This article plumbs the origin and meaning of Benjamin Franklin’s use of the phrase "leather apron man" in his first "Silence Dogood" essay, written in 1722 as a youth of sixteen. Wearing leather aprons had long been a marker of plebeian craft labor and class hostility: shoemakers and carpenters, as Shakespeare knew, wore leather aprons; gentlemen did not. From a genteel perspective, calling someone a "leather-apron man" constituted an insult. In his Silence Dogood essay, Franklin transformed the meaning of the phrase "leather apron," turning it into a proud badge of honor, marking the virtuous labor of handycraftsmen. Although Franklin supported the aspirations of "leather apron men" his entire life, his working-class identity did not endure; nor did he ever use the phrase again in his known writing.


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pp. 364-374
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