benjamin franklin

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timeline: 1748
world of influence
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American Log House
Franklin lived most of his life in the city, yet he had an extensive interest in agriculture and farming. He introduced native American plants to Europe and some European plants to America, advocated a silk industry for the British colonies, printed a number of books on agriculture and botany, suggested implementing crop insurance, and helped educate people in the use of gypsum as a fertilizer.

In 1743, Franklin published his "Proposal for promoting useful knowledge among the British plantations in America," which suggested the formation of the American Philosophical Society. One of the society's proposed purposes was to share information on developments in agriculture.

Following Franklin's "retirement" from business in 1748, he purchased a 300-acre farm in New Jersey where he planned to live and work the land. However, public affairs got in the way of farming, and after a few months, Franklin returned to Philadelphia.

While in London in the late 1750s and early 1760s, Franklin attended meetings and became a member of societies and committees that had an interest in agriculture. The groups discussed encouraging the cultivation and production of safflower for dye, of silk and hemp for textiles, and of olive oil for cooking, and proposed offering farmers a financial premium for growing such crops.

Franklin was also very interested in starting a silk industry in America. A number of attempts to start a silk industry in Europe and England had met with mixed success. He studied the natural history of the silkworm and the mulberry tree and believed the soil and climate of America to be ideal for growing both. Franklin, practical and enthusiastic, wrote Dr. Cadwallader Evans of Philadelphia, extolling the many benefits of silk.
There is no doubt with me but that it might succeed in our country. It is the happiest of all inventions for clothing. Wool uses a good deal of land to produce it, which, if employed in raising corn, would afford much more subsistence for man, than the mutton amounts to. Flax and hemp require good land, impoverish it, and at the same time permit it to produce no food at all. But mulberry trees may be planted in hedgerows on walks or avenues, or for shade near a house, where nothing else is wanted to grow. The food for the worms, which produce the silk, is in the air, and the ground under the trees may still produce grass, or some other vegetable good for man or beast. Then the wear of silken garments continues so much longer, from the strength of the materials, as to give it greatly the preference. Hence it is, that the most populous of all countries, China, clothes its inhabitants with silk...
Throughout his life, Franklin helped promote the sharing of agricultural knowledge and products between countries. Besides silk from China, he has been attributed with introducing Scotch kale, Swiss barley, Chinese rhubarb, and kohlrabi to the colonies from Europe. He introduced Timothy grass to England, along with Newtown Pippin apples. The French benefited from his bringing a number of trees, nuts, and shrubs to France from both England and the colonies.

Franklin had a respect for farming and the people who worked the land. He called agriculture "the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground in the kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry."

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