July 4th Feature: America’s Most Famous Founding Father Entrepreneurs
Famous American Entrepreneurs
While the entrepreneurial talents of great Americans from the Industrial Revolution are often touted (Morse, Edison, Bell, Carnegie), the self-made-American story actually goes back much further. Entrepreneurs were shaping our country well before its independence!
This July 4th, Strategic Funding Source would like to shine the spotlight on our most entrepreneurial founding fathers. While you learned their names in grade school, you may be unfamiliar with their business successes.
Most five-year-olds in the United States can tell you all about George Washington‘s political and military milestones. But did you know that Washington was also a successful entrepreneur in his day? A book about his business ventures is titled, First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His and the Nation’s Prosperity by chief historian for the White House Historical Association, Edward Lengel.
Washington was a well-regarded businessman in his day. In a time when most landowners were growing tobacco, Washington used his Mount Vernon estate to grow wheat instead. He installed a gristmill and began marketing his own branded flour (G. Washington) that was popular in the colonies and abroad. He later parlayed his knowledge of wheat into an extremely profitable whiskey distillery. In fact more than 100 years before prohibition, the nation’s first president was peddling whiskey from the nation’s capital!
Benjamin Franklin was a second-generation American entrepreneur. Although most are familiar with his contributions to the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, few know he dropped out of school at the age of 10 to help his father in the family candle and soap-making shop. Ben was the 15th of seventeen children. So it is possible that his entrepreneur father was cash strapped.
By age 12, Franklin was an apprentice in the print trade. In 1728, at the age of 22, Franklin opened his own print shop in Philadelphia. Two years later, he was the city’s official printer. Everyone knew Franklin throughout the American colonies by 1732 thanks to the success of his Poor Richard’s Almanack. The book sold 10,000 or more copies annually — a huge amount for the time. And, it was published for 25 consecutive years.
A serial entrepreneur in every sense of the word, Franklin’s inventions include: wooden flippers, bifocals, the first rocking chair, and the American penny. He also invented a unique music instrument—a series of spinning glass bowls in graduated sizes called the “armonica,” also known as the glass harmonica — for which both Beethoven and Mozart composed original music.
John Hancock is best known for being the first member of the Second Continental Congress to sign the Declaration of Independence. Before he entered into a life of political service, he was an American entrepreneur, taking over his uncle’s highly successful shipping business. It was these shipping pursuits that led to Hancock’s political interests. As a business owner, he strongly opposed the British taxes imposed on his freight. It is now known that Hancock was smuggling goods aboard his ships to avoid taxes these taxes. However, in 1768, the British seized one of his ships for failing to pay proper import taxes. The aftermath (and possibly lost revenue) led to Hancock’s increased political involvement.
Are there other founding fathers who inspired your own entrepreneurial journey? Let us know!