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.
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.
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: