A Salute to 4 Founding Fathers, 4 Inventors

By Paul Niemann

franklin-benjamin-locIn 1776, while working for American independence from England, Benjamin Franklin said, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we will hang separately.” The penalty for treason against the British was, of course, death by hanging.

Franklin was willing to put his neck on the line – a true risk-taker. He was among 56 brave souls to sign the Declaration of Independence. Each pledged to “… mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Four of those 56 had another thing in common – they were inventors. It’s only fitting that during National Inventors Month, we honor those who kick-started the American experiment.

Franklin is perhaps the best-known inventor of the bunch. He invented, among many other things, the bifocals, the lightning rod and the odometer.

Thomas Jefferson was another inventor/Founding Father. He invented a type of plow, a secret message decoder and a revolving bookstand. He also played a key role in developing the U.S. patent system.

Yet who were those other two?

Hopkinson_1_lgFrancis Hopkinson (1737-1791) was born in Philadelphia. His father was one of the first trustees of the College of Philadelphia (now called the University of  Pennsylvania) as well as its first graduate.

Hopkinson went on to become a judge.

He created the American flag and the Great Seal of the United States. While history credits Betsy Ross with designing the flag, it was actually Hopkinson who played the larger role.

Ross had sewn the flag together, and this may be why she is regarded as the person who designed the flag.

In 2000, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in honor of Hopkinson’s flag design.

Hopkinson was also an author who wrote a ballad called “The Battle of the Kegs” in 1778. The ballad was loosely based on a battle when gunpowder kegs floated down the Delaware River toward the British at Philadelphia, and the British returned the favor by firing back. Hopkinson was also a chemist, a physicist, a musician, a composer and an artist.

clymerLike Hopkinson, George Clymer (1739 – 1813) was born in Pennsylvania. He was an orphan, who was raised by his uncle.

Clymer invented the Colombian printing press, which was an improvement over Ben Franklin’s printing press. But the Columbian, with all its bells and whistles, never caught on in the United States.

You may have heard the story of how the signers of the Declaration of Independence were hunted by the British for treason. The 56 signers literally risked everything fighting for the nation’s freedom. Each one became a wanted man.

Nine of the signers died during the Revolutionary War. All were driven from their homes at one time or another. Five were captured, imprisoned and abused. Seventeen signers lost everything they owned, including 12 who had their homes burned to the ground. Several lost their wives and families. One lost all 13 of his children.

Clymer and Hopkinson both escaped with their families, but their properties were completely destroyed. Clymer was the only signer who returned to England – he said that country offered him a better opportunity for his Colombian printing press.


These stories and more are available in the Invention Mysteries book series. Order your autographed copies now – visit www.PaulNiemann.com

Mention Inventors Digest and get FREE shipping