BENJAMIN FRANKLIN was born at Boston, on the 17th of January, 1706. His father, also Benjamin, had fled the persecution of puritans by Charles II of England. At an early age, young Franklin was recognized to have a higher than average inteligence, and thus was sent to grammar school for an education. He soon gained the reputation of "industrious habits, and respectable genius" as put by John Vinci in his adaptation of The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin.
Ben's fondness for books and learning, from an early age, led him to become an apprentice to his elder brother, who was a printer for a newspaper in Boston. Scarcely twelve years of age, Ben soon became well skilled in the mechanical part of the business. His love of books and the literary arts prompted him to begin writing ballads and other poetical works. His first trials into the journalism art came when he published some essays into his brother's newspaper anonymously. These essays became wildly popular, adding fuel to Ben's passion to become writer and publisher himself.
By age seventeen, Ben decided to leave his brother's business in Boston -- due to intolerable conditions and harsh treatment by his brother -- and set off for Philadelphia.
This passage tells of Ben's peril. The passage is set in "Matyflower" -- as if it could have been penned by Ben himself -- another superb hand script from the Sherwood Foundry.
HE WAS PENNILESS, and little short of a begger. Soon after his arrival he was able to secure a job as compositor in one of two printing offices in Philadelphia. He executed his craft with such perfection he was recognized not only by the printer, but by Sir William Keith who became his patron. Sir William, being the Governor of the province, gladly turned over the job of government printing to Ben. This set him upon a whirlwind adventure back to Boston, to England where he was journeyman to an English printer, and yes, back to Philadelphia to do his work as printer, publisher, inventor and ultimately statesman.
In 1732, Ben began to publish "Poor Richard's Almanac," which became a hugely popular and successful newspaper to the lower and middle class of the city. Soon the Almanac was printing ten thousand copies per year -- with his maxims republished far and wide throughout America as well as Great Britain, and Europe.
His maxims like "A penny saved.." and "Early to bed..." have stood the test of time, and are still quoted in today's society. One of my personal favorites speaks directly to the designer, writer and journalism community. (This one also set in "Matyflower")
Ben even wrote his own epitaph, many years before his death:
I won't go into a detailed biography of Ben here, the internet has litterally thousands of works dedicated to his works and his life -- just Google "Benjamin Franklin." His works as an early American printer served to encourage the printing and journalism crafts into the very grain of society. set a precedent for us all to follow.
And when it comes time to design a publication where you want the look and feel of American heritage, select your fonts wisely and give it true meaning. After all, wasn't it old Ben who said:
"If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing well."
Thanks for reading...
PS: I have included this ascii text collection of my personal favorites from Benjamin Franklin. Over the years, you've seen them included in many of my articles. Feel free to save them and use them to your own health and benefit.
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Sherwood Fonts include the heritage font we see in our page title, called the Founders Font which is one of the free fonts included with the IndieFonts 2 Book/CD package The 1722 Italic font as well as Matyflower which adorns our quotes from Ben Franklin, are available from the Sherwood Collection at the P22 Foundry.
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Bibliography: Benjamin Franklin
- The Papers of Benjamin Franklin
- The first and only comprehensive record of Benjamin Franklin's writings. Started in 1954 by Yale University, the project will eventually total 46 volumes. The team of editors has currently compiled 36 volumes, covering the first 76 years of Franklin's life.
- The Poor Richard's Almanac site includes all the editions of Poor Richard's Almanack transcribed into straight text.
- The Colonial American Resources/Poor Richard's site, from Gettysburg College has quite a few actual photos of original early American literature, including Poor Richard's Almanack.
- Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History presents a highly detailed timeline of Franklin's life by scholar Leo Lemay.
- The American Philosophical Society is a scholarly society whose establishment was advocated by Franklin. Its website hosts information about APS meetings, grants and an extensive, historical library collection.
- The Franklin's Autobiography website contains many primary documents from early America, including the full text of Franklin's Autobiography.
- The Library Company of Philadelphia is non-profit independent research library whose collections document American culture from the colonial period to the end of the nineteenth century.
- The Electric Franklin is a colorful and comprehensive collection of engaging writings, reliable historical information, and entertaining interactive games.
- The Friends of Franklin, Inc. is an international membership society which posts articles, upcoming events, and the latest books related to scholarship on Franklin.
- The Writings of Benjamin Franklin is a very valuable resource for Franklin's writings. It covers 1722 to 1775 and includes all of the Silence Dogood letters, the Busy Body letters, a number of issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Albany Plan, numerous letters to friends & family, and lots of essays and articles from newspapers in U.S. and England.
- The Franklin Institute who's mission is to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning -- inspired by Benjamin Franklin.