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A look at the daily routine of Benjamin Franklin, who didn’t always follow his own ‘early to bed, early to rise’ advice

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A look at the daily routine of Benjamin Franklin, who didn’t always follow his own ‘early to bed, early to rise’ advice

Ben FranklinBen Franklin

Ben Franklin, a writer, diplomat, and Founding Father of the US, lived a very structured life, making plenty of time for reading and writing.

joecicak/Getty Images


Benjamin Franklin was a true Renaissance man.

After getting his start in the printing business, he went on to establish himself as a leading writer and political thinker in the English colonies in North America; invent the lightning rod, bifocals, and swim fins; make a number of crucial scientific discoveries; and help draft the Declaration of Independence and secure his country’s freedom from England.

The Founding Father got a lot done, so it’s no surprise that he earned the unofficial moniker of “First American.”

It’s definitely not a shock that he was pretty intentional about his time, according to his autobiography. 

Here’s a breakdown of Franklin’s typical day. 

You probably know the old cliche, which is popularly attributed to Franklin: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” According to his autobiography, the Founding Father did wake up early, rising at 5 a.m.

Benjamin Franklin



Hulton Archive / Handout / Getty Images


Source: Business Insider, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

As part of his daily routine, Franklin would also rate himself on 13 virtues — temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

Ben franklin



joecicak/Getty Images


Source: “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” Business Insider

Every week, Franklin would pick a different virtue to focus on and note his failings on a special chart. In his autobiography, he wrote, “I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

Benjamin Franklin



traveler1116/Getty Images


Source: “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” Business Insider

Franklin’s hypothetical résumé could feature the titles of statesman, printer, author, scientist, inventor, diplomat, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. So it’s safe to say that his schedule likely varied based on his role and other circumstances.

Benjamin Franklin




Library Of Congress



Source: Britannica, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Still, on an average day, Franklin wrote that he would “read or overlook my accounts, and dine” from noon to 2 p.m. This midday dinner was Franklin’s primary meal of the day. In terms of Franklin’s favorite foods, we do know that he wrote about his approval of potatoes, ginseng, maple syrup, corn, parmesan cheese, and turkey.

honey



Getty Images


Source: Business Insider, Business InsiderBen Franklin 300, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Franklin is popularly imagined as a somewhat portly, gout-ridden older man, but he was far more active and athletic in his youth. According to Real Clear Science, he kept in shape as a typesetter by “running up and down stairs with heavy trays of lead type” and foregoing alcohol in favor of water.

lead type word press letter press

A lead type printing press.

Janachan/Getty Images


Source: Real Clear Science, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Adams would agree. The two men worked together in Paris while attempting to convince the French monarchy to support their revolutionary cause. He got to witness his colleague’s daily behaviors up close, and he wasn’t always impressed.

John Adams

John Adams.

Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images


Source: “John Adams,” “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” The American Scholar

Historian David McCullough wrote that Adams, who had read Poor Richard’s Almanack growing up, was dismayed to see his “idolized sage” forsake his “early to bed, early to rise” advice in favor of rising at 10 a.m.

US President John Adams



Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images


Source: “John Adams,” “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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