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Benjamin Franklin
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American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Negotiations with Great Britain. Left to right: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin. Painting by Benjamin West, in the collection of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Benjamin Franklin

PBS Western Reserve (WNEO 45.1 / WEAO 49.1):

Sunday, May 15, from 2-7 PM

Saturday, May 21, from 1-6 PM


This new two-part, four-hour documentary, written by Dayton Duncan and produced by David Schmidt and Ken Burns, explores the life and work of one of the most consequential figures in American history. Benjamin Franklin was a prolific writer and publisher, a groundbreaking scientist and inventor, a world-renowned diplomat and a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. His life has been celebrated as a quintessential American story and was anything but typical. 

Franklin’s 84 years spanned nearly the entirety of the 18th century, an epoch of revolutionary change in science, technology, literature, politics and government. He launched the first public library in America, organized a volunteer fire company and founded an academy that eventually became the University of Pennsylvania.

Franklin’s annual publication, “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” set a model for future humorists such as Mark Twain and contained maxims that are still part of our shared lexicon. His famous experiments with electricity led to one of his most important inventions—the lightning rod.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN includes interviews with some of the country’s leading scholars of early American history, including Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson, who also served as a senior advisor to the project. Actor Mandy Patinkin provides the voice of Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin

Official Trailer

Rating: NR

Ken Burns explores the revolutionary life of Benjamin Franklin.