Cecil- Dont fudge Franklin

Hey Cecil- boy did you screwup your spin on Franklin.

First, no one ever claimed that Poor Richards Almanac contained groundbreaking philosophy. Its impact was financial and cultural: it was the second largest selling book in the colonies (after The Bible.) That book was the Harry Potter of 18th century America.

Second, he sought and received a royal appointment to run the colonial postal service, because he saw that an efficient post was essential to colonial business and politics. His oversight created a communications network that ultimately worked against the king. This impact is comparable to the internet in this century.

Third, he is easily one of the key founding fathers. As one of the richest and most famous men in the colonies, he led many hesitant rebels into what was arguably a lost cause. As a member of the Continental Congress, his mature and practical views were critical in the initial management of the revolution. As a diplomat, he was a political genius in gaining France’s financial and then military support, without which we never would have beat England. And as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he was the revered old man that helped keep the factions focused on compromise (he proposed the dual House/ Senate form of representation.)

Washington was the father of our country. You could say that Franklin was the grandfather of our country.

David Bossert

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, david, glad to have you with us.

When you start a new thread, it’s helpful to others if you provide a link to the Column that you’re mentioning. In this case: What’s the true story on Benjamin Franklin?

Yeah, it’s on the front page at the moment, but in a few days it will disappear into the Archives. So, it saves search time and helps keep us all on the same page (so to speak) if you provide a link in the initial post.

No big deal, you’ll know for next time.

On another level, you should read a few more of Cecil’s columns – he wasn’t dis-ing Franklin. To the contrary, for Cecil, that column was high praise. :wink:

As a resident of Philadelphia, a former tour guide even, I think we also have to recognize Franklin for the following:

  • co-founding American Philosophical Association (still active)

  • founding first American public library system (Philadelphia’s, starved for funds but still active)

  • first Postmaster General

  • first American public fire department (Philadelphia’s again… funding also slashed again… argghhh…)

  • popularizing if not actually inventing the Franklin stove

  • those bifocals

  • co-founding nation’s oldest hospital (Pennsylvania Hospital, also in Philadelphia and still active)

  • cofounding what became the University of Pennsylvania

  • inventing the lightning rod

  • giving Europeans the idea we Americans weren’t all inbred, uneducated apes

  • sitting on the board of the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, which eventually launched the worldwide-impactful (for better and worse) Eastern State Penitentiary

But the #1 reason for Franklin’s greatness? His post office is the only one in the country that hand cancels mail without a date stamp (it resembles Franklin’s signature) so that late rent check or belated birthday card can get excused if you play your cards right! What a gift to future generations! This is even better the Franklin Institute! (It’s also the only P.O. in America not to fly the US flag, seeing as it’s older than the US flag…)

  • Crandolph

This is both immensely improbable and contradicted by such illustrations as I can find on the web.

Um… I live in Philadelphia, about a 10 min walk from the P.O. No flag.

For those working from the “trust, but verify” school of thought, I offer the following.

The few photos of the PO I see on the web are tight shots (we’re talking about a small 18th century building in the middle of a busy modern street so no one takes shots from the other side of Market St. as the dollar store in a photo is not terribly quaint) so they don’t ‘prove’ there’s no flag, but no matter how far back you pull you won’t see one. I can’t prove a negative with a photo of nothing in any event.

But here are links anyway:

This 360 degree view of Franklin Court begins looking toward Market St., i.e. at the back of the building Franklin’s PO is in. You’ll note no flagpole sticking above the building from that side.

Here’s one of those common photos too tight to prove my point .

You might also be interested in this list from the USHistory.org site. “316 Market Street is the only active post office in the United States that does not fly a United States flag (because there wasn’t yet one in 1775). The postmark B. Free Franklin is still used to cancel stamps.” USHistory.org is a Philadelphia non-profit and their office when this was posted was upstairs in Carpenter’s Hall, a block or two from the PO in question.

This is from a Time Magazine post on Franklin’s legacy in the city “An operating post office and the Franklin Court Printing Office are situated next to the Market Street entrance to Franklin Court. The post office is the only one in the U.S. that does not fly a flag, because when Franklin was appointed the first American Postmaster General, in 1775, the nation had not yet come into being.”

Are you sure you weren’t looking at one of the post offices in one of the US towns named Franklin?

While I’m posting, I meant to type American Philosophical Society in my previous post, not “Association.” Mea culpa.

If you haven’t had enough of me on this yet:

Franklin deliberately didn’t take out a patent on the Franklin stove because he thought the public good was better served by chep access to the technology. He was already a rich man, and didn’t feel the need to get that much richer by squeezing people trying to stay warm.

He could’ve gone Windows, he went Linux. Now that’s a great man IMHO. Are you listening, Bill Gates? :smiley:

Aha! The special little preserved branch (now) office! OK, that makes more sense.

Oh, how the U.S. could use another Ben Franklin now …