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Benjamin Franklin in popular culture

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, has appeared in popular culture as a character in novels, films, musicals, comics, and video games. His experiment, using a kite, to prove that lightning is a form of electricity has been an especially popular aspect of his biography in fictional depictions.[1][2][3][4]

Biographical works

Historical fiction

Alternate histories

Time-travel scenarios

  • The time-travel card game Early American Chrononauts includes a card called Franklin's Kite which players can symbolically acquire from the year 1752.
  • In The Jack Benny Program episode "Alexander Hamilton Show", Jack Benny dreams that he is Alexander Hamilton; Don Wilson plays Franklin.
  • In an episode of The Flintstones titled "The Time Machine" (season 5, episode 18, original airdate January 15, 1965), the Flintstones and the Rubbles travel by time machine to various periods in the future (from their perspective). One of those stops is in Philadelphia, where they meet Benjamin Franklin as he is conducting his kite-and-key experiment. When Wilma says something Franklin deems worthy of writing down, he asks Fred to hold the kite string. Naturally, the lightning picks that moment to strike the kite, electrifying Fred. In turn, Barney, Betty, and Wilma try to separate Fred from the kite string, only to be electrified themselves. “So that’s how electricity works, eh?” says Franklin. “I’d better write this down.”
  • In season 3 of Bewitched, Aunt Clara accidentally brings him forward in time to repair a broken electrical lamp.
  • The science-fiction TV show Voyagers! had the main characters helping Franklin fly his kite in one episode and save his mother from a fictionalized Salem witch trial in the next episode.
  • Franklin appears in the LucasArts Entertainment Company Game Day of the Tentacle.
  • A 1992 Saturday Night Live spoof of Quantum Leap, "Founding Fathers", had Franklin traveling through time with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to help modern day Americans with deficit reduction, only to find twentieth century reporters are only interested in scandal and sensationalism.
  • The children's novel Qwerty Stevens: Stuck in Time with Benjamin Franklin has the main characters using their time machine to bring Franklin into modern times and then to travel back with him to 1776.
  • In a 2004 sketch on the TV show MADtv, Franklin, played by Paul Vogt, sends Samuel Adams, played by Josh Meyers, to the future in a time machine he made from a rolltop desk. Franklin wanted to know if the American Revolution was a success, but gets frustrated when Adams only comes back to tell him that Samuel Adams Beer is a success. The time machine also brings back a man named Jerry, played by Ike Barinholtz, who is little help to Franklin.
  • A Saul of the Mole Men episode titled "Poor Clancy's Almanack" uses Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to explain the true mainstream conflict while revealing Clancy Burrows' past. Both Franklin and Jefferson appear again in the spin-off Young Person's Guide to History. Dana Snyder portrayed Franklin in both series.
  • In the webcomic Spinnerette, Franklin is pulled through time by a machine into present day. Because the timeline dictated he died in 1790, he was rendered effectively invulnerable to danger by way of preternatural luck in order to avoid temporal paradoxes. He took up hero-work and became a leading member of the American Superhero Association.
  • In the animated series Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, the titular characters secure Franklin's aid to power a damaged time machine that has brought them to colonial America on the first night of the Revolutionary War.
  • Though he doesn't appear, Franklin is referred to in the Ben 10: Omniverse series finale "A New Dawn", in which he is revealed to have crafted various tools for George Washington's use as part of a secret society predating the series' Plumbers, a galactic law enforcement division that deals with various alien and supernatural threats.
  • A character clearly based on Franklin appears in Norm Novitsky's time-traveling film, In Search of Liberty, which was released in 2017.[5]
  • In the Kids' TV show The Fairly OddParents, Franklin appears as a side character in some episodes.

People compared to Franklin

  • Manuel Torres, the first Colombian ambassador to the United States, was called "the Franklin of the southern world" by newspapers on his death in 1828. He was a revolutionary, scholar and diplomat.[6]

Characters based on Franklin

Characters named after Franklin

As portrayed by fictional characters


"It's a feeling of freedom, of seein' the light
It's Ben Franklin with a key and a kite!" [8]

  • Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a song intended for the musical, "Ben Franklin's Song", that was entirely about Franklin, but it was not included in the finished production. In 2017, it was recorded and released by The Decemberists.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Schocket, Andrew M. "Benjamin Franklin in Memory and Popular Culture." in A Companion to Benjamin Franklin (2012): 479-498.
  2. ^ Nian-Sheng Huang, "Benjamin Franklin in American thought and culture, 1790-1990" Vol. 211. (American Philosophical Society, 1994) online and also "Benjamin Franklin in American thought and culture, 1790-1938" (PhD dissertation Cornell University; ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1990. 9018099).
  3. ^ Smart, Karl Lyman. "A man for all ages: The changing image of Benjamin Franklin in nineteenth century American popular literature" (PhD dissertation,  University of Florida; ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1989. 9021252.
  4. ^ BODZIN, EUGENE SAUL.   "THE AMERICAN POPULAR IMAGE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 1790-1868' (PhD dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1969. 6922351).
  5. ^ O’Neil, Ted (June 16, 2016). "Movie crew filming scenes in Richmond Hill". Bryan County News. Archived from the original on July 20, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  6. ^ García, Emily (2016). "On the Borders of Independence: Manuel Torres and Spanish American Independence in Filadelphia". In Lazo, Rodrigo; Alemán, Jesse (eds.). The Latino Nineteenth Century: Archival Encounters in American Literary History. New York: New York University Press. pp. 71–88. ISBN 9781479855872.
  7. ^ Billy Mays vs Ben Franklin. Epic Rap Battles of History - YouTube
  8. ^ Original Broadway Cast of "Hamilton" & Renée Elise Goldsberry – Satisfied, retrieved 2021-10-19
  9. ^ "Hear the Decemberists' 'Ben Franklin's Song' From 'Hamilton' Project". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-12-15.

Further reading

  • Mulford, Carla. "Figuring Benjamin Franklin in American Cultural Memory." New England Quarterly 72.3 (1999): 415-443. online[permanent dead link]

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Benjamin Franklin in popular culture
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