Select Franklin Miscellany

Here are some Franklin stories and accounts over the years:

Franklin Name Distribution in the 1851 UK Census

The Franklin name was to be found in counties to the north and west of London.  The largest number in 1851 were in the county of Gloucestershire.



Sir John Franklin's Disappearance

Sir John Franklin's last expedition of Arctic exploration left England in 1845.  A Royal Navy officer and experienced explorer, Franklin had served on three previous Arctic expeditions, the latter two as commanding officer.  This his fourth, undertaken when he was 59, was meant to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage.  After a few early fatalities the two ships became icebound in the Victoria Strait near King William Island in the Canadian Arctic.  The entire expedition complement, including Franklin and 128 men, was lost. 

Pressed by Franklin's wife and others, the Admiralty launched a search for the missing expedition in 1848. Prompted in part by Franklin's fame and the Admiralty's offer of a finder's reward, many subsequent expeditions joined the hunt.  Several of these ships converged off the east coast of Beechey Island where the first relics of the expedition were found, including the graves of three crewmen.  In 1854, explorer John Rae, while surveying near the Canadian Arctic coast southeast of King William Island, acquired relics of and stories about the Franklin party from the Inuit.  A search led by Francis McClintock in 1859 discovered a note left on King William Island with details about the expedition's fate.

After the loss of the Franklin party, the Victorian media, notwithstanding the expedition's failure and the reports of cannibalism, portrayed Franklin as a hero.  Songs were written about him and statues of him in his home town, in London, and in Tasmania credit him with discovery of the Northwest Passage.

Benjamin Franklin's Inventions

Benjamin Franklin's inventions include the Franklin stove, the bifocal lens, the lightning rod, the odometer (for measuring distance), and the glass harmonica.

He is also credited with the following firsts:
  • the first political cartoon, which appeared in his Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • the first fire department in any municipality, which he started in Philadelphia in 1736
  • the first electrical battery, made in his home in Philadelphia in 1749
  • the first to propose Daylight Savings Time, which he did during his time in Paris
  • and the first to promote the virtues of Vitamin C.  It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the phrase: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Franklin, Massachusetts was named after him in 1786.  Benjamin showed his appreciation of the honor by sending the town a library of 116 volumes .  This formed the nucleus of America's first public library.

Franklin Family Lines in the South

The table below tracks Franklin family lines in the South, starting with the first Franklin being born in the 1700's

Date of Birth
Henry Franklin
born in Amherst county, Virginia
Benjamin Franklin
resident in Edgefield county, South Carolina
Owen Franklin
born in Chester district, South Carolina
Reuben Franklin
born in Virginia, moved to Kentucky
Burrell T. Franklin
married in North Carolina in 1807
Thomas J. Franklin
born in South Carolina, moved to Alabama and then to Florida
James Franklin
born in Virginia, moved to Kentucky
John Franklin
born in North Carolina and married there in 1817
Chesterfield Franklin
born in Virginia and moved to North Carolina
Job Franklin
later resident in Georgia
Josiah L. Franklin
born in Georgia, moved to Alabama
Mark Franklin
born in Tennessee, moved to Alabama

Frankel to Franklin

The surname Frankel is of German origin.  It may have resemblances to the English "Franklin,"  deriving from the word franc meaning "free."  The name might also denote someone from Franconia (in German Franken), a region of SW Germany so-called because of its early settlement by the Franks.  Or it might just be a Jewish name from other parts of Central Europe.  It was Jewish immigrants predominantly who brought the name to America where it quite often became Franklin.

One family history records the arrival of Solomon Franklin, a Jewish immigrant in 1860 to Yazoo City in Mississippi from Posen in Prussia.  Other Frankels/Franklins recorded in the 1880's in New York came from the Ukraine area.

The Franklin Car

In 1900, Herbert Franklin met a bright, young bicycle racer named John Wilkinson who had already designed two prototype automobiles.  Franklin took a ride in Wilkinson's second prototype, was impressed and the ride persuaded him to invest $1,100 so that Wilkinson could build a third prototype which went on to become Franklin's first production model.

The Franklin Automobile Company was thus started and the first Franklin Model A was on the market by 1902.  It holds the distinction of being the first four-cylinder automobile produced in the United States.  That year Franklin sold a total of thirteen cars priced at $1,100 each.  From this modest beginning, he went on to run a successful car company.  For 28 years, from 1902 to 1930, the company thrived and during much of that time enjoyed the distinction of being the city of Syracuse's largest employer.

However, like other makers of high-priced cars, the Franklin Automobile Company was badly hit by the Great Depression.  Car production in 1932 was only 1,898 units and in 1931 a mere 1,100 units, down from a high of 14,000 units in 1929.  The company eventually went bankrupt in 1934.

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