Mini-Stories: Volume 14

Fact, Fiction & Ben Franklin by Chris Berube

Benjamin Franklin is credited with a lot of historical innovations, some of which are based on actual accomplishments — others, not so much. He did not invent Daylight Saving Time, for example, but he did have an odd connection with it, which likely explains the fact that its creation is sometimes misattributed to him. After the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, the Continental Congress wanted French military support in the fight for American independence, so they sent Franklin to Paris as a diplomat.

Franklin, for his part, jumped right into French culture — late night parties in particular, and waking up accordingly late. And then one day, Franklin heard a noise outside early in the morning. He woke up and realized the sun was already up at 6 AM. So he wrote a satirical essay in The Journal of Paris, jokingly chiding Parisians for not waking up with the sun, and (jokingly) advocating for early morning canon fire to get them out of bed. So while he didn’t invent DST as such, he did write this article, which may be why so many people think he invented it.

This is far from the only thing mistakenly credited to Franklin. Some people, presumably due to his famous experiments with electricity, think he invented the lightbulb (rather than just the lightning rod, which he did in fact invent). He is sometimes given credit for streetlights, which he did improve, but didn’t create. And while he printed things, he didn’t invent the printing press.

There’s even a page on the Ben Franklin Museum website with quotes that have been falsely attributed to Franklin, like “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most fools do,” which was actually Dale Carnegie. So the next time someone mentions something that Franklin (supposedly) invented or said, you might want to check the web before echoing the attribution.


  1. Andy Pierce

    Love this section. They sort of remind me of being a kid in the back seat of my dad’s car and him talking about this building or that mountain on road trips.

    Also, as someone who loves to ride, it ties in to one of my favorite things about cycling and the (little bit) of bike touring I’ve done. That you’re seeing the world around you as you ride, and there’s all these interesting little places you’d blow by on an interstate but that on a bike you might stop in and see more closely (come to think of it, there may be a future 99 PI episode in bike touring somewhere).

  2. Mark Gallon

    Hi there, the Australian series of the TDF also had a regular section by an by French/Australian chef on the region’s dishes Germaine to that locality. Love the show(s)

  3. Martin

    I love this part of the Tour. In Australia we have an added element to the local broadcast where we have a French Chef that highlights the regions famous food s and cooks a local dish just before the broadcast. Due to the time difference in Australia it helps to entertain the viewers.

  4. Joe O'Connor

    Always love this aspect of the Tour coverage. The other oddity in this coverage is the periodic references to the coffees and snacks that the announcers are eating. It is, after all multi hours of commentary, they need some sustenance ;-). It seems that advertising and promo has always been embedded in the race – the man who started it, henri DesGrange, was the editor of L’Auto (now L’equipe) and it was originally a scheme to fuel sales of the daily paper. I seem to recall reading that tourism quickly became a piece of the puzzle for the organizers even in the earliest years… clearly it continues through today. I suspect it is also part of the reason why the first leg of the Tour is always in another country now. Legs 1-3 are in Denmark in 2022.

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