Sunday, 10 April 2011

Famous Swimmers: Benjamin Franklin

Illustration above: found at Picture book directory of children's illustration. This picture is by David Austin Clar. I am sorry I could not contact you to seek permission to use the image, but am happy to do so if you see this and leave me a message.

 Yes, that Ben Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, author and printer, political theorist, politicia.  postmaster, scientist, inventor, satirist,  civic activist,  diplomat, anti-slaver.  He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.

He was also an enthusiastic, proselytising swimmer and inventor of a prototype hand paddle / swim-fin.

Franklin is recognised in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. The entry on him includes the following information:

" Benjamin Franklin was a competent swim coach and teacher; he advised on water safety, lifeboat rescue escape from shipwrecks, and the advisability of universal learn-to-swim classes.
One of United States first "ornamental swimmers", on a Thames River excursion in 1726, he swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (3½ miles) 'performing on the way many feats of activity, both upon and under water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties'.

Ben wrote about his swim fins:

"When I was a boy, I made two oval palettes, each about 10" long and 6" broad, with a hole for the thumb in order to retain it fast in the palm of my hand.  They much resembled a painter's palette.  In swimming, I pushed the edges of these forward and I struck the water with their flat surfaces as I drew them back.  I remember I swam faster by means of these palettes, but they fatigued my wrists.  I also fitted to the soles of my feet a kind of sandals, but I was not satisfied with them because I observed that the stroke is partly given by the inside of the feet and the ankles, and not entirely with the soles of the feet.

Franklin as swimming teacher:

According to the Hall of Fame entry, Franklin wrote:
' 'Tis supposed that every parent would be glad to have their children skilled in swimming, if it might be learnt in a place chosen for its safety and under the eye of a careful person . . .'tis some advantage besides, to be free from the slavish terrors many of those feel who cannot swim, when they are obliged to be on the water even in crossing a ferry.'

"Franklin was also a competent coach and teacher.  He taught his friend Wygate and a friend to swim 'at twice going into the river'  but turned down an offer by Sir William Wyndham to open the first American swim school in England.  He was homesick and returned to Philadelphia where among other things, he proposed that all commonwealth schools should have swimming programs.


pool hose said...

Invented Electricity and loved swimming what a combo

Anonymous said...

Inventing etc when did he get time to swim !!

Anonymous said...

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