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Ben Franklin Had Two Birthdays

Philadelphia's favorite son, Benjamin Franklin, celebrates his birthday today, Jan. 17, but he was born on Jan. 6. What gives?

The Ben Franklin monument at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Franklin Institute

Did you know Ben Franklin had two birthdays?

He was born on Jan. 6, 1706 in Boston. However, when Great Britain switched to the Gregorian calendar it skipped 11 days and his birthday became Jan. 17.

Today, most kids would love to have two birthdays to celebrate. But in Franklin's day, a birthday was not that big a deal, says the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, named after Philadelphia's most famous son, even if he wasn't born here.

"In general, birthdays weren’t celebrated in colonial America," it notes. "For most people, the anniversary of the day they were born was spent like any other day."

His friends couldn't even sing him Happy Birthday, since that song wasn't published until 1893, more than a 100 years after Franklin died.

How about cake? Well the Franklin Institute says Colonists were probably eating fruitcake, which is fine, but not as festive as a birthday cake with red, white and blue icing decorated with a kite getting struck by lightning.

But just because Ben couldn't celebrate his big day with balloons and a few hours in the ball bounce at Ye Olde Charles Cheese Emporium, doesn't mean you can't have fun.

Young Benjamin Franklin, The Birth of Ingenuity

Take this quiz to see how many Frannklin facts you know. Name all of the things you can think of named after Franklin in Philadelphia. Go to a talk tonight about the young Ben Franklin, held at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. It's free but they'd like you to RSVP.

And, like all good birthday celebrations, stretch this one into the weekend by attending a Ben Franklin Birthday Bash at the Franklin Institute on Saturday from 11am to 3pm. There will be science demos, the debut of three Franklin-related artifacts that have never been on display and hands-on science programming.

You can even take a selfie at the Franklin monument. He still looks pretty good for being 313 years old today (or 11 days ago.


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