Why Were 1,200 Buried Bones Found in Benjamin Franklin’s House?
Benjamin Franklin was a prolific inventor and businessman known for his eccentric nature and behaviors. Tales of him flying kites during storms are just the tip of the iceberg.
That said, it was still shocking to find a gruesome discovery in Mr. Franklin’s home. This had people wondering if there was more to him, outside of just pranks and inventions. Did this discovery mean the famous inventor was a serial killer?
There Are Bones in the House
Benjamin Franklin owned an incredible piece of property in London and for almost two centuries and what resided in this magnificent home was very dark. Among his numerous inventions and trinkets were human bones.
Once discovered, this raised many questions regarding Franklin’s morality and activities when he was alive. He was a pretty odd fellow, but this was far beyond the norm.
Benjamin Was Responsible for the Bones
The bones did have something to do with Benjamin, but he was not a serial killer, as most people might have concluded. That would have been an interesting tale, but alas, the truth is far less grim than that (thankfully).
You see, Benjamin was a seeker of knowledge who never missed an opportunity to gain more headway in that department. He was obsessed with progression nad finding out new and improved ways to understand and interact with the world around us.
It Was All for Science
The bones were part of an interesting Biology lesson on anatomy courtesy of the son-in-law of Franklin’s landlady. This activity happened inside the home instead of a lab because the practice was relatively new in England.
Therefore, to keep up with the times, Benjamin took up some classes, but there was a caveat to this whole process. It wasn’t as smooth as you’d expect. This lesson lay in a bit of a gray area when it came to legality.
It Was Not Exactly Legal
The fact that these guys were dissecting bodies in their homes should be a red flag indicating the legalities of this practice. The law wasn’t happy with the practice, but it hadn’t outlawed it either.
Benjamin and his mentor were working around a gray area, if mishandled would have landed them in hot water. Luckily, we are here to report they succeeded.
The Bones Were Not Meant to Be Found
These bones would have remained relatively hidden if not for the fact that the house needed some repairs in the 90s. When museum staff were going about trying to restore the house to ensure it maintained its charm, they stumbled upon the bones and quickly called the coroner.
According to Marcia Balisciano- the director of the Benjamin Franklin House- professionals took a short while to deduce that the bones were hundreds of years old.
This Is More Common Than You Might Expect
You’d expect such a find to cause a stir, but that wasn’t the case. You see, London has been built atop a lot of history so digging through the city you will find a lot of interesting things from Viking mounds to templar ornaments.
The researchers at Franklin’s site did some more digging in the seminary room and found more than 1200 bone fragments. These pieces belonged to at least 15 people!
There’s a Chance This Is Not an Isolated Case
The area was such a small portion of the home and to find so many bones means many remain undiscovered. Maybe in the future, another team might find a bigger mound or something similar.
It’s a pretty creepy but fascinating affair that has many wondering if Franklin was indeed a serial killer and if the officials are just covering it up to save the man’s legacy.
How Benjamin Came to London
Before we debunk the serial killer business let’s look at how this man got a house in London. Benjamin first landed in the city to learn to print, but he’d retire before returning in 1757 as the agent of William Penn’s family.
He started boarding at the house and struck a chord with Margaret Stevenson’s daughter Polly. Margaret was Benjamin’s landlady and it seems he had no qualms about the fondness for the two.
In Comes the Science Teacher
Eventually, Polly would marry William Hewson, a famous anatomist revered for his work regarding blood coagulation. Franklin helped the anatomist secure a position in the Royal Society as he saw potential in William.
Unfortunately, William Hewson had a falling out with his mentor, William Hunter, and the two were constantly having a go at each other due to opposing findings. It was Franklin who mostly tried to quell the animosity.
The Start of the Anatomy Class
Now, it was during this time that Franklin started taking dissection classes from William Hewson but the practice was technically still illegal as it wasn’t as widespread. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it was considered a major branch of medicine.
After his marriage to Polly, Franklin convinced Hewson to found a private academy at Craven Street and thus that is where the bones came from.
The Devil Is in the Details
Looking at the cuts and incisions on the bones, it’s clear to see they were purely used for educational purposes. The femurs were cut to mimic amputation and the skulls had marks from a trepanning device.
So, our good men were not serial killers but rather students of anatomy. It’s good to know that the mean who pioneered glasses and other important inventions wasn’t a serial killer, but a man of science and progress!
The Bones Came From Cadavers
Looking at the marks on the bones, it’s clear to see they came from cadavers mostly used in anatomy school. Unfortunately, the legalities of such practices were still murky meaning there was a high chance, Franklin and co. used dubious methods to acquire these corpses.
You’re probably thinking they stole these bodies, and you might not be far off the mark. While Franklin and his team were not out to hurt anyone, they were not necessarily against getting cadavers in ways that might not be considered legal.
Do You Know About the Resurrectionists
Back then, there was a cheeky term used to refer to grave diggers who mostly retrieved bodies from grave sites. These daredevils were known as resurrectionists, and they had a steady flow of work from Benjamin and his team.
This is the only way these chaps could get hold of so many bodies without it raising eyebrows. After all, no one goes digging up corpses to confirm they are still there.
Benjamin Was a Man of Science
Nonetheless, despite all these weird adventures, our man Benjamin was probably happy with the way things were. He was a scientist through and through and nothing could stop him from gaining knowledge.
The man was probably fascinated with the whole topic of anatomy and his being a student is enough proof to showcase this desire. For Benjamin, he was contributing to the greater good and nothing was going to stand in his way.