3
PHILADELPHIA’S POOR RICHARD
1733–1748

In adopting the model of Swift’s satire, Franklin used techniques
familiar from his own practice of Socratic irony by pretending to
be innocent or ignorant. He pretended to be madcap Poor Richard
Saunders so successfully that the popular imagination confused
worldly Franklin with Poor Richard as the Polonius of puritanical
proverbs. In a day when a printer needed an almanac to stay in
business, Poor Richard gave Franklin the edge in competition.
Where the Pennsylvania Gazette aimed at informing and amusing a
developing class of newspaper-reading Americans, Poor Richard’s
almanac catered to those who never read anything else. They
needed calendars and such essential information as seasons,
moon- and sunsets, tides, and court dates. The information was
common to all regional almanacs, so Franklin’s problem was to
print an almanac more attractive than a half-dozen others in
Philadelphia.

In December 1732, at a modest five pence a copy, he intro-
duced Poor Richard, an Almanack for the Year of Christ 1733 (alma-
nacs usually appeared in October for the following year). Just as
he had imitated popular comic models to beat competition from
Samuel Keimer’s newspaper, Franklin imitated models already
proven popular with an array of familiar comic features. The title
itself fused titles of three models. It echoed Newport, Rhode

-47-

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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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