Beginning January 17, the Post will post daily ‘tweets’ from the writings of Ben Franklin for 84 days, in honor of his 84-year-long life.
We think Franklin would appreciate the gift. After all, he was one of the most far-sighted publishers in the colonies. He purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729 and turned it into the colony’s leading paper. He branched out into almanacs in 1732 and became the most widely read American in the New World and the Old.
Franklin would have been excited our new technology—both as a scientist and a publisher. The possibility of expanding from old media into new media would have filled him with ideas for promoting science, politics, morals, and—definitely—entertainment. He was the one of those editors, according to biographer Walter Isaacson, “who are charmed and amused by the world and delight in charming and amusing others.
Turning around the Pennsylvania Gazette from a sleepy, dying periodical to the leading newspaper of the colony, Franklin knew that publishers can’t rely on old formulas. He broadened the scope of the newspaper’s contents and thought up new ways to generate public interest. For example, he would write letters to the editor under pseudonyms, attacking or praising the newspaper’s content. He would readily use humor, sometimes inventing humorous anecdotes that could have arisen from the mistakes printed by competing papers.
His almanacs were filled with information that would be practical to farmers and fishermen: sunrises, tides, and moon phases. But Franklin also included any information he thought would be interesting, including the musings of his alter-ego, Poor Richard. In a way, these almanacs were the forerunner to the blogs of today.
The Saturday Evening Post is among several organizations keeping alive the memory of this great American. The contribution of Benjamin Franklin to our country’s independence and prosperity are incalculable. As a diplomat, he secured financial and military support for the colonist from the court of France’s Louis XIV. But as a scientist, he shattered Europe’s dismissive attitude toward Americans as backwoodsmen and dirt farmers.
“84 Days of Ben Franklin” will feature quotes from Dr. Franklin, drawing on his earnest advice and his sharp-eyed view of society.