2
PARAGRAPHS IN PHILADELPHIA
1729–1735

Except for two impoverished years at London, youthful Franklin
flourished in Philadelphia. He printed with Samuel Keimer until
1728 when he broke off to start his own shop. Keimer then pub-
lished The Universal Instructor… or Pennsylvania Gazette. He
claimed that the city’s only newspaper, Andrew Bradford’s
American Weekly Mercury, was too frivolous, but that excuse hid
the fact that Keimer was undercutting Franklin’s plan to start his
own newspaper. Keimer reached peak circulation of about 2501
but lost readers as Franklin, for vengeance, mocked him in the
Mercury. When Keimer merely reprinted an encyclopedic piece on
abortion, complete with defintions, symptoms, and prescriptions,
Franklin as Martha Careful and Caelia Shortface ridiculed the
article as too licentious for virtuous women readers. The two brief
letters in the Mercury for 28 January 1729 were remarkable other-
wise only for displaying Franklin’s ability to differentiate indi-
vidual comic voices, as in these samples:

Martha Careful—My Sister Molly and my Self, with some others, are Resolved to run the Hazard of taking him by the Beard, at the next Place we meet him, and make an Example of him for his Immodesty.

-27-

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Benjamin Franklin's Humor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction - A Life in Laughter 1
  • 1- Silence Dogood 1722–1723 11
  • 2- Paragraphs in Philadelphia 1729–1735 27
  • 3- Philadelphia’s Poor Richard 1733–1748 47
  • 4- Philadelphia Comic Relief 1748–1757 65
  • 5- Making Friends Overseas 1757–1774 85
  • 6- Losing London 1773–1776 103
  • 7- Seducing Paris 1776–1782 119
  • 8- Comic Release 1783–1785 137
  • 9- Revising Past and Future 1786–1790 153
  • Notes 169
  • Sources 175
  • Index 181
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