Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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June 11th
The Kite That Helped Freedom Fly
In June 1752 Benjamin Franklin sent a kite soaring into a thunderstorm, brought his knuckle near a key he had tied to the string, and watched a spark leap out. He then proceeded to touch the key to a Leyden jar and charge it – thus proving his theory of “the sameness of electrical matter with that of lightning.”

That summer, the ever-practical Franklin persuaded the citizens of Philadelphia to erect lightning rods as a “means of securing the habitations and other buildings from mischief from thunder and lightning.” In his own house he rigged a lightning rod so that two bells near his bedroom door would ring whenever an approaching storm cloud electrified the rod.

Franklin’s theories and experiments made him famous in Europe. He corresponded with members of the Royal Society of London. His papers were widely published and translated into French.  King Louis XV took a particular interest in his writings about electricity. Little did Franklin know that all this would someday help his countrymen win the American Revolution.

In 1776 the colonies desperately needed France’s help in their fight against King George, so they sent 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin across the sea to Versailles. The French welcomed the world-famous scientist and philosopher as a hero. Crowds followed him around. Parisians gave balls in his honor. After all, he was the man who had harnessed lightning.

Franklin charmed the French and used his reputation to nudge them into aiding the colonies. In 1781, French forces helped George Washington trap the English at Yorktown, Virginia. Without that support, the Patriots may never have prevailed.

And that is how Ben Franklin’s kite helped Americans win their freedom.

American History Parade
1776
The Continental Congress appoints a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence.

1859
The Continental Congress appoints a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence.

1895
Charles Duryea receives the first U.S. patent for a gasoline-powered automobile.

1919
Sir Barton wins the Belmont Stakes after earlier wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, becoming the first racehorse to claim the Triple Crown.

1963
Alabama governor George Wallace stands in front of an auditorium door at the University of Alabama in an attempt to block the enrollment of two black students.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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