Benjamin Franklin: The Printer at Work

BY LAWRENCE C. WROTH.

All of us who have given thought to Benjamin Franklin the printer, who have visualized him at case and press in Boston, Philadelphia, London, and Paris, have pondered that passage in the Autobiography in which he tells that in his boyhood his father so directed their walks together that in the course of them they might watch craftsmen of many sorts at their work. One may think with pleasure of that picture of father and son observing in the varied life of their town "the different ways that different things are done," the father improving the shining hour with observation and precept, the son--a happy and unusual circumstance--eager to know the why and wherefore of preliminary, operations, the names of tools, the ends of curious processes, the validity of short cuts, and the convenience of rules of thumb. What an education that proved to be! "It has ever since been a pleasure to me," wrote the son long afterwards, "to see good workmen handle their tools." A few lines below in his great and simple record of success occur the words: "From a child I was fond of reading." These two interests are the key to the life of Franklin the printer. Interest in the trades and handicrafts alone might have kept him in his father's soap-boiling establishment or sent him to Newport to join his brother John in candlemaking; love of reading, untempered by his interest in practical mechanics, might have sent him into a learned profession or taken the edge off his zeal in the routine of a handicraft or in trade. But neither of these destinies was to be his. The return of Brother James from London with a printing-house, just at the right time, made it possible for Benjamin to engage in the practice of a craft in which his particular combination of interests might have its exercise. He was articled to James in his twelfth year, and soon had become a useful hand to his brother in all the varied employment of an eighteenth-century printing shop. With that

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Meet Dr. Franklin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • Foreword v
  • Meet Doctor Franklin 1
  • Benjamin Franklin as a Scientist 11
  • Self-Portraiture: the Autobiography 27
  • Dr. Franklin as the English Saw Him 43
  • Franklin's Political Journalism in England 63
  • Benjamin Franklin: Student of Life 83
  • Molding the Constitution 105
  • Benjamin Franklin: Philosophical Revolutionist 127
  • Looking Westward 135
  • Benjamin Franklin: the Printer at Work 151
  • Benjamin Franklin: Adventures In Agriculture 179
  • Dr. Franklin: Friend of the Indians 201
  • Concluding Paper 221
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