Happy Birthday, Ben Franklin!
America's craziest Founding Father was born on this day back in Seventeen Hundred and Six in Boston. Benjamin Franklin loved wine, physics, France, string quartets, vulgarity and all the ladies. He was also a pretty good cartoonist and authored what is remembered as the very first American political cartoon: a chopped-up snake that was somehow supposed to encourage the 13 colonies to get it together against the French colonists and American Indians to the west.
It is safe to say Franklin would've been named an Enemy Combatant by the current administration. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," wrote the good doctor in his 1759 Historical Review.
Come learn more weird stuff about America's Number One celebrity of the mid-eighteenth century, after the jump.
* With his fart jokes and dumb cartoons, Franklin was the Howard Stern of the pre-revolutionary era and a crass populist publisher.
* But he was fluent in five languages.
* And played several instruments, including violin and Spanish guitar.
* Also composed for string quartets.
* Attended Handel's last appearance, conducting The Messiah in London just eight days before his death.
* Invented the "glass armonica," which is not a harmonica.
* Wrote country songs in the Scottish-folk style, including "My Plain Country Joan," supposedly about his "wife" Deborah.
* Wasn't married to his "wife" Deborah.
* Wasn't married to whoever gave birth to his son Bill, either.
* Wasn't married to those hundreds of young gals in London and Paris, either.
* Unlike Washington and Jefferson, Franklin actually freed his slaves. He only had two, but still!
* Was a vegetarian for a while -- supposedly to save money for more books -- but had a change of heart after watching fish savagely eat other fish.
* Started a German-language newspaper in Pennsylvania, although he didn't care much for the Germans in Pennsylvania.
* Was admitted as a Freemason in 1731 and became Grand Masterflash of the Pennsylvania Grand Masonic Lodge of Masons just three years later.
* Part of the sinister Masonic plot to do whatever the sinister Masonic plot was supposed to do.
* Had just a few years of basic schooling as a young child but was given honorary degrees from all the great universities of America and Europe.
* Only founding father in the Swimming Hall of Fame!
Today In History [Library of Congress]