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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Paperback – Jun 7 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New edition edition (June 7 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486290735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486290737
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 118 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #29,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

Blessed with enormous talents and the energy and ambition to go with them, Franklin was a statesman, author, inventor, printer, and scientist. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later was involved in negotiating the peace treaty with Britain that ended the Revolutionary War. He also invented bifocals, a stove that is still manufactured, a water-harmonica, and the lightning rod.
Franklin's extraordinary range of interests and accomplishments are brilliantly recorded in his Autobiography, considered one of the classics of the genre. Covering his life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, this charming self-portrait recalls Franklin's boyhood, his determination to achieve high moral standards, his work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, experiences during the French and Indian War, and more. Related in an honest, open, unaffected style, this highly readable account offers a wonderfully intimate glimpse of the Founding Father sometimes called "the wisest American."

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on Nov. 8 2001
Format: Paperback
When I was a boy, my father told me to read the "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." Of course, I didn't listen to Dad but now, decades later, I have finally read it. This book is not a comprehensive memoir of the historical events that made him famous. Indeed, the book ends when he is in his early 50s, long before his activities in the Continental Congress, as delegate to the constitutional convention, and as Minister to France. What this book does is to give us the flavor of this remarkable man's personality.
The first part of this book was really letters to his son and the latter part continued the narrative. He writes with a subtle humor that at times had me in stitches. He writes about his scientific achievements and inventions such as what has become known as the "Franklin stove," and his experiments with electricity. Evidentally, there were some in the scientific community who did not believe that lightening was electricity and he took delight in proving them wrong (he very briefly mentions his kite experiment).
He writes about virtues and his cultivation of them. He reflects upon religion yet he was not dogmatic. He was civic minded, starting, among other things, a fire department and a public library. In short, he was a reflective, intelligent, industrious, remarkable man and we realize this best by reading his own words. My father was right; I should have read this years ago.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Gaw on Aug. 9 2003
Format: Paperback
Ten years ago, I purchased the paperback and could not get past the first few chapters. Five years ago, I bought the cassette version and could not get much further. After finishing and enjoying Walter Isaacson's Franklin bio immediately prior to this third attempt, I was finally able to enjoy "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin". Fredd Wayne brings Franklin to life with what seems like a perfect portrayal. He *performs* rather than narrates.
Without the insight from Issacson, or, I suspect, from any decent biography of Franklin, the autobiography is disjointed, as he wrote different sections at different times of his life, and some time periods are eliminated completely. And it seems to have multiple personalities, struggling between the subjects of self-help, biography, history and simple meanderings and ruminations of an old man.
As a companion book - 5 stars; as a standalone - 2-3 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By john purcell on Nov. 16 2003
Format: Paperback
Franklin wrote this autobiography as a letter of instruction in the ways of the world to his youthful and illegitimate son of 40. It only covers the first half or so of his incredible life, so the things that really made him well-known are not covered, but there is plenty here anyway.
Franklin recounts his family's modest life in England and the circumstances that brought them to Boston. He was among the youngest of a very large family, ultimately finding his way to Philadelphia to find work as a printer when an apprenticeship with an older brother turned sour.
We always think of Franklin as being a slightly older statesman among the Founding Fathers, when in fact he was a full generation older than Washington or Jefferson. Unlike popular perception, he was an athletic and vibrant youth, who rescued a drowning Dutch companion and taught swimming to children of London's elite.
Philadelphia in the 1720's and 1730's was a small town, never sure if it would really take off as a settlement. Franklin quickly befriended key politicians who felt Philadelphia had grown sufficiently to have a world-class print shop. He played a key role in the town's development, leading civic groups in establishing libraries, fire companies, meeting halls, and street cleaning services. Of course, he was also the consummate politician, serving in office, and networking his way to his first fortune by publishing government documents and printing the first paper currency. He also had a knack for working with the several important religious sects of that time and place, especially the pacifist Quakers, even though Franklin was a deist.
Franklin was a clever businessman.
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Format: Paperback
Benjamin Franklin is regarded as one of the finest minds of colonial America. Franklin explored many interests, allowing him to play many roles during his lifetime (as P.M. Zall states): "inventor, scientist, entrepreneur, political activist, statesman, diplomat, cultural gurr, social revolutionist." However, until his death, Franklin thought of himself as merely a printer and a writer. In his Autobiography, he recounts much of his life, beginning with his genealogy and ending unfinished at a point prior to the Revolutionary War.
Essentially, Ben Franklin's Autobiography contains "unstructured" structure, in which the narrative meanders along different episodes of Franklin's life. The division of the Autobiography into four Parts, solely a modern addition by critics, is not extremely helpful in partitioning the events in the book into easily understandable parts for the reader. What the reader sees are blocks of text occaisionally separated by poetic or witty verses Franklin has included, an obstacle that sometimes allows the experience of reading the Autobiography to be monotonous. The content, and by association, the themes, are somewhat obscured to modern readers by the structure of the book as well as Franklin's language. However, the organization of the book is not completely ineffective for the reason that it lends to the reader's understanding of four different mindsets of Benjamin Franklin, allowing for a more multifaceted understanding of Franklin himself. All four of these mindsets contain similar themes of acheiving the American Dream and becoming a better person with age.
While Franklin's Autobiography has high historic value, its other value is the documented story about the man behind the myth.
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