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DePaul University Special Collections and Archives

Benjamin Franklin

Frontispiece and title page of Franklin's Works.

Frontispiece and title page of Franklin's The Works of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin (1812)

SPC. 973.3092 F831w1812

Well known for the pithy aphorisms and planetary readings in his Poor Richard’s Almanack, Benjamin Franklin eagerly worked to instill a love of useful knowledge into American society. He hoped to bring about the same sort of intellectual exchange as the leading royal and academic associations in Europe.

To achieve these ends, Franklin produced publications and scientific experiments. He encouraged study circles, a subscription library, and coffeehouse and tavern collegiality. Most importantly, Franklin founded the American Philosophical Society in 1743.

New Electrical Experiment.

Benjamin Franklin was a regular correspondent and contributor to English journals and the Royal Society. Part of his treatise on electricity was printed in this popular 18th century periodical, The Gentleman’s Magazine, in 1752.

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Through Franklin, the British, French, and American Enlightenment movements found cross-pollination. Popular coffeehouse periodicals, such as The Gentleman's Magazine, noted his experiments with electricity. Franklin was also named a Fellow of the Royal Society.

After the American Revolution, over 100 useful knowledge associations sprang up in the new republic. These organizations produced publications filled with the latest technological and scientific findings.

Essays. Information to Those Who Would Remove to America.

First page of Franklin's advice to those who wished to venture to North America from his Works (1812)

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Whether it was studies of waterspouts, bifocal glasses, or anti-counterfeiting techniques for currency, Franklin stressed the need for “useful arts.” This sentiment is well summed up in his 1782 essay entitled, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America." In the essay, Franklin welcomes all with a skill. Yet, he cautions highborn persons that America is not a place where one could expect to trade exclusively on breeding and social rank:

If he has any useful Art, he is welcome; and if he exercises it, and behaves well, he will be respected by all that know him; but a mere Man of Quality, who, on that Account, wants to live upon the Public, by some Office or Salary, will be despis’d and disregarded. The Husbandman is in honor there, and even the Mechanic, because their Employments are useful.
Inside pages of Poor Richard improved.

The inside spread of Benjamin Franklin's almanac, Poor Richard Improved (1759) features a "Receipt to Cure a Horse of a Cough," "The Vulgar Notes," and the calendar for January typeset around "The Art of Pleasing Conversation"

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