Facts about Benjamin Franklin

Find lots of quick and interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin. Ben Franklin is one of the most well known and loved founders of the United States of America. He signed the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War and the Constitution of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin was a writer, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He discovered many of the laws governing the use of electricity and created several useful inventions, such as bifocals and the lightning rod! On this page of basic facts about Benjamin Franklin, you will find things such as his birthdate, date of death, names of his children and offices he held, as well as many other less well known but interesting facts about Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin Portrait by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis

Facts about Benjamin Franklin

When was Benjamin Franklin born?

  • January 17, 1706

Benjamin Franklin's Birthplace

  • On Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts

Parents' names

  • Josiah Franklin - December 23, 1657 - January 16, 1745 (he was 92!)
  • Abiah Folger - August 15, 1667 - May 8, 1752
  • Josiah and Abiah married on November 25, 1689. She was his second wife.

Parents' occupations

  • Josiah Franklin was a fabric dyer when he lived in England. After moving to Boston in 1682, he became a tallow chandler, which means he made candles and soap from tallow, which is animal fat.

Number of siblings

  • 17

Birth order

Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of Josiah Franklin's 17 children. The first seven were born to Josiah's first wife - Anne Child, the first three in England, and the next four in Boston where they moved in 1682:

  • Elizabeth - 1678 - 1759
  • Samuel - 1681 - 1720
  • Hannah - 1683 - 1723
  • Josiah Jr. - 1685 - 1715 (disappeared at sea)
  • Ann - 1687 - 1729
  • Joseph (1) - February 6, 1688 - February 11, 1688
  • Joseph (2) (named after first Joseph) - June 30, 1689 - July 15, 1689, Anne died as a result of this birth

Josiah remarried in late 1689 and had 10 more children with Abiah Folger, all of them born in Boston:

  • John - December 7, 1690 - January 30, 1756
  • Peter - November 22, 1692 - July 1, 1766
  • Mary - September 26, 1694 - 1730
  • James - February 4, 1696 - February, 1735
  • Sarah - July 9, 1699 - May 23, 1731
  • Ebenezer - September 20, 1701 - February, 1702 (drowned)
  • Thomas - December 7, 1703 - August 17, 1706
  • Benjamin - January 17, 1706 - April 17, 1790
  • Lydia - August 8, 1708 - 1758
  • Jane - March 27, 1712 - 1795

Nicknames and Pseudonyms

  • Water American - Ben Franklin earned this nickname while in England as a young man. His British circle of friends tended to drink lots of beer, but Franklin always drank water!
  • Poor Richard or Richard Saunders - This was Franklin's adopted pseudonym which he used for his hugely popular "Poor Richard's Almanack."
  • The First American - Franklin earned this title due to his early support for colonial unity.
  • Silence Dogood - This was the pen name Franklin used as a 15 year old boy for a series of letters that were published in his brother James Franklin's newspaper, "The New England Courant."
  • The Newton of Electricity - For his groundbreaking experiments in electricity.
  • The Prophet of Tolerance - Franklin was a strong believer that religious teaching increased public virtue and character and consequently, he was a supporter of churches of various denominations. He was not necessarily a believer in Christ's deity, but strongly agreed with the moral teachings of denominations of all kinds. At one point he helped finance the erection of a building for the use of preachers of all denominations. Because he was so friendly to believers of all denominations, he earned this title of tolerance.
  • The Patron Saint of Advertising - Ben is sometimes called this because of his masterful advertising skills in an age when advertisements were not as common and ubiquitous as they are today. Franklin was a master at advertising both products and ideas, primarily using his newspapers and other publications to persuade people to by products such as his "Franklin Stove," and his ideas, such as the necessity for breaking away from England as an independent nation.
  • Anthony Afterwit - Mr. Afterwit was another Franklin pseudonym who wrote humorous letters about married life from the male point of view. These letters appeared in Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • Polly Baker - Franklin used the Polly Baker pseudonym to examine the unfair treatment women received in early colonial society. Ms. Baker had several children out of wedlock and was punished by society for her "crimes," while the men went scott free.
  • Alice Addertongue - Miss Addertongue was another Franklin pseudonym. She was ostensibly a 35 year old widow who provided gossip about local members of society in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful - Franklin used this pseudonym to write letters mocking his former employer Samuel Keimer who had stolen some of Franklin's publishing ideas. The letters were published in the American Weekly Mercury newspaper which was published by Keimer's competitor Andrew Bradford.
  • Busy Body - The Busy Body letters were published in the American Weekly Mercury and were basically humorous gossip stories about local businessmen and the battle of the sexes, written from the standpoint of Miss Body, a fictitious local gossip.
  • Benevolous - The name Benevolous was used by Franklin while he was in London in a series of letters written to dispel negative assertions about Americans made by the British press. They were published in British newspapers.

Benjamin Franklin Education

  • Benjamin Franklin went to South Grammar School (now Boston Latin School) for less than two years starting in September 18. He was 8 years old when he began. This is the only formal education Ben had. He became a writer, inventor and polymath through his own reading and studies later on.

Religious Views

  • Ben Franklin was born into a Puritan family. His mother's family was among the first to flee England during the persecution of Protestants by Catholic King Charles I. Puritanism emphasized personal Bible study and having a personal relationship with God. As a young man, Franklin apparently chose to believe in God generally speaking, but disregarded the claims of Christ's personal deity. Franklin believed in God's goodness and that he played a providential role in the affairs of mankind. He believed that God should be worshiped, prayed to and adored and that the soul was immortal and would be eternally rewarded or punished by God based on one's choices in life. He also believed that man's number one duty to God was to do good to others, hence his lifelong efforts to improve the plight of his fellow man. Franklin was a close friend of and the publisher for George Whitefield, the most famous preacher of the First Great Awakening. He supported many churches of different denominations with financial donations for building meeting houses. His support for local churches extended more out of his belief that churches provided meeting places to support the community and improve civic virtue and character, however, rather than an agreement with all of the doctrines being taught. Franklin wrote the following statement in a letter to Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University in 1790, about a month before he died: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."

First Occupation

  • Franklin's father wanted him to be a clergyman but was not able to afford to send him to many years of religious schooling. Instead, young Benjamin was apprenticed to his older brother James who owned a printing shop. There Ben learned the skills of printing, writing and typesetting. Typesetting was the method used in those days to print paper where letters were placed tightly together, covered with ink and pressed onto paper. As an adult these skills would make Franklin famous as an author, publisher and printer when he opened his own printing shop some years later.


  • Briefly indentured as a cutler, which means he made and repaired knives and other cutting tools - 1717
  • Apprenticed to his brother James as a printer - 1718
  • Hired in the shop of Samuel Keimer as a journeyman printer in Philadelphia - 1723
  • Works for printers Samuel Palmer and John Watts in England, teaches swimming lessons in the River Thames - 1724-1726
  • Works in clothing and hardware store of merchant Thomas Denham in Philadelphia as a bookkeeper and shopkeeper - 1726
  • Works for printer Samuel Keimer in Philadelphia - 1727
  • Establishes his own printing shop with Hugh Meredith - June, 1728
  • Purchases The Pennsylvania Gazette from Samuel Keimer - 1729
  • Elected Official Printer for the colony of Pennsylvania - 1730
  • Franklin buys out his printing partner Hugh Meredith, becoming sole owner of the printing firm - 1730
  • Franklin becomes a franchisor by buying the printing press and types for a partner in South Carolina in return for one third of the profits over a six year period, the first of many franchise arrangements - 1731
  • Franklin started printing America's first German-language newspaper, Philadelphische Zeitung. The paper failed. - May, 1732
  • Published first edition of Poor Richard's Almanack - December 28, 1732
  • Becomes official printer for New Jersey - 1740
  • Publishes The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, one of America's first magazines. It failed after six issues. - 1741

Trips abroad

  • England, 1724-1726, went to get printing equipment for a business deal that fell through. He stayed for two years earning money as a printing apprentice to pay for his way back to America.
  • England, June 23, 1757 - August, 1762, went to England as agent of the Pennsylvania Assembly, later of Massachusetts, Georgia and New Jersey as well.
  • Northern England and Scotland, August 8 - November 2, 1759, went on a tour of England and Scotland.
  • Austrian Netherlands and Dutch Republic, August - September, 1761
  • England, December 9, 1764 - March 1775, back again as agent of the Pennsylvania Assembly.
  • Germany, June 15 - August 16, 1766
  • France, August 28 - October 8, 1767
  • Ireland and Scotland, August 25 - November 30, 1771
  • Canada, March 26 - May 30, 1776 - on a mission to persuade the Canadians to join the colonies in their fight for independence.
  • France, October 27, 1776 - July 22, 1785 - as United States Ambassador to France.

Benjamin Franklin Autograph

Benjamin Franklin Signature

View more Declaration of Independence Signatures here.

Facts about Benjamin Franklin - His Family

Date of marriage, wife's name

  • Deborah Read - married September 1, 1730

Children's names, birth order, occupations

  • William Franklin - born 1731, died November 17, 1813. (William's mother is not known for sure) William became the last Royal Governor of New Jersey. This put him on the opposite side of his father during the American Revolution. William and his father were never reconciled and he fled the colonies with the retreating British army.
  • Francis Folger Franklin - born October 1732, died 1736 from smallpox.
  • Sarah Franklin (known as Sally) - born September 11, 1743, died October 5, 1808. Sarah married Richard Bache in October 29, 1767. She was a strong patriot during the Revolutionary War, raising money for the Continental Army, supervising the creation of shirts for the soldiers during the winter at Valley Forge and hosting her father's political gatherings. Sally also cared for her father Ben Franklin in his old age

Famous relatives

  • Ben Franklin's mother was Abiah Folger. She was born on Nantucket, Massachusetts into a large family in 1667. Another Folger descendant was James Folger who founded the Folgers Coffee Company in 1860. James was the great-grandfather of Abigail Folger who was murdered in 1969 by the Charles Manson family, along with her friend Sharon Tate and others.

Facts about Benjamin Franklin - The Revolutionary War

How he got involved in the independence effort?

  • One reason Ben Franklin became so determined to fight for liberty was a result of something that happened in his youth. Ben's older brother James, to whom he was apprenticed as a printer, was a tyrannical and unjust employer. In fact, in his autobiography, Franklin made the following statement, [James'] "harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life."
  • In 1757, Benjamin Franklin went to England to represent the citizens of Pennsylvania in their grievances against the Penn family, who were the Crown appointed governors of Pennsylvania since its inception. Franklin ended up staying in England for nearly twenty years, eventually becoming the representative of Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts to the Royal Crown. Over the years, Franklin thought the British government's treatment of the colonists was growing more and more tyrannical. In 1772, Franklin's patience finally came to an end. He anonymously received some letters that were written by Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts. In the letters, Hutchinson urged the British Crown to send troops to Boston to quell the increasingly agitated citizens. Franklin viewed this as a horrible violation of the rights of British citizens and he sent the letters back to America to have them published publicly. Franklin eventually confessed publicly that it was he who had exposed the letters and was publicly reprimanded by the British government. Later that year he left England for good and joined the independence effort back in Philadelphia.

Did he see military action during the war?

  • Franklin did not see military action during the war.

Accomplishments during the war

  • Ben Franklin was appointed by the Second Continental Congress to the "Committee of Five," which was given the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft, but with strong input from the other members who also revised Jefferson's original draft when it was complete. The other three members of the committee were John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.
  • Franklin voted to accept the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, famously saying, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." He signed the document along with the other members of Congress in August.
  • Ben Franklin served Congress in various important positions, including as Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to France and as a member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence dealing with spying and foreign intelligence. While serving as Ambassador to France, Franklin was responsible for persuading the French to give large amounts of money, supplies and manpower, including ships, soldiers and experienced military leaders to the American war effort. This was probably Franklin's most significant contribution to the war effort.
  • Franklin was one of three commissioners appointed by Congress to negotiate the terms of peace with Britain at the end of the war. The Treaty of Paris, as the peace treaty was known, was signed on September 3, 1783. The other commissioners were John Jay and John Adams.
  • Though not during the period of the Revolutionary War, but still a significant moment in the founding of the United States, Ben Franklin was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and a signer of the United States Constitution in 1787.

Facts about Benjamin Franklin - Offices He Held 

Which government offices did he hold?

  • Clerk of the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly, October 15, 1736 - 1751
  • Deputy Postmaster at Philadelphia, October 5, 1737 - 1753
  • Common Council of Philadelphia, October 4, 1748
  • Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia, June 30, 1749
  • Representative from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly, May 9, 1751 - 1764
  • Alderman of Philadelphia - October 1, 1751
  • Deputy Postmaster General of North America, August, 10 1753 - January 31, 1774
  • Commissioner to Albany Congress from Pennsylvania, June-July 1754
  • Pennsylvania Assembly's Representative to the Crown in England, February 3, 1757 - 1762
  • 23rd Speaker of the House of the Pennsylvania Assembly, May 26, 1764 - October 1, 1764
  • 2nd time Pennsylvania Assembly's Representative to the Crown in England, October 26, 1764 - March 1775
  • Colonial Agent to the Crown from Georgia, April 11, 1768 - May 2, 1774
  • Colonial Agent to the Crown from New Jersey, November 8, 1769 - March 1775
  • Colonial Agent to the Crown from Massachusetts, October 24, 1770 - March 1775
  • Pennsylvania Representative to Second Continental Congress, May 6, 1775 - 1776
  • 1st United States Postmaster General, 1775 - 1776
  • Committee of Secret Correspondence (dealing with foreign intelligence and espionage) - November 29, 1775
  • Commissioner to Canada, 1776
  • Served on Committee to write the Declaration of Independence, June 1, 1776
  • Delegate from Philadelphia to Pennsylvania state convention, July 8, 1776
  • President of Pennsylvania convention July 16, 1776
  • Delegate to Congress from Pennsylvania Convention, July 20, 1776
  • United States Minister to France, September 26, 1776 - 1785
  • Named One of the Commissioners to Negotiate Peace with Great Britain, June 8, 1781
  • United States Minister to Sweden, 1782 - 1783
  • 6th President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, October 18, 1785 - December 1, 1788

Which party was he in?

  • After the Revolutionary War was over, two main political forces developed in the United States, the Federalists who advocated a strong central union of the states, and the anti-Federalists who advocated for a weaker central government. Benjamin Franklin was a Federalist who strongly supported the new United States Constitution with its strong central government.

Did he hold any office under the Royal government?

  • Yes, Benjamin Franklin was Deputy Postmaster General for North America for the British Crown from 1753 - 1774. As such, he was responsible for overseeing all of the Crown's postal operations in North America, which he did masterfully, streamlining procedures, creating new and more efficient routes and reducing by 50% the time it took to receive letters during his tenure.

Facts about Benjamin Franklin - Interesting Personal Information

Ben Franklin Firsts

  • Published America's first political cartoon "Join or Die." The cartoon appeared in a pamphlet published by Franklin called The Plain Truth and featured a snake cut into sections representing the divisions between the colonies. It encouraged American unification against challenges from the Indians and French on the west and from French and Spanish marauding ships on the east coast.
Benjamin Franklin's Join or Die Cartoon

Ben Franklin created the first United States coin, the Fugio cent, in 1787. The design had thirteen linked circles and the statement, "We Are One," on one side and a compass with the sun shining down on it with the word, "Fugio" (Latin for "I flee") and the statement, "Mind Your Own Business," on the other side. The image and statement are meant to remind you that time flies so you shouldn't waste it.

Benjamin Franklin's Fugio Cent
  • Franklin created the first lending library in the United States in 1730 in Philadelphia. Members paid dues with which books were purchased and all members had access to the books. This was the first lending library in the United States, but it was not a public library. It was privately owned by the members.
  • While in France in the 1760s, Benjamin Franklin became friends with the Swedish Ambassador to France, Count Gustaf Philip Creutz. As a result of this friendship, Sweden became the first nation not involved in the war to recognize the sovereignty of the United States government.
  • Benjamin Franklin appeared on one of the very first postage stamps issued by the United States Post Office. The stamps were issued in 1847, one of Benjamin Franklin for 5 cents and the other of George Washington for 10 cents.
Benjamin Franklin Postage Stamp
  • Franklin was behind the establishment of the first volunteer firefighters association in Pennsylvania - the Union Fire Company.
  • Ben Franklin was a primary driver behind the first successful fire insurance company in the colonies. The Philadelphia Contributorship was formed in 1752 and Franklin was an original board member. They insured 143 people in the first year and each person paid equal payments, the funds of which were to be used to pay for the losses any member incurred due to loss by fire. In the first year there were no losses however. Ben Franklin also proposed life insurance, crop insurance and annuities to help pay for widows and orphans.
  • In 1751, Benjamin Franklin began raising money to help his friend Dr. Thomas Bond in establishing a hospital to help the sick in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Hospital was the first public hospital in the colonies and still exists today. Before its founding, there was no public medical help for the poor or for the mentally ill.
  • Franklin arranged for Philadelphia's first street cleaner, a poor man who swept the streets twice a week. Property owners would pay a small amount in order to have the street sweeper keep the street clean in front of their homes or businesses.
  • Ben Franklin was a witness to two of the world's first manned balloon flights in France in 1783.

Benjamin Franklin Quotes

  • "It is that particular wise and good God, who is the Author and Owner of our system, that I propose for the Object of my praise and adoration. For I conceive that He has in Himself some of those passions He has planted in us, and that, since He has given us reason whereby we are capable of observing His wisdom in the Creation, He is not above caring for us, being pleas'd wit our praise and offended when we slight Him, or neglect His Glory. I conceive for many reasons that He is a good Being, and as I should be happy to have so wise, good and powerful a Being my Friend, let me consider in what Manner I shall make myself most acceptable to Him." - Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion, November 20, 1728
  • "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." - Poor Richard's Almanack, October, 1735
  • "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
  • "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." - At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
  • "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." - Ben Franklin's proposed Seal of the United States, July, 1776

More Benjamin Franklin Quotes here.

Selected works of Benjamin Franklin and their dates

Poor Richard's Almanac

Plain Truth - This pamphlet contained the first political cartoon ever printed in the United States, 1747.

Constitutions of the Publick Academy in the City of Philadelphia - This publication laid the foundation for the University of Pennsylvania, 1749.

Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America - This was the first publication of Franklin's electrical experiments and observations. They were compiled and printed by John Fothergill, an English physician and scientist, April, 1751.

The Way to Wealth - This is a compilation of sayings and advice about creating, saving and investing wealth from the Poor Richard's Almanack's, 1758.

The Grand Leap of the Whale in that Chace up the Fall of Niagara is esteemed by all who have seen it, as one of the finest Spectacles in Nature - This is one of Franklin's articles he published in London to refute ridiculous claims being made about the American colonists by some in England - May 3, 1765.

Causes of the American Discontents before 1768 - a review of relations between England and America up to 1768, 1768.

The Sommersett Case and the Slave Trade - Franklin's first writing condemning slavery - June 20, 1772.

Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One - This article was written by Franklin in London and published by the British journal Public Advertiser. It details American grievances against the king and British Parliament, September 11, 1773.

An Edict by the King of Prussia - The second article published by Franklin in the Public Advertiser in London satirizing the behavior of King George by declaring that England belonged under the rule of the Kingdom of Prussia because it was originally settled by Anglo-Saxons from that country, September 22, 1773.

Morals of Chess - the second known article to be written about the game of chess in America, December, 1786.

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - 1771-1788

Address to the Public - In later life Benjamin Franklin advocated for the abolition of slavery and the education of former slaves. This address encourages the public to fund their education, November 9, 1779

Honors he received

  • Elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Pennsylvania - 1734 and 1749
  • Received the Copley Medal by the British Royal Society for research into electricity (this award was equivalent to today's Nobel Prize) - 1753
  • Honorary Master of Arts degrees from Harvard and Yale - 1753
  • Honorary Master of Arts degree from William and Mary - 1756
  • Inducted into the Royal Society in London - 1756
  • Inducted into the Royal Society of Arts - 1756
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland - 1759
  • Honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford - April 30, 1762
  • Elected Member of the Royal Society of Sciences - 1766
  • Elected to Royal Academy of Sciences at Gottingen, Germany - 1766
  • Honorary degrees from Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Edinburgh
  • Elected to Batavian Society of Experimental Science, Rotterdam - June 11, 1771
  • Inducted into the French Academy of Sciences - August 16, 1772
  • Elected to Royal Medical Society of Paris - June 17, 1777
  • Inducted into the Royal Society of Edinburgh - 1783
  • Elected member of Royal Academy of History of Madrid - 1784
  • Honored by the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society - 1785
  • Honored by the Medical Society of London - 1785
  • Elected member of Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, 1789
  • Inducted posthumously into the International Swimming Hall of Fame - 1968

Facts about Benjamin Franklin - The end of his life

Date and age of retirement

  • Benjamin Franklin retired officially from business at the age of 42 in 1748 after 20 years in the printing and publishing trade. He set up an arrangement with his foreman David Hall to have David continue to run the printing shop while paying Ben a sum of 1,000 pounds from the proceeds every year. This arrangement continued for the next 18 years giving Franklin the ability to live a life of leisure and time to pursue his many other interests. He bought a 300 acre farm in New Jersey to which he intended to retire, but soon public affairs called him away from the farm for good. He lived another 42 years and became highly involved in civic affairs after this semi-official "retirement." Later in life, after many years of public service, Franklin retired from his final publicly held office as 6th President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania on December 1, 1788.

Last Words

  • A dying man can do nothing easy.

Last Will and Testament

  • I, Benjamin Franklin, of Philadelphia, printer, late Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of France, now President of the State of Pennsylvania, do make and declare my last will and testament as follows...

Benjamin Franklin's death

  • Benjamin Franklin had suffered for many years from a condition called empyema, a condition which causes the lungs to fill with pus, in Franklin's case, due to pleurisy or inflammation of the lungs. In April of 1790, Franklin was bedridden and suffered with heavy breathing for many days due to his fluid filled lungs. On a day when the pain wasn't so bad, Franklin got up and asked that his bed be made properly for a dignified death. His daughter Sally said she hoped he would live for many more years, to which he replied, "I hope not." Soon an abscess burst in his lungs and he went into a coma, passing away on April 17, 1790, with his grandsons William Temple and Bennie at his side.

Where was Benjamin Franklin buried?

  • Christ Church burial ground, Philadelphia

Epitaph on gravestone

  • Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1790
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If you enjoyed reading these facts about Benjamin Franklin, you will also like to read the following Revolutionary War Facts:

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