What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?

This is a brief and sometimes humorous life story of Ben Franklin, one of our most outstanding inventors, scientists, philosophers, and politicians. Students learn about all the many ideas and inventions of this famous American.

Interested in using this resource in your classroom? Check out the posters that go along with this book: Entrepreneur, Goods & Services, Human Resources, Specialization, Consumers, Profit.

Comprehension Questions

Ben Franklin came from a family of entrepreneurs and small businessmen. What is an entrepreneur? What types of businesses did his family run?

An entrepreneur takes the risk to develop a new product or start a business. father - candle and soap business, Samuel – blacksmith, James and uncle - printers.

What were entrepreneurs/business people who worked with their hands and had a trade called during this time in history? Why?

Leather Aprons - because they wore leather aprons when they worked

How did Ben’s father cultivate the skills – academic and practical - that would help Ben become an entrepreneur?

He sent Ben to ordinary writing and arithmetic school for two years. He later had him become an apprentice in the printing business with his Uncle James.

At only age 24 Ben Franklin was well on his way as an entrepreneur owning and running several businesses. List the many businesses he owned.

A print shop, his own newspaper, a variety store that sold many types of practical items.

Was it a sure thing that Ben’s businesses would succeed?

No! Many businesses fail. Ben’s succeeded because he had good ideas and worked hard. Entrepreneurs always take some risk when they start a new business.

Ben helped his city of Philadelphia in other “entrepreneurial” ways that were not directly related to his own businesses. What were they?

  • Formed the first circulating public library
  • Organized the fire department
  • Suggested ways to light streets, deepen the rivers, dispose of garbage, and keep people from slipping on ice during winter
  • As Postmaster General, he organized a speedy mail delivery system.
  • He helped organize a fire insurance company and a hospital.

What are some of Ben Franklin’s other inventions?

  • The Franklin stove, which provided more heat than an ordinary fireplace, was less smoky, and was less costly to operate.
  • A stepladder stool with a folding seat.
  • An automatic windmill to turn meat as it was roasted.

There are many inventions that are not successful in a business sense – they don’t make a profit for the inventor. Why is this?

There are many reasons: inventors are sometimes not good business people and don’t know how to run a business; sometimes the new product isn’t marketed well – it’s a great idea, but people just don’t learn about it.

Explain how one of Ben Franklin’s inventions greatly benefited the community by reducing the number of building fires due to lightning strikes.

He invented the lightning rod, which attracts lightning and leads it harmlessly through a wire into the ground.

Describe a good that Ben Franklin printed for 25 years that helped make his printing business so successful.

Poor Richard’s Almanack was a collection of calendars, weather forecasts, the schedule of tides, the time the sun rose and set, advice on when to plant, how-to’s about many subjects, and some humorous comments.

What do you think are some characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?

Persistence (this is maybe the most important characteristic), creativity, hard work, being able to work with people to meet a goal, no fear of failure, “see a need” and meet it, etc.

Author: Jean Fritz
Published: 1976
Accelerated Reader Level/Points: 1.0
Publisher: Putnam