All Things Franklin

            The scholarship on Franklin is centuries old and quite comprehensive.   Though many pages long, this handout is loose change compared to the tremendous wealth of Franklin sources.  But the following books, videos, web sites and museum exhibit will educate, interest, and enlighten any reader or viewer.  Any library, even those in the small communities, carries books by and about Franklin.  The Austin Community College libraries carry dozens of books and videos.


Brands, H. W., The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. New York, New York: Doubleday, 2000.

One of the very good biographies published in the last ten years.  Brands lives in Austin and teaches at Texas A&M.

Chaplain, Joyce E., The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius. New York, New York: Basic Books,         2006.

The writer shows that Franklin’s genius had a life long interest in science

Cohen, I. Bernard., Benjamin Franklin’s Science. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1990

Though this book focuses on Franklin’s work with electricity, it also covers his scientific influences and other areas of interest.

Cousins, Margaret, Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia. New York, New York: Random House, 1952. 

This children’s book has been in print for over fifty years. 

Dray, Phillip, Stealing God’s Thunder” Benjamin Franklin’s Lightening Rod and the Invention of America. New York, New York:             Random House,  2005.

Dray explores Franklin’s science and its effect on the politics of the young United States.

Fruchtman, Jack, Atlantic Cousins: Benjamin Franklin and His Visionary Friends.  New York, New York: Avalon, 2005. 

Fruchtman tells of how the Enlightenment and its many interesting visionaries influenced Franklin. 

Isaacson, Walter, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster 2003.

A former head of Time Magazine and CNN, the writer uses a breezy style in this general biography.

Japiske, Carl, Fart Proudly. Marble Hill, Ga.: Enthea Press, 1990.

This slim volume collects some of Franklin’s ruder and cruder humorous writings.  

Lemay, Leo J. A., The Life of Benjamin Franklin: Volume One, Journalist 1706-1730. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania             Press, 2006.

Lemay, Leo J. A., The Life of Benjamin Franklin: Volume Two, Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of             Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Each of these volumes is over five hundred pages and they cover only the first forty years of Franklin’s life.  When all seven volumes are finished, this will surely stand as the most comprehensive study about Franklin and serve as the summit of LeMay’s many decades long career as a Franklin scholar.   

Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed., Franklin's Writings. New York, New York: Library of America, Literary Classics of America, 1987. 

This book collects many Franklin writings including letters, essays, newspaper articles, the compete autobiography and excerpts from             Poor Richard’s Almanac, all providing a deep look into his many interests and his strong literary style.

Lemay, J. A. Leo, ed., Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A Bicentennial Perspective. Newark, NJ.: University of Delaware Press,                 1993.

This collection of twenty-five essays explores most facets of Franklin’s life.

Lopez, Claude-Anne, Mon Cher Papa: Franklin and the Ladies of Paris. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1966.

With a lyrical style, Lopez explains how and why the ladies of Paris loved the old and fat Franklin.

Lopez, Claude-Anne, My Life with Benjamin Franklin. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2000.

Hired by Yale University in the 50’s because she knew French Ms. Lopez has come to be an expert on Franklin.

Middlekauff, Robert, Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies. Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press, 1998.

The author shows how Franklin’s ideas, weaknesses, and mistakes earned him his many enemies.

Morgan, Edmund, Benjamin Franklin. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2002.

Morgan is a well-known and esteemed historian.  The masterful first chapter is worth the price of the book.   

Sappenfield, James A. A Sweet Instruction: Franklin’s Journalism as a Literary Apprenticeship. Carbondale and Edwardsville, Il:                 Southern Illinois University Press, 1973.

To this day Franklin’s literary style isn’t fully appreciated.  Sappenfield tells how his early years in journalism shaped that style. 

Schiff, Stacy. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and theBbirth of America. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company,         2005.

Schiff won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book.  In this one, with a fine literary style, she details Franklin’s many years in France during the Revolutionary War while he negotiated with France for aid and later with England for peace.

Seavey, Ormond. Becoming Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and the Life. University Park, Pa.: 1988.

Seavey tells how Franklin’s life shaped his autobiography and how it has shaped our perceptions of him.

Talbott, Page, ed., Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. 

This special collection of essays honors Franklin in the year of the tercentennial of his birth.

Tise, Larry, ed., Benjamin Franklin and Women. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.

These essays explore Franklin’s relationships with women in and outside his family and the roles of women in Colonial America.

Van Doren, Carl, Benjamin Franklin. New York, New York, Viking Press, 1938.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize as much for its encyclopedic range as for its great literary style.  

Waldstreicher, David, Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution. New York, New York: Farrar,             Straus, and Giroux, 2005.

This book explores the economy of the colonies and how slavery fit into it.

Walters, Kerry S., Benjamin Franklin and his Gods. Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

This book explores the spiritual life of a man who belonged to no religion, but yet equated doing civic duties with spirituality.

Wood, Gordon, S., The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. New York, New York: Penguin Press, 2004.

An author on many books about colonial America, Wood gives us a look at the dichotomies of Franklin’s personality: working man striving to be a gentleman, loyal member of the British Crown then ardent revolutionary among others.


Benjamin Franklin: Citizen of the World. A&E HomeDVD, 1994.  Availabe at

An episode in A&E network’s Biography series, this brief 50 minute video is very informative.

Benjamin Franklin.  History Channel DVD, 2003. Availabe at

This originally aired on the History Channel in 2003 and is much more comprehensive than the A&E video, as it is more than twice as long.

Benjamin Franklin. PBS DVD.  Available at

This three part series is a documentary that features Richard Easton, stage actor.

Franklin Tech. History Channel DVD, 2006. Availabe at

This fifty minute program, part of the History Channel’s Modern Marvels science series focuses on Franklin’s scientific work.

Websites   This is the website of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary which is celebrating in 2006 the three hundredth anniversary of his birth.  Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, the city’s main science museum hosts this website about Franklin.  This is scholar Leo J. A. Lemay’s website.  It focuses on all facets of Franklin’s life.  This website is the companion to PBS’s DVD, Benjamin Franklin.  A U. S. Government website which has an animated Franklin explain government to children.  This website, Archiving Early America, allows the viewer to read Franklin’s Autobiography on line.  Though it isn’t clear who hosts the website, it is very through with a detailed list of references.  The Quotations Page offers snappy, humorous, and deep words by Franklin.

 Museum Exhibit

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is hosting an exhibit, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.   A comprehensive overview of his life, this exhibit is part of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary project.  It runs through January 21, 2007.  You can get more information at