Famous for saying, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” Benjamin Franklin did not overstay his welcome on this earth. But he died at a ripe old age for the time: On April 17, 1790, he was 84 and succumbed to empyema brought on by the lung infection known as pleurisy. The way-over-average lifespan gave him extra time to establish the staggering number of legacies he left behind. Not only was Franklin considered a Founding Father of the United States of America, but he also made numerous literary, political, and scientific contributions in his eight decades on earth. And he fathered three kids, though one died at age four and one was born out of wedlock to a woman never revealed.

Poor Richard really was poor in the early days

Young Ben was the youngest son of 17 children born to a soapmaker in Boston. He was later apprenticed to his own brother, James, where he learned the printer trade and taught himself to be a poet and scholar. At 17 he landed in Philadelphia with its extra-tolerant Quakers and it was home the rest of his life, no matter how far he traveled.


His young adult and middle years were filled with political ambition, scientific work including getting electricity harnessed, and publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac. It would take decades of dedication to the UK before Franklin gave up on that country. He joined four other committee members to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was 70, which doubtless increased the average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which was 44. He also got a great gig that year, visiting France in person and at Congressional expense to convince the French to back the colonists in the Revolutionary War.

Ben Franklin’s funeral had record attendance

Four days after Franklin’s death, some 20,000 of his closest friends and fellow members of the College of Physicians gathered for his funeral. Even though George Washington was a no-show, the funeral was still the largest in Philadelphia to that date.