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Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father, Inventor, Statesman, and Nudist?

By Chet Kresiak

Known as “The First American,” Benjamin Franklin is certainly one of the most revered figures in American history. From his inventions such as bifocals and the lightning rod, his accomplishments as a politician and diplomat, to his stature as a Founding Father of the United States of America, Franklin lived a colorful and highly influential life.

But did you know that this revolutionary man was also fond of spending time in the nude as part of his daily routine? In a 1927 article “The Air Bath” published by Gerald B. Webb, MD, of Colorado Springs, it is noted that Franklin wrote the following to a medical friend in 1750: “You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here (London) as a tonic, but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me as too violent, and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution to bathe in another element, I mean cold air. With this in view I rise almost every morning and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing.”

Dr. Webb, a tuberculosis specialist, also noted in his article: “It was a sad day when Adam and Eve got to use fig leaves and then putting skins on their bodies. It was shown by Nansen that the survival of the Eskimo race was due to skin bathing, while those who didn’t adopt the air bathing gave up their health. There is one thing to point out, and that is the extreme atrophy of our skin from wearing clothes.”

In addition, Benjamin Franklin taught himself to swim, is the only Founding Father in the Swimming Hall of Fame, and was known to have in his library a copy of the Art of Swimming by Melchisédech Thévenot, which featured illustrations of nude swimmers. Ben was a natural skinny-dipper.

Franklin is only one of a number of famous nudists (or naturists) in history. Others known to have enjoyed skinny-dipping or other nude activities include John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. In popular culture, Helen Mirren, Drew Barrymore, Alanis Morissette, Elle McPherson, Alicia Silverstone, Woody Harrelson, Heidi Klum and many others have indicated  that they enjoy shedding their clothes.

Today, nude recreation is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) is the largest, most long-established organization of its kind in North America. With roots dating to 1931, we have grown from our humble beginnings to an organization that has served 213,000 individuals throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and beyond.

You, too, can enjoy an “air bath” just as Benjamin Franklin did 260 years ago, not just in your own backyard and pool, but also at over 260 nudist resorts and affiliates. There are AANR clubs to fit your needs from upscale resorts with all the latest amenities such as fitness centers, pools, hot tubs, restaurants and Wi-Fi, to rustic campgrounds for that back to nature experience. The AANR website also has a section for finding legally sanctioned nude beaches where you can experience the joy of clothes-free recreation.

So what are you waiting for? It’s Benjamin Franklin’s birthday on January 17, so why not honor his life and legacy by spending some time in your own birthday suit!


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