrabi.

Franklin never patented a single one of his inventions for he saw them as gifts to the public. “That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously,” he wrote in his autobiography.

His thinking was ahead of his time. He postulated that the common cold was passed from person to person through indoor air, and was likely the first to make memes when he created political cartoons in America, images published in The Plain Truth in 1747.

Ben Franklin’s full life didn’t leave much room for keeping pets, but he was, in fact, an avid animal lover. He had cats, including a beloved feline named, “Whiskers.” He owned two goldfish, “Goldy” and “Fishy,” and when a friend’s pet squirrel, “Mungo” met his fate at the teeth of a dog, Franklin immortalized the squirrel with a tribute: “Few squirrels were better accomplished, for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much.”

Enter the dog.

Though Franklin didn’t have his own dog, he was remembered by many for the large black Newfoundland belonging to his son, William, who lived with Franklin while he was the US ambassador there.

The dog was notorious for running amok around Paris, and at least two references to the Newsf appear in correspondences. In the first, a visitor to Franklin’s home promises that “nothing shall tempt me to forget your Newfoundland Dog.”  The second, from a neighbor in Paris, references her having returned the dog after it strayed. By all accounts, Franklin doted on the Newf,  walked him regularly and spoiled him with treats.

Leave it to a Newfoundland to have won over the heart of a man who didn’t start out as a “dog man.” The saying, “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas” is attributed to Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack. Ultimately, we know that Ben Franklin ended up a dog man because of another famous quote attributed to him:  “There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog and ready money.”

Image of Newfoundland bnoemie/Adobe Stock Photo


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