Benjamin Franklin's Humor
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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A quarter-century ago, I compiled an edition of anecdotes by and about Ben Franklin aimed at charting the growth of his fame as America’s enduring voice of good-humored common sense. The present book focuses on how a quintessentially private person used humor to craft the image of an iconic sociable American. ...
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They used to say that George Washington was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, and Franklin was first in everything else. But at the nation’s bicentennial, the mass-circulating Reader’s Digest replaced Washington in the hearts of his countrymen with Ben Franklin because Franklin represented ...
1. Silence Dogood 1722–1723
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At thirteen, Franklin plunged into print with a timely ballad about lighthouse keeper George Worthylake drowning with two daughters in the heavy November surf of Boston Harbor. A few months later, he followed with another timely ballad on the capture of the notorious pirate Blackbeard off the Carolina coast. ...
2. Paragraphs in Philadelphia 1729–1735
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Except for two impoverished years at London, youthful Franklin flourished in Philadelphia. He printed with Samuel Keimer until 1728 when he broke off to start his own shop. Keimer then published The Universal Instructor . . . or Pennsylvania Gazette. He claimed that the city’s only newspaper, ...
3. Philadelphia's Poor Richard 1733–1748
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In adopting the model of Swift’s satire, Franklin used techniques familiar from his own practice of Socratic irony by pretending to be innocent or ignorant. He pretended to be madcap Poor Richard Saunders so successfully that the popular imagination confused worldly Franklin with Poor Richard as the Polonius of puritanical proverbs. ...
4. Philadelphia Comic Relief 1748–1757
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Although strained over the years, the humor of Poor Richard’s prefaces helped create the public taste for an indigenous comic hero. Franklin’s more serious writing led to increasing success in business, technology, and public service. He wrote position papers for the Pennsylvania legislature ...
5. Making Friends Overseas 1757–1774
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As Pennsylvania’s agent in London, Franklin had to wait three years for the courts to make proprietor Thomas Penn pay his fair share for provincial defense. Franklin used that time and two more years enjoying club life, honors, and new friends among leaders of the liberal religious, intellectual, cultural, and political communities, ...
6. Losing London 1773–1776
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In the crucial years leading to America’s break with Britain, Franklin carried the burden of reconciliation. In June 1773 the Hutchinson letters he had sent to Boston provoked Massachusetts to petition the king for the governor’s removal. It was up to agent Franklin to submit the inflammatory petition to the Privy Council. ...
7. Seducing Paris 1776–1782
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Coming home to Philadelphia on 5 May 1775 allowed Franklin no time for comedy. On the following day, his neighbors elected him to the Continental Congress. In November, Congress dispatched him to confer with General Washington at Cambridge. The next spring, they sent him to Canada to recruit allies. ...
8. Comic Release 1783–1785
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The war ended with a preliminary agreement, 20 January 1783, but Franklin had little peace. Since the summer of 1781, worn out by the ills of old age and sick of bickering with members of his own delegation, especially John Adams, he had been petitioning Congress to relieve him. ...
9. Revising Past and Future 1786–1790
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Philadelphians met Franklin at the wharf on 14 September 1785 and paraded him home to Market Street “with acclamations of joy,” the booming of cannon, and the pealing of bells. They elected him president of the Supreme Executive Council as Pennsylvania’s hope for “reconciling all parties.”1 ...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2005