1739 Edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack
“I might in this place attempt to gain thy Favor, by declaring that I write almanacks with no other view than that of the public Good; but in this I should not be sincere; and men are now a-days too wise to be deceived by pretenses how specious so ever. The plain truth of the matter is, I am excessive poor, and my wife, good woman, is, I tell her, excessive proud; she cannot bear, she says, to sit spinning in her shift of tow, while I do nothing but gaze at the stars; and has threatened more than once to burn all my books and rattling-traps (as she calls my instruments) if I do not make some profitable use of them for the good of my Family. The Printer has offered me some considerable share of the profits, and I have thus begun to comply with my dame’s desire.”
If you haven’t bought your 2022 almanac yet, you may be missing out on advice and predictions on weather, trends in fashion, food, home, technology, and living for the coming year. Relying on the internet for such things? To be fair, the 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac didn’t predict COVID-19, so the internet has its advantages. There is, however, some misinformation out there.
Getting back to Poor Richard and his first addition almanack for 1733. The next paragraph of his preface contains, not misinformation per say, but a farce involving the impending death of his “good friend and fellow-student, Mr. Titan Leeds, whose Interest I was extremely unwilling to hurt.” He predicts the publisher of An American Almanack, the bestseller of the day, and his most formidable competitor, will die on Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M, thus leaving a void in the almanack market. His printer, a well-known newspaperman, had to issue three more print runs, as this medley of farce and prognostication was wildly entertaining to the masses, and foreshadowed more outlandish fictions to come.
My New Year’s Resolution:
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” (about) – Poor Richard
Benjamin Franklin (center) at work on a printing press. Reproduction of a Charles Mills painting by the Detroit Publishing Company.
In Boston, as a teenager, Franklin apprenticed in his older brother, James’ printing shop. Even at this young age, if met an obstacle he couldn’t overcome, he skirted around it rather than abandon his ambition. He’d gotten none of his work published in his brother’s paper, The New-England Courant, so at age sixteen, he slipped a letter by Silence Dogood, a middle-aged widow, and his first of many pen names. Fourteen letters were left and published over a six-month period. Immensely popular, Ms. Dogood touched on such topics as hoop petticoats, much to the amusement of colonists.
“These monstrous topsy-turvy Mortar-Pieces, are neither fit for the Church, the Hall, or the Kitchen; and if a Number of them were well mounted on Noddles-Island, they would look more like Engines of War for bombarding the Town, than Ornaments of the Fair Sex. An honest Neighbour of mine, happening to be in Town some time since on a publick Day, inform’d me, that he saw four Gentlewomen with their Hoops half mounted in a Balcony, as they withdrew to the Wall, to the great Terror of the Militia, who (he thinks) might attribute their irregular Volleys to the formidable Appearance of the Ladies Petticoats.”
James received several marriage proposals addressed to Silence Dogood, so he was angry to eventually learn his brother was the author. Soon after, Benjamin abandoned his apprenticeship without permission and escaped as a fugitive to Philadelphia. Printing was his trade until he retired at the age of forty-two a wealthy man. he accomplished much beyond that point, as a scientist and statesman but signed his name, ‘B. Franklin, Printer, more often than naught.
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.