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Posted: 2/8/2006 1:36:23 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/8/2006 2:42:21 PM EDT by General_Tso]
Hello, folks.

I attended a lecture last week called Images of Benjamin Franklin in honor of his 300th birthday celebration. Among the speakers were Pulitzer Prize-winner Stacy Schiff and Franklin scholar J. A. Leo Lemay. Schiff authored a biography of Franklin called A Great Impprovisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. Some of the details that she discussed are amazing. Imagine a time when French and England were the primary super powers in the world, and most Frenchmen couldn't find America on a map. Franklin was instrumental in convincing to support our fledgling nation when doing so meant bankrupting France, all the while fighting political rivals like John Adams without aid from home.

Accompanying this conference was a display of artifacts, writings, and portraits of Ben Franklin. This is all from the collection of a gentleman named Stuart Karu. It is really amazing, and I'm happy he shared it.

What really amazes me is how much the French idolized Franklin! When he showed up on French shores to request funds for the Revolution, he was already famous of his pursuit of science. However, his fame grew when he arrived wearing a fur hat and simple clothes. This was a time when lavish wigs were the fashion, but women started mimicking the fur hat in a new trend shortly after he arrived.



As Franklin's celebrity grew, he was pictured in prints, books, and souvenirs. A kind of cottage industry grew around him: there were even Franklin drawer pulls and cane handles. The items below are examples.









This idealized portrait for Franklin portrays him as a defender of liberty; Franklin was horrified, because he realized that many other men were risking their lives--many on the battlefield--for our freedom.



Here is a previously unknown sketch of Franklin drawn by an French artist.



Franklin was the face to American independence in France, and he constituted a one-man PR machine, which encouraged his wouldbe benefactors even though America faced tough defeats at home and prospects looked grim.

Here are a few more portraits of Franklin from the period. As famous as he was internationally, America at the time failed to recognize his efforts to secure gunpowder and additional funding that won our independence. Still, there were many collectable items produced in the period that acknowledged him.





This is a little hard to see, but this bowl featured Washington and Franklin side by side.



Here's some cool cups that featured his sayings from Poor Richard's Almanac.

This is neat, too. This is a commission that Benjamin Franklin signed.



Of course, Benjamin Franklin was also a scientist...



...and a Printer...





..and a Journalist (many of his editorials featured here)...





..and a writer...





(Here's the French translation.)



...and a political activist.



Happy Birthday, Ben!

"The Body of B. Franklin, Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering & Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost; For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended, by the Author. He was born Jan. 6 1706 Died 17__."
-Written by Benjamin Franklin, Age 22

Link Posted: 2/8/2006 1:45:19 PM EDT
He was a poon hound too.

G
Link Posted: 2/8/2006 1:48:10 PM EDT
I think some of that was at the very least exaggerated by John Adams who thought his celebrity in France was just vulgar egotism, but I'm sure some was true, too.
Link Posted: 2/8/2006 1:49:50 PM EDT
General_Tso: Thanks for taking the time to share the info with your internet buddies. These are pretty neat picture that we would not otherwise see. Thanks.
Link Posted: 2/8/2006 1:54:56 PM EDT
You're welcome. Fun for me, too.
Link Posted: 2/8/2006 2:04:00 PM EDT
Very interesting, thanks for taking the time to post.

Link Posted: 2/9/2006 5:56:10 AM EDT
Bump for the morning folks.
Link Posted: 2/9/2006 6:01:31 AM EDT
Good stuff. I keep a page of some of his quotes around for inspiration.
Link Posted: 2/9/2006 6:13:01 AM EDT
Although I don't have a picture of it, the "IOU" he wrote to the French government is beautiful. Spies smuggled in this special paper from England (which he ended up teaching the French how to make), he made a special font for it that was unique in the world, and he used this multi-colored marbling treatment that was quite amazing. The guy was a genius in all kinds of ways.
Link Posted: 2/9/2006 6:14:01 AM EDT
Thanks for sharing. Posts like this make it worth wading through the BS sometimes.

Why don't we have a holiday honoring Franklin?
Link Posted: 2/9/2006 6:19:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/9/2006 6:25:02 AM EDT by General_Tso]
The Senate refused to honor him while he was still alive. Most of the younger players in Independence didn't know him and didn't acknowledge his contribution. Just think: Most if not all of the gun powder used to defeat the British was thanks to his efforts. Plus, he was one of the first to contribute editorials that criticized British policy. For example, the British were dumping convicts in the colonies under the rationale of "peopling" them. Franklin was the first to document crimes that these imported criminals caused, and many other journalists followed suit. He also calculated population growth of colonies, which speculated that our population would be more than England's in a short period--and he was dead on. Even frickin' Adam Smith read him and was influenced by his ideas.

I think people nowadays regard him more as a quirky founding father than a genius who contributed big-time to our country. Plus, I have a hard time seeing anyone acknowledge a true patriot today. At least, people in gov't.

If you guys are interested, definitely check out this book:

Link Posted: 2/9/2006 6:29:53 AM EDT

Originally Posted By General_Tso:
I think some of that was at the very least exaggerated by John Adams who thought his celebrity in France was just vulgar egotism, but I'm sure some was true, too.



But he was a poon hound and pissed of Adams by going to work in the late morning and staying out all night.
Link Posted: 2/9/2006 10:26:04 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/9/2006 10:28:27 AM EDT by General_Tso]

Originally Posted By Chaingun:

Originally Posted By General_Tso:
I think some of that was at the very least exaggerated by John Adams who thought his celebrity in France was just vulgar egotism, but I'm sure some was true, too.



But he was a poon hound and pissed of Adams by going to work in the late morning and staying out all night.



I take Adams with a grain of salt. Adams was a genius, too, but I don't buy his account of Franklin. Adams was a political rival who disagreed with the plan that ended up securing France's support. At the end of the day, Adams was recalled and Franklin was made the sole representative. It's not like it was a 7 (IIRC) year vacation for him. The documents that Franklin produced or read during this period consist of a ridiculous amount of material. (I may have misunderstood, but I heard a figure of 47 volumes mentioned at the conference.) His staff was him and two grandsons, period. He spoke very little French, but managed to sweet talk a SUPERPOWER into bankrupting itself for the benefit of a backwater nation that contemporaries would have trouble finding on a map AND was on the verge of defeat at the hands of the most powerful Empire of the day. France was a willing participant in that it had its own reasons for helping, but Franklin made it happen when we needed it the most, and as much as he bitched, Adams could not deny the results. Hell, one of the loans France gave us was not to the United States but to Franklin himself, because they trusted him over anyone else. If he did it by sleeping with every woman in France and coming in at noon every day (which is not the case), we nonetheless should all throw back a beer for him on his 300th.

Either way, I encourage you to read the biography that I mentioned above. I'm sure it portrays whatever faults he had, too. (I hav not read it myself, I just listened to a lecture she gave and talked to her afterwards.) I know she mentioned something about trying to hook up with some French royalty and after that failed trying to hook up his grandson with her. haha If the guy managed to do all he did (inventor, writer, diplomat, printer, etc.) and could have a wild time at the same time, more power to him.
Link Posted: 2/10/2006 5:43:04 AM EDT
One more bump for anyone interested.
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