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Positively Philadelphia: Ben Franklin, Full of Surprises!

(One of the few things the real Ben Franklin never did: visit the KYW Newsradio studios for an interview!  That's Robert DeVitis, who portrays the Founding Father.  Photo by Ed Fischer)

(One of the few things the real Ben Franklin never did: visit the KYW Newsradio studios for an interview! That’s Robert DeVitis, who portrays the Founding Father. Photo by Ed Fischer)

lipton_lauren DL Lauren Lipton
Lauren Lipton, a fixture in Philadelphia journalism, is “at the...
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By Lauren Lipton

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Three hundred seven years ago this month, one of Philadelphia’s best known citizens was born.   While most of us know many things about Benjamin Franklin, here are some things you might not know.

“Probably his most famous saying is, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned,’ but he really did not say that.  He actually said, ‘A penny saved is two pence dear,’ ” notes Robert DeVitis, who calls himself the “young and witty” Ben Franklin.  You might have seen him around town.

“The other line that people say, and I see t-shirts of it worn around the city is, ‘Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,’ but he actually said the word wine.”

DeVitis says Ben Franklin was clever in a number of little-known ways:

“He printed the first currency.  What most people don’t know is he also put deterrents in the money for it not to be counterfeited.  For example, he purposefully misspelled Pennsylvania.”

And, notes DeVitis, Franklin was unusual in some other ways:

“He was known to take air baths.  He believed that exposing one’s skin to the open air was one of the best health-promoting practices you can adopt.  And he would sit in his chambers with no clothes on.”

I’m not sure he would have been trying this out during a winter cold spell.  But in other ways, DeVitis says, he loves portraying one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons.

“When I walk around town and see people of different ages, different nationalities, saying, ‘Hello Ben, Hi Ben,’ it’s just amazing the warmth you get from these people.  So I believe that there’s that spirit of Ben Franklin in everybody, and I think it’s what keeps this city so great.”

Hear more in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 3:04)…

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And, for this week, that’s “Positively Philadelphia!”

“Positively Philadelphia” main page

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