Boston-born Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) established what became a successful printing business in Philadelphia as a young man. From an early age, Franklin developed and followed a philosophy of continual self-improvement. He also practiced this ideal in his community, helping found and improve organizations that contributed to individual and public good, including Freemasonry.
Thinker and Diplomat
After he retired from business in his early 40s, Franklin turned his curiosity to his vast interests, including politics, science, philosophy, literature, and diplomacy. In Paris in the late 1770s, he successfully sought French support for the American fight for independence. He later served as ambassador to France for the new United States. Upon his return to Pennsylvania as a respected elder statesman, he became President of the Pennsylvania Assembly, helped shape the new nation at the Constitutional Convention, and worked to abolish slavery.
A Freemason for the Ages
Franklin became a Freemason as a young man, in 1731. In 1734, Benjamin Franklin produced the first book about Freemasonry that was printed in North America. Franklin based his Constitutions—which contained the history, laws, and regulations of Freemasonry—on the English edition published in 1723. Able and active, he served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania just three years later and as Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749. Alongside his many endeavors, Franklin held many lodge and Grand Lodge offices. Near the end of his life, his Pennsylvania brethren honored Franklin as “An illustrious Brother” of “distinguished merit” entitled to the “highest veneration.”
“The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History”
This November, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library opened a new exhibition, “The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History.” This exhibition showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, like Benjamin Franklin, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.
Above, Benjamin Franklin, ca. 1782. Painted by Joseph Wright (1756–1793), Paris, France. Special Acquisitions Fund, 92.025.
The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, 1734. Printed by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Acquired through the generosity of Mount Lebanon Lodge, Boston; St. Andrew’s Lodge, Boston, and Kane Lodge Foundation, New York, RARE 31 .A547 1734.
Source: National Heritage Museum