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Creator / Benjamin Franklin

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It's all about the Benjamin, baby!

"I think opinions should be judged by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the case with me."

Genius, millionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Meet the Tony Stark of the Founding Fathers.

Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706†  – April 17, 1790) was a printer, author, scientist, musician, inventor, diplomat, ladies' man, revolutionary, and one of the coolest and most fascinating people in American history. Managed to make it onto The United States hundred dollar bill (and the 50-cent piece from 1948 to 1963) without being the president. Invented bifocal lenses, the Franklin stove, and the lightning rod, after proving that lightning was just electricity rather than the wrath of an angry god. If you ever take a tour anywhere in Philadelphia's historical district, you will learn that he invented pretty much everything. Even The Internet. He's probably the most famous person in American history to the rest of the world.

His writings are still widely read today. Among them: his autobiography, and many of his letters, including one addressed to The Royal Academy of Farting. He wasn't just ahead of his time as an inventor either: his "The Speech of Polly Baker" called out the Double Standard of the day in punishing women who bore illegitimate children but doing nothing to the men who fathered them, he was an abolitionist, and opened one of the first free libraries in the colonies. He also, in his will, left bequests to his beloved cities of Boston (where he was born) and Philadelphia (his adopted home) that were still funding the cities into the 1990's, but he was not a President,note  and he did not write the Declaration of Independence (although he did edit it), and he didn't found the Ben Franklin dime store chain. As a consolation, he is the only person whose signature appears on all three founding documents of the United States of America – the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the US Constitution, as well as the treaty allying France with the United States.

Benjamin Franklin in fiction and pop culture:

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    Audio Play 
  • In Big Finish Doctor Who during the Anti-Time arc Benjamin Franklin is mentioned in a throwaway comment as being a President, one of the deliberate errors hinting that history is breaking down as Anti-Time infects the Web of Time.

    Comic Books 

  • Pretty much anything set during The American Revolution has to have him pop up.
  • 1776 has a singing Ben Franklin, who exemplifies the wisdom and the biting wit he's known for.
  • Appears in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, playing a game of charades with Albert Einstein, Confucius, and The Stations.
  • Defending Your Life sees a model telling a talk shot host in the afterlife that she slept with Franklin twice — and that he was "fat".
  • In the film How High, Method Man and Redman end up discovering that Franklin invented the bong. Although not historically accurate, it would explain his easygoing nature. Franklin actually owned a hemp mill, and several of the Founding Fathers grew hemp, though it was the sort used for fiber which doesn't contain much THC.
  • Back to the Future: Doc Brown keeps a portrait of Franklin in his home alongside portraits of Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton, foreshadowing the lightning strike climax in 1955.

  • Ben and Me, a story told from the point of view of a cute talking mouse that lives in the walls of Ben Franklin's house. Contributed to the "key kite" myth. Later became a Disney animated short.
  • John Hodgman apparently detests Ben Franklin, if the repeated potshots taken at him throughout Complete World Knowledge is any sign.
  • A Cahill From the Lucian Branch in The 39 Clues.
  • He is a major character in the James Morrow novel "The Last Witchfinder"
  • In the first chapter of The Baroque Cycle, Enoch Root visits early 1700s Boston and encounters a child prodigy named Ben (surname not given, but clearly intended to be Franklin.)
  • America (The Book): The foreword, supposedly written by the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, claims that if crack cocaine had existed when Franklin was alive then "that boozed-up snuff machine would weigh 80 pounds and live outside the Port Authority."
  • The Age of Unreason, an Alternate History series by Gregory Keyes in which Sir Isaac Newton studied alchemy instead of physics, features a young Ben Franklin as Newton's protege.
  • In Two Crowns for America by Katherine Kurtz, a "secret history" of the Revolution, Franklin plays a supporting part in his role as a Master Mason.
  • He's a supporting character in The Year of the Hangman, an alternate history where the Americans lost to the British in 1777. He takes in the protagonist, Creighton, as an apprentice, unaware that he's a British spy. Franklin secretly publishes The Liberty Tree newspaper, and is later burned with his print shop by British soldiers.
  • Our Dumb Century includes a reproduction of the very first edition of The Onion, called The Mercantile Onion after the only two English words the German-born founder knew at the time. One of the articles, "Benjamin Franklin Is A Great Afs", dismisses his scientific achievements and instead castigates him as a lecherous pervert.
  • Franklin is a supporting character in the Alternate History novel 1784: Liberty, where he's still a leading member of the rump Continental Congress that fled into the frontier wilderness after losing the initial revolution.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novel The Savage Trade (which serves as a kind of sequel to "The Savage Curtain"), Ben Franklin is one of the many historical personages that the Excalbians transform into. He and Spock develop a kinship, each one being The Smart Guy among his peers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Franklin appeared as a character in the [adult swim] satire Young Persons Guide To History.
  • The key kite myth became one of the Tropes Examined By The Myth Busters. Tory also mistakenly thought Franklin was a President.
  • He appears in the Ghosts (US) episodes “The Liquor License” and “The Christmas Spirit, Part Two” alongside Isaac, an acquaintance as well as one of the main ghosts.
  • The supplemental materials for Heroes have Franklin as an empowered human (he could absorb electricity).
  • The Office: When Michael orders Jim to hire a male stripper for a bachelorette party, Jim calls the Scholastic Speakers of Pennsylvania and hires a Franklin impersonator. Dwight is 99% sure he's not the real one.
  • Appears in the HBO miniseries John Adams, played by Tom Wilkinson, where he is generally played as Adams' foil: witty, popular and sly, in comparison to Adams' earnest and blunt firebrand.
  • How I Met Your Mother. George Washington and Ben were friends with Barnabus Stinson (Barney's ancestor) who wrote "The Bro Code". George and Ben also once did a "Devil's Threesome".
  • An entire two-part episode of Bewitched was dedicated to praising Ben Franklin, after Aunt Clara accidentally brought him to the present.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 short "Money Talks"(which preceded "The Beast of Yucca Flats"), a shadow of Ben Franklin advises a young boy about the importance of saving money.
  • In the episode "Yes Men" of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Lorelei asks one of the thugs under her control about Franklin's picture on the $100. Of course the thug, being an idiot, thinks he was President and tells Lorelei that he was a king.
  • Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow spent some time learning from Franklin. He was present for the kite experiment, which was an attempt to destroy the key (which could open the gates of Purgatory).

  • When Puff Daddy sings "It's All About the Benjamins, Baby", yes, it's this Benjamin. Franklin is the face on the American hundred-dollar bill.
  • In a song cut from the early drafts of Hamilton and released by the Decemberists in 2018, "Ben Franklin's Song" brings the full awesomeness of America's favorite Founding Father to bear. Lin-Manuel Miranda said he ultimately cut him because Franklin's character stole the show despite having only one scene.
    And do you know who the fuck I am?
    And do you know who the fuck I am?
    I am Poor Richard's Almanack-writing,
    Polymath, bifocal-wearing,
    Hardened glass armonica-playing,
    Benjamin Fucking Franklin!

  • In MAD #169, the article "A MAD History of Sex", writes: "Perhaps the greatest Sexual Figure in Revolutionary times was also known as "The Father of Our Country". His name was Benjamin Franklin. We realize some people think George Washington was the father of our country, and you may say "You don't know your history." All we can say is "You don't know your Benjamin Franklin!""
  • Plays a pretty significant part in 1776, naturally.
  • Some of his stories are retold in Drunk History, where he's usually portrayed by Jack Black

    Video Games 
  • Tony Hawk's Underground 2 allows you to skate as a Ben Franklin impersonator (known only as "Ben Franklin"). His unique trick is the Franklin Grind, which has the skater be pulled along the rail by a kite (with a key tied to it, of course) as a thunderstorm sound effect plays.
  • Day of the Tentacle features Ben Franklin in the past, trying out his famous kite experiment. When a storm rolls around, he goes back inside, and Hoagie has to convince him to go back out, using the lightning to charge the battery for his Chrono-John.
  • In one edition of Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, you and your Good Guide, Polly Tix, meet him while trying to get the Declaration of Independence back from one of Carmen's crooks. Later, he helps clue you to where Carmen is going.
  • In The Simpsons Game, Benjamin Franklin attacks the heroes in heaven with a key that shoots lightning.
  • Appears as a Founding Father in Colonization.
  • Franklin appears in Assassin's Creed III. His inventions can be created by Connor to decorate his homestead with after helping him collect pages of his almanac. An early portion of the game has him bringing up his ideas on having an older lover to Connor's dad, causing the man to laughingly call Franklin a "mad bastard".
    • He also appears in Assassin's Creed Rogue, which establishes him as little more than a pawn of both the Templar and Assassin factions. The ending shows that his actions may have indirectly led to the Templar-backed French Revolution.
  • Franklin is one of Columbia's three near-deified father figures alongside Washington and Jefferson in Bioshock Infinite.
  • The first level of Medal of Honor: Airborne, "Infinite Mischief", opens with and is named for a quote from Franklin's January 1784 letter to Jan Ingenhousz imagining the idea of paratroopers and the "infinite deal of mischief" they might do before they could be repelled, more than a century before paratroopers even existed, as befitting the game's primary gimmick of the player entering every level via parachute drop.

    Web Comics 
  • His ghost is a major character in A Girl and Her Fed. He's close friends with an attention-deficit woman who sets people on fire, a cyborg fed, and a genetically-engineered koala supergenius.
  • The Transylvito Moneymancer in Erfworld is named Benjamin, and he is essentially Ben Franklin. This incarnation also sports the addition of a gold chain with "100" as the symbol.
  • Thanks to Time Travel, he's a modern-day superhero in Spinnerette. He's pretty much invincible due the universe itself making sure he survives to return to the past eventually and make history what it is.
  • Franklin is one of the major artificial intelligences working for the Americans in Afterlife Blues. An oracle, or use of his full computing power on a single question, is said to be very valuable.
  • Girl Genius: Ben is alluded to in one of the rough side sketches posted to the site in which a young Agatha recreates a version of his kite experiment, to get electricity to power a small toy.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • A Disney short called "Ben & Me" has a mouse named Amos assist Franklin in his key biographical moments.
  • Shows up in The Fairly Oddparents when Timmy decided to do research for a report on American History the fun way, by interviewing a few Founding Fathers.
    • Also, as shown in a later episode, he somehow has the ability to control storms.
  • Liberty's Kids, which features Walter Cronkite as Benjamin Franklin, is about Franklin's newspaper and its staff of teenage reporters and apprentice printers.
  • The futuristic adventure series Spiral Zone features a Nerd Action Hero named Benjamin Franklin Davis.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead episode "Lightning Strikes", the boys are inspired by a PBS special on Franklin to imitate the "key kite" myth. Hilarity Ensues—and so does hospitalization.
  • An episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? ends with a cliffhanger when Carmen travels back in time to 1752 and steals Ben Frankin's key, foiling his kite experiment and preventing the development of electronics and trapping Zack and Ivy in time.
  • He appeared in Nickelodeon's classic toon KaBlam!. He joined Wesley Snipes in the Money Train sequel.
  • Even South Park treated Benjamin Franklin with respect. He appeared to save the day in "I'm A Little Bit Country", and is played by All in the Family creator Norman Lear.
  • An episode of The Simpsons. Homer thought Franklin was president.
    • Benjamin Franklin is featured in several other fantasy sequences. In one he invents the sled and in another he plays Air Hockey with Jimi Hendrix.
  • In a Family Guy cutaway about the Declaration of Independence:
    Speaker: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal...
    Benjamin Franklin: Except the Jews!
    Speaker: Franklin! For the fifth time, I'm sorry you overpaid for your house, but it's not going in!
    Benjamin Franklin: You'll be soor-ry!
  • Franklin was the featured historical figure in the Time Squad episode "Floundering Fathers." Buck, being the Dumb Muscle that he is and lacking history genius Otto's help, causes Franklin to invent the light bulb many decades ahead of Thomas Edison merely by giving him the idea.
  • Among the many government secrets Dipper and Mabel stumble upon in the Gravity Falls episode "Irrational Treasure", one is that Ben Franklin was secretly a woman.
  • Showed up in the final episode of Dilbert. It turns out the garbage man has his coffin in the truck ("You'd be amazed what people throw away") and the garbage man resurrects him with a magic potion (a second time after Dilbert tell him what's happened to the Post Office since his death), explains to Dilbert that the government of the US he helped put together was actually a practical joke, and finishes up back on the secret ruling council when they're selecting the new President. (Why Ben? Mostly because he's the Founder with the best known track record of boozing, philandering, and generally screwing around.)
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Kite Man (who is utterly nuts) holds a grudge against Franklin due to getting struck by lightning as a child. His angry ranting about what Franklin ever did for anyone gets a response from the equally nuts Plastic Man and Woozy Winks, who bring up the bi-focals and the Franklin Stove.
    Kite Man: Benjamin Franklin was a fool! What did this so-called genius ever invent?
    Woozy Winks: Bi-focal lenses?
    Plastic Man: The Franklin Stove?
    Rubberneck: Daylight Saving Time?
    Kite Man: NEVER MIND!
  • He appears in a Robot Chicken segment as a professional wrestler, showing off his Signature Move, the C-Note.note 
  • The 1976 Rankin/Bass Christmas/New Years special Rudolph's Shiny New Year (a follow up to the original 1964 Rudolph special) introduces Sev (aka "1776") who is designed and based after Benjamin Franklin. Sev lives on "The Island of 1776" which celebrates Independence Day every day who befriends Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, O.M., and Sir 1023 as they search for Happy (the new "Baby New Year") who gets kidnapped by Aeon the Terrible.

    Real Life 
  • The United States one hundred-dollar bill.
  • Actor Billy Bob Thornton apparently believes he's reincarnated from Ol' Ben.
  • When Bobcat Goldthwait cut his hair because he was going bald, he joked that he was "starting to look like Ben Franklin". He also, in another bit, said that David Crosby looks like "Ben Franklin fucked a walrus".
  • The culture of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer is indelibly tied to Franklin and the American Revolution. Specific to Franklin, the team's oldest and largest supporters group is called the Sons of Ben, and the team put a snake on its crest as a reference to Franklin's "Join or Die" political cartoon.
  • If you ever have a fortune cookie that begins with "Confucius/Laozi/Buddha/whoever says:", chances are that they were said by Ben Franklin and not Confucius/Laozi/whoever. The reason for this is quite simple: Confucius, Laozi, and Gautama Siddhartha were philosophers and teachers, and many of their notable quotes were paradoxes meant to make you use your brain, whereas Ben's are much more easily accessible to non-dedicated scholars.