Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard's Almanac (video) | Khan Academy
The cover of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Richard Saunders, and Timothy. On December 19, Franklin published his first almanac under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders. The almanac was published for the year of and. Although the Poor Richard of the early almanacs was a. and statesman Benjamin Franklin and used as his pen name for the annual Poor Richard's almanac.
In a series of three letters in andknown as the Bickerstaff papers, "Bickerstaff" predicted the imminent death of astrologer and almanac maker John Partridge. Franklin's Poor Richard, like Bickerstaff, claimed to be a philomath and astrologer and, like Bickerstaff, predicted the deaths of actual astrologers who wrote traditional almanacs.
In the early editions of Poor Richard's Almanack, predicting and falsely reporting the deaths of these astrologers—much to their dismay—was something of a running joke. However, Franklin's endearing character of "Poor" Richard Saunders, along with his wife Bridget, was ultimately used to frame if comically what was intended as a serious resource that people would buy year after year. To that end, the satirical edge of Swift's character is largely absent in Poor Richard.
Richard was presented as distinct from Franklin himself, occasionally referring to the latter as his printer. Bythe original character was even more distant from the practical advice and proverbs of the almanac, which Franklin presented as coming from "Father Abraham," who in turn got his sayings from Poor Richard. Franklin published the first Poor Richard's Almanack on December 28, and continued to publish new editions for 25 years, bringing him much economic success and popularity.
The almanack sold as many as 10, copies a year. One of the earliest of these was the "prediction" that the author's "good Friend and Fellow-Student, Mr. Titan Leeds " would die on October 17 of that year, followed by the rebuttal of Mr. Leeds himself that he would die, not on the 17th, but on October Appealing to his readers, Franklin urged them to purchase the next year or two or three or four editions to show their support for his prediction.
The following year, Franklin expressed his regret that he was too ill to learn whether he or Leeds was correct. Nevertheless, the ruse had its desired effect: The majority of Franklin's maxims focus on the responsibility of a man to provide for his family, to be industrious and frugal and therefore, successful. These qualities would lead to a virtuous and prosperous life.
As Helen Mondloch notes, "His verses urged hard work and prudent savings not only as a means of attaining security but as a path to virtue.
Likewise, they condemned sloth, credit payments, and frivolous spending. He showed as much disdain for sloth and excess with "A fat kitchen makes a lean will" and "A rich rogue, is like a fat hog, who never does good til as dead as a log.
Leo Lemay, in an interview with Rosalind Remer, stated his belief that Franklin valued work over inheritance. He praised that from the very beginning to the end of his life. Franklin was as adamant in his instruction to save money as he was about earning it. As a young man in Philadelphia, he endured hardships as a result of his association with Sir Willliam Keith, governor of Pennsylvania and Franklin's would-be benefactor. Keith had promised to finance Franklin in his own printing business.
However, Keith's penchant for extravagance prevented him from keeping this promise to Franklin and stranded him in London with no credit. Keith later died in debtor's prison. The maxims on debt such as "He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing" and "Rather to go to Bed supperless than rise in Debt" demonstrate how strongly Franklin was influenced by his earlier experiences. Franklin's critics accused him in later years of plagiarizing these verses.
An issue of Historical Magazine includes a chart comparing Franklin's verses with their original sources.
Benjamin Franklin and Poor Richard's Almanac
However, Mondloch states, "While Franklin never felt compelled to credit his sources by name—no doubt because the literary protocols of his day differed from our own—he did acknowledge his borrowings. Why then should I give my readers bad lines of my own, when good ones of other people's are so plenty?
However, Franklin had a gift for reformulating these gems with a unique style reflecting his ingenious wit. As Green and Stallybrass note, "Ironically, many proverbs are remembered now only because of the fame of the 'Almanack-maker' Benjamin Franklin. Library of Congress Howells' Lexicon Tetraglotton. The sources of Franklin's proverbs originated partly from his voluminous private library as well as from borrowed editions from friends and associates.
Richard Saunders Orgins – Franklin and the American Experiment
Franklin's ideals did not always have a salubrious effect on authors of later eras. Some of his most outspoken 19th century critics included Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Melville, all charging Franklin with shaping an America built on a foundation of strict morality and the acquisition of wealth at the expense of individual expression. Lawrence as one of Franklin's harshest critics, Lawrence claiming that "'it has taken me many years and countless smarts to get out of that barbed wire moral enclosure that Poor Richard rigged up.
He believed he had a duty to uplift the individual for the good of the community. He freely admitted in his autobiography that his goal was to influence his readership with these sayings, recollecting " Franklin's maxims reflect his determination to educate his neighbors to follow his model. However, Franklin did not forget the witty verses that made the almanac initially successful.
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Inhe explained his motive for mixing comedy and morality in equal proportions. In all the Dishes I have hitherto cook'd for thee, there is solid meat enough for thy Money. There are Scraps from the Table of Wisdom, that will if well digested, yield strong Nourishment to thy Mind. But squeamish Stomachs cannot eat without pickles; which 'tis true, are good for nothing else, but they provoke an appetite.
The Vain Youth that reads my Almanack for the Sake of an idle Joke, will perhaps meet with a serious Reflection, that he may ever after be the better for.
Franklin's genius was to interweave the frivolous with the sublime, creating a mix that enticed his audience to want more. Library of Congress Poor Richard Improved. InFranklin changed the name of the almanac to Poor Richard Improved, increasing the physical size, the amount of content and the price.
The intellectual content and prescriptions for success also increased. In these later editions, Franklin fervently promoted his ideals of industry, morality and thrift. During this period of his life, Franklin was more involved in social and political activities.
Mondloch cites Palmeri, noting "He credits Poor Richard Improved and the politically charged almanacs that succeeded it with shaping the 'idea of an American nation and the ideal hard-working citizen of that nation. Franklin is credited by some as providing the impetus for a generation who forged a new nation founded in part on the ideals that Poor Richard advanced. Poor Richard's Almanack became Franklin's second most profitable work, the Pennsylvania Gazette being the first.
Nor was the popularity of Franklin's almanac confined to Philadelphia. By the s, Franklin marketed the almanac to other colonies from Boston to Charleston, selling ten thousand copies annually and providing Franklin with roughly one third of his income. In fact, Franklin's printing business was so profitable as to afford him the luxury of retiring from the daily operations at age InFranklin's civic obligations carried him to England, but not before he laid the almanac to rest.
He concluded his quarter-century run of Poor Richard with a speech delivered at an auction by another fictitious character, "a plain clean old Man, with white Locks," Father Abraham. Franklin compiled many of the maxims from previous editions, recalling in his autobiography that "The bringing all these scatter'd Counsels thus into a Focus, enabled them to make greater Impression.
Father Abraham's speech was republished separately under the title, The Way To Wealth, one of the most popular publications in nineteenth-century America. Franklin's treatise was reprinted in multiple editions and in several languages and distributed in America and around the world. Franklin became a celebrity in Europe, particularly France, where he was known as 'Bon Homme Richard.
Multiple almanacs with the name 'Poor Richard' or 'Franklin' in their titles were printed in several states, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, all attempting to capitalize on the popularity and success of Franklin's exceptional product. However, the content of these imitators lacked the 'character' of Poor Richard, famous for its playful prefaces, colorful characters and the maxims and sayings that made Franklin's almanac so appealing and so notably successful.
No one could seriously argue that Franklin's achievements throughout his long life were remarkable.