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Any number can be used from just a few up to 30. 10-12 minutes. Free script.
BENJAMIN FRANKLINWritten and compiled by Warren Sager
(Start with two narrators, as one comes forward and quotes/reads the narration. The other one seems a bit surprised that the first narrator did not say very much.)
1ST NARRATOR: Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston Massachusetts. In 1718, he was an apprentice with his brother James in a printing shop. In1728, he opened his own printing shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1752, he used a kite to experiment with lightening. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence. He died in 1790 in Philadelphia.
2ND NARRATOR: Wait a minute! Hold everything! Is that all you have to say about Ben Franklin? That was hardly saying anything! We could go on all night about him! Doesn’t anyone else have anything to report about Benjamin Franklin?
(A large group of young students walk on stage (25-30) and come up one by one to give their own report. These could be read or memorized. If you need more or less, they can be changed by combining them together, or dividing them up to be shorter so there are more of them. Dressing up in colonial costumes would be effective, and if you can find anything that resembles some of the inventions; that would also add to it.)
NARRATOR 3: (Stepping forward) Ben Franklin started learning the printing business at age 12 with his older brother in Boston. By the time he was 22, he had found work in both London and Philadelphia, the latter being where he opened his own printing office. He started the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac.
NARRATOR 4: He also used cartoons and pictures in his publications so everyone could understand the news…even if they could not read. (Props: A newspaper or a copy of the almanac)
NARRATOR 5: Ben used his printing skills to print paper money, helping to establish the paper currency system in America. Today, his face appears on the one hundred dollar bill.
NARRATOR 6: Mr. Franklin founded the first public library in 1731. He wanted everyone to have the opportunity to read even if they could not afford to buy books. Through his group, the Leather Apron Club, books were purchased and a lending library was begun: “The Library Company of Philadelphia.” Plus, he started the American Philosophical Society. (Props: books)
NARRATOR 7: In his old age, it was harder for him to reach the books that were up on the top shelves. He invented a tool called the long arm, a long wooden pole with a grasping claw on the end to grab the books from the higher shelves.
2ND NARRATOR: Wait! You have him old already. What about his younger life? What about all the other inventions?
NARRATOR 8: Well…Ben Franklin invented electricity!
NARRATOR 9: Actually…He didn’t invent it. He discovered that lightening was a source of electricity. He knew that there was much to learn from lightening and that it was more than just a mysterious force of nature that many people believed was God’s punishment. So, in 1752, he attached a metal piece to the top of a kite and a key at the end of the kite string. Lightening struck the kite and came down the string to the key. When he touched the key, it sparked. It was not always safe, as he was knocked unconscious on two occasions while experimenting with electricity.
NARRATOR 10: After studying lightening and electricity, Ben invented lightening bells. These would be set up at the end of the source hooked up, like a lightening rod, and whenever there was lightening in the area, the bells would start ringing.
NARRATOR 11: The lightening rod is the most remembered invention from his study of electricity. If lightening struck the rod, it would travel down a cable and then ten feet into the ground rather that into the building, thus setting it on fire. Many wooden structures burned in those days from being struck by lightening. It became a very useful invention for buildings and ships.
NARRATOR 12: In colonial America, most people warmed their homes by building a fire in a fireplace even though it was kind of dangerous and used a lot of wood. But still it was the main source of heat. Most fireplaces of the day were very inefficient. They produced a lot of smoke and most of the heat that was generated went right out the chimney. Sparks in the home were of great concern because they could cause a fire that would quickly destroy the homes, which were constructed mainly with wood.
NARRATOR 13: Ben figured that there had to be a better way. His invention of an iron furnace stove allowed people to warm their homes less dangerously and with less wood. The furnace stove that he invented is called a Franklin stove. It had a hood like enclosure in the front and an air box in the rear. The new stove and reconfiguration of the flues allowed for a more efficient fire, one that used one quarter as much wood and generated twice as much heat. Plus you could also cook your meals on it.
NARRATOR 14: Speaking of fires, Ben started the first fire insurance company in 1752 after starting the Union Fire Company in 1736. He was always trying to think of ways to make the town safer…like organizing a Night Watch and Militia to keep peace and safety in Philadelphia.
NARRATOR 15: He also started the postal system and served as the very first Postmaster in 1775. To help him establish the routes that his mailmen traveled, he invented an odometer to be attached to his carriage that would measure the distance traveled on each route.
NARRATOR 16: Ben had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking them off and putting them back on, or switching between two types of glasses, so in 1784, he decided to figure out a way to make his glasses let him see both near and far. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame. The distance lens was placed at the top and the up-close lens was placed at the bottom. Today, we call them bifocal glasses.
NARRATOR 17: While in Paris, Ben proposed the idea of Daylight Savings Time. He believed that people should use daylight productively.
NARRATOR 18: Ben invented swim fins so that you could swim faster.
NARRATOR 19: Ben is not famous for his study of bioscience, but he was interested in how the human body works and looked for ways to help it work better. Ben’s older brother John suffered from kidney stones and Ben wanted to help him feel better. He developed a flexible urinary catheter that appears to have been the first one produced in America.
NARRATOR 20: Mr. Franklin made eight voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. These long journeys gave him a lot of time to learn about ships and how they worked. As early as 1784, Franklin suggested following the Chinese model of dividing ships’ holds into watertight compartments so that if a leak occurred in one compartment, the water would not spread throughout the hold and sink the ship. The watertight bulkhead was a great invention.
NARRATOR 21: During his trips across the ocean, Ben always wondered why sailing from America to Europe took less time than going the other way. He studied and mapped the Gulf Stream, which helped to speed travel, shipments and mail deliveries across the ocean. He measured wind speeds and current depth, speed and temperature. He described the Gulf Stream as a river of warm water and mapped it as flowing north from the West Indies, along the East Coast of North America and east across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.
NARRATOR 22: Ben Franklin loved music and he played several musical instruments, including the violin, harp, and guitar. His great interest in music led him to build his own glass armonica. This simple musical instrument was played by touching the edge of the spinning glass with dampened fingers. He said, “Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction.” He was inspired to create his own version of the armonica after listening to a concert of Handel’s Water Music which was played on tuned wine glasses.
NARRATOR 23: Benjamin Franklin’s armonica, created in 1761, was smaller than the originals and did not require water tuning. His design used glasses that were blown in the proper size and thickness which created the proper pitch without having to be filled with water. The glasses were nested in each other which made the instrument more compact and playable. The glasses were mounted on a spindle which was turned by a foot treadle.
NARRATOR 24: His armonica won popularity in England and on the Continent. Beethoven and Mozart composed music for it. Franklin, an avid musician, kept the armonica in the blue room on the third floor of his house. He enjoyed playing armonica/ harpsichord duets with his daughter Sally and bringing the armonica to get together at his friends’ homes.
NARRATOR 25: Mr. Franklin did not profit from any of his inventions, but his personal ideas about economy helped to shape our country’s economy. He believed that the only true way to wealth was through hard work. This noble idea became the soul of the “American Dream,” the idea that all people are created equal and each person has the same opportunity to achieve success.
NARRATOR 26: And he signed the Declaration of Independence!
NARRATOR 27: That wasn’t all he signed! He was the only Founding Father to have signed all five documents that established American independence: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States of America, which was signed September 17, 1787.
NARRATOR 28: Franklin was a member of the Continental Congress which crafted the Articles of Confederation and he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents elevated the importance of the individual in the political process, promising the state’s protection of citizens’ natural, inalienable rights.
NARRATOR 29: At age 81, he was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was elected president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.
1ST NARRATOR: You’re right. There was a lot more about Benjamin Franklin. But you didn’t expect me to say all of that did you?
2ND NARRATOR: Can you tell us anything else?
1ST NARRATOR: Yes…after being bedridden for a year, Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790. (All exit.)