Ben Franklin has long stood as one of the patriarchs of American Freemasonry. As one of the most prominent Founding Fathers, today Franklin is known for little more than the face on the $100 dollar bill. Yet, the history of the man behind such an honor is rich with industriousness, inventiveness and political genius such that he is perhaps one of a few who could be considered a modern day Renaissance man, both in and out of the fraternity.
Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston, MA (as calculated by the new style – Gregorian calendar dating). His intelligence and wisdom helped him excel as an author, scientist, philosopher, statesman, and postmaster. As well known as Ben Franklin is as a Founding Father of the United States, he is also known as an illustrious Freemason.
No one can be sure of exactly when Benjamin Franklin was initiated into St. Johns’ Lodge, but it was some time during the year 1730 or 31, most likely during the February meeting of St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. Before his initiation into the Freemason brotherhood, Benjamin Franklin made some lighthearted jokes about fraternity in his publication, the Pennsylvania Gazette. One source says that his joking was to:
“advertise” himself to St. John’s Lodge so that when he applied he would not be regarded as a stranger.
After being initiated, however, Franklin’s writing in the Gazette changed because of his Masonic influences. Thereafter he published many positive and affirming stories in the Gazette about the craft. These publications have become the core for understanding the history of Freemasons in the United States, especially in Pennsylvania.
Franklin was in no way a simple and ordinary member of the Masonic lodge. He was appointed as the Junior Grand Warden of the Provincial Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania in the year 1732 and as the Grand Master on June 24, 1734.* In 1734, he also printed the first Masonic book in the United States. His Mason Book was the publication of Anderson’s Constitutions. Franklin was quickly elected as secretary of St. Johns’ Lodge, and he held the position from 1735 until 1738. Franklin continued to be an active member of the fraternity, and he continued to be elected and appointed for many positions. In March of 1752, Benjamin Franklins was put onto a committee for the first Masonic building in the United States. The lodge was to be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Benjamin Franklin was not only involved in Freemasonry in the United States; he also traveled abroad to take part in meetings and lodges which came about in his diplomatic missions to Europe. In November of 1760 he was entered upon the Minutes as the Provincial Grand Master during the Grand Lodge of England’s meeting in Crown & Anchor, London, a position he was elected into in June of 1760. In April of 1778 he was in Paris to assist with the initiation of Voltaire into the Lodge of Nine Sisters. He continued to be affiliated with the Lodge of Nine Sisters for years through the funeral services for Voltaire and as master of the Lodge for two years. Voltaire had such affection for Franklin that it was written:
The aged Voltaire who in the last year of his life came in triumph to Paris grappled Franklin to himself as with hooks of steel. He placed his withered hands in benediction on the head of Franklin’s grandson as if to confer the philosophy and inspiration of the epoch on the third generation. The two great thinkers were taken together to the theater and at the close of the play were called upon the stage while the excited thousands cried out “Solon and Socrates.”
From: Cyclopædia of Universal History: The modern world. 2 pt By John Clark Ridpath
Benjamin Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790. He will always be remembered by the citizens of the United States as an intelligent Founding Father and scientist. For Freemasons, however, he is so much more. Continue Reading Greg Stewarts Article Here