Treasure Hunt in History (3 of 4)

The Founding Fathers — Statesmen, Diplomats, Inventors…

Benjamin Franklin:
Master of Visibility

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a printer, author, philanthropist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, scientist, and a member of the Committee of Five.

In the movie National Treasure, special glasses are used to read invisible ink that was used to draw a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

Invisible ink and codes were used extensively during the Revolutionary War period. Many 18th-century ambassadors used codes that haven't yet been broken.

In 1784 Benjamin Franklin developed bifocal glasses. As he aged, he experienced increasing difficulty with seeing things that were close and things that were far away. Because he became tired of switching between two types of glasses, he devised a way to fit both types of lenses into the frame. The distance lens was placed at the top, and the near vision lens was placed at the bottom.

Benjamin Franklin copy of painting by Joseph Duplessis

Title: Benjamin Franklin. Copy of painting by Joseph Duplessis, circa 1794-1802., 1935-1939.
Creator: U.S. Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission. (1935-ca. 12/31/1939) (Most Recent)
ARC Identifier: 532834

Thomas Jefferson:
Master of Revelation and Revolution

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. His interests included agriculture and gardening, art and architecture, food and wine, inventions and innovations, and music.

Jefferson invented a cipher called the "Jefferson cylinder" or "Jefferson cipher wheel" that was used to encode and decode messages. During the American Revolution, Jefferson had relied primarily on messengers to hand-carry sensitive letters. Codes became an essential part of his correspondence when he was America's minister to France from 1784 to 1789 since European postmasters opened and read all letters passing through their command.

Thomas Jefferson copy of painting by Rembrandt Peale

Title: Thomas Jefferson. Copy of painting by Rembrandt Peale, circa 1805, 1942-1945
Creator: Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office. News and Features Bureau. (Most Recent)
ARC Identifier: 535935

To find these or other digital images in NARA's holdings, visit our Archival Research Catalog (ARC).