Q&A: Meet Founding Father Ben Franklin
Students submitted numerous questions that we were not able to address during the live program “Meet Founding Father Ben Franklin.” We are grateful to historical interpreter Stephen Smith, who portrays Benjamin Franklin in the program, for answering a sampling of questions. We hope you and your students will enjoy reading his responses.
Q: Did you have children? What did your brother do during the Revolutionary War? Did you have other siblings? Did you ever see your sister again? How old were you when you got married?
A: The family stories are hard to tell, for out of the 16 siblings four died very young, including my father’s first wife, Anne. Abiah was my father’s second wife and mother of 10, including me. I was the last boy in the family, and Jane was the last child. My sister Jane and I wrote letters all our lives, and she outlived me.
My brother James, the printer, died in 1735 before the Revolutionary War and left his son James Jr. to apprentice with me, although his wife Ann Smith Franklin was quite capable and became America’s first woman newspaper publisher.
I married Deborah Reed September 1, 1730, at 24 in what is called a common-law ceremony because we could not prove that her previous husband had died at sea. And we had three children, William, Sarah, and Francis. My dear son Francis died of smallpox at the age of four. I believed in vaccination, but he was never well enough to receive it. I have confused people into thinking I had two daughters because I often called Sarah – Sally, because she like to charge out of the house – or Sally Forth!