In 1726, a young Benjamin Franklin spent time working as an apprentice in London. One day, while out with his friends walking along the banks of the Thames in Chelsea, he decided to jump into the river. Charming onlookers with his breaststrokes, backstrokes, and overarm skills, he swam all the way to Blackfriars some three-and-a-half miles downriver.
The ability to swim in that era was a novelty. So, gauging his friends’ enthusiastic response, the ever-industrious Franklin toyed with the idea of opening a swimming school to teach Londoners how to do it. Prudently, he abandoned the idea, prioritizing some of his other projects that have proved, with hindsight, to be more beneficial.
So Clean You Could Swim In It
The Thames river stretches over 215 miles from its source in Gloucestershire through England’s capital and out to the North Sea. It is not only a waterway: Through its winding path the story of England can be told. It has been a source of power both sacred and secular, as evidenced by the numerous abbeys, monasteries, castles, palaces, and even Parliament itself, built on its bank.