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Mother of Invention

Necessity is the mother of invention. I’ve heard that expression many but no one knows who came up with it. Maybe it was Plato. I guess it’s so necessary, it was just “invented”.

We just signed up a new client, who was knocked out at the scene of the crash. She does not remember how the crash occurred. It’s not unusual to have to investigate… and find out how. It’s the expression in action. Even when we don’t know how it happened, it’s our job to find out. Which leads me to a couple of examples of things that are still in our lives.

Benjamin Franklin had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking his reading glasses off and then putting them back on.

He decided to figure out a way to make glasses that let him see both near and far. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens in a single frame. Today…we call them bifocals.

Here’s another example: Where did mayonnaise come from?

Mayonnaise is credited to the French chef to the Duke de Richelieu in 1756. While the Duke was fighting the British at Port Mahon, his chef was creating a victory feast that included a sauce made of cream and eggs.

When the chef realized that there was no cream in the kitchen, he improvised by substituting olive oil for the cream. A new culinary masterpiece! The chef named it “Mahonnaise” in honor of the Duke’s victory.


And for pic o’ day:


The Franklin/Adams Cold Air Night

We all have been on trips where we ended up sleeping in less than ideal conditions or even failed to plan ahead.  When we think of the country’s founding fathers, it’s real easy to have a mental image of  crowd-stirring speeches or the drafting of documents that would govern our nation in its infancy.

I was reminded by, that the background stories were as colorful as the lessons in our history books. This is a story of a night in September of 1776 as recorded by the diary of John Adams; It shows the thinking and persuasion of two historical figures as well as why even the smallest of details makes for intersting historical perspective.

Just months after the thirteen American colonies announced their independence from British rule, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams were sent by the Continental Congress  as part of a small delegation, to travel from Philadelphia to Staten Island for the purpose of negotiating with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy. Their hope was to bring a possible end to the Revolutionary War.Franklin Adams

According to Adams, as they passed through New Brunswick, New Jersey, the negotiators of the delegation – Frankin, Adams and South Carolina representative Edward Rutledge decided to stop for the night and find a place to sleep. Without Priceline or Expedia, they soon learned that without prior planning, all the inns and local lodging taverns were full except for one establishment that had two available rooms. Unfortunately, this left only two beds for the three men.

As described by Adams’ writings, “One bed could be procured by Dr. Franklin and me, in a chamber a little larger than the bed, without a chimney and with only one small window.” It turned out that the small window would become the bone of contention. The diary went on to describe the night’s events:


     Adams described himself as “an invalid and afraid of the air in the night,” so he closed the window before they got into bed.

“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated.”

What Adams had meant by “invalid” was that he could not stand cold air. When Adams explained to Franklin that he didn’t want to catch a cold from the night air, Franklin countered that the air in their room was even worse.   “Come!” Franklin said. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”

Contrary to the general population of that day, Franklin was convinced that no one had ever gotten a cold from cold air. Instead, it was the “frowzy corrupt air” from animals, humans and dirty clothes and beds that resulted in a cold, when they were “shut up together in small close rooms.”  It was cool, fresh night air that had many benefits.

Franklin’s opinion was inconsistent with Adams’ own experiences, Adams noted, but he was curious regarding Franklin’s theory. So, even at the risk of a cold, he opened the window again and hopped into the lone bed.

As they lay side by side, according to the diary, Franklin “began a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration.” Adams watched Franklin catch a cold.

“I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together,” Adams wrote. “But I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep.”

Unfortunately, the ending of the trip was not a successful negotiation. Still, Adams was able to later tell others that Franklin may have understood lightning and electricity but he did not understand the components of the common cold.

DID YOU KNOW that when people are offered a new pen to try, 97% of them try it by writing their own name.

And for pic o’ day, here are two mischevious  friends that got into it:

two friends


Awkward and Blinker

     I am still feeling a bit blog lazy, so I figured that a couple of pic o’s and a “Did you know?” would be our Tuesday blog. Plus, who wants to read a long blog in the heat. (Yes… that’s what I am selling!)

     Did you know that the only three non-Presidents to be pictured on U.S. paper money are: Alexander Hamilton (the $10 bill); Benjamin Franklin (on the $100 bill) and Salmon Chase (on the $10,000 bill)?  Of course, that raises the additional questions of who is Salmon Chase and is there still a $10,000 bill? 

awkward cat                                    blinker

Titan Leeds:”Admit Death!”

Poor Richard’s Almanac” was a yearly publication that was purportedly written by a hen-pecked, poverty stricken scholar named Richard Saunders. It was a best seller in the Colonies during the years of 1733-1758, selling about 10,000 copies per year.  It was relied upon for a mixture of weather forecasting which also assisted in crop planting; and for household hints, puzzles and the wisdom of everyday proverbs.

Perhaps this Almanac would not have been so successful if it hadn’t incorporated some methods of libel against the competition. Richard Saunders came up with his plan in its first year of printing.

In an Almanac publication, one prophecy that was written, related to the prediction of the death  of a rival almanac owner. Saunders predicted that rival Titan Leeds would die on October 12, 1733  “at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury”.

When that predicted time arrived, Titan Leeds failed to die. In fact, he lived to chastise “Poor Richard’s Almanac” and its author, Richard Saunders with a “No I’m Not”!

Saunders  stood by the prediction and continued the lie by claiming that Leeds had died and had now been replaced by an impostor who was shamelessly now printing under the name of Leeds.

When Leeds did die five years after the prediction, do you think that the Almanac finally printed a retraction about its competition? No retraction. Instead Saunders wrote that the man fraudulently claiming  to be Leeds had also died. The article did go on to congratulate him for dying.

A few final notes on that story. First, history records that Richard Saunders was in fact Benjamin Franklin, the true author of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”.  Second, hard to tell if Franklin was originally serious about this until it became wildly successful. Perhaps, he was looking to a prior almanac writer for his inspiration.

Jonathan Swift was famous for writing “Gulliver’s Travel’s”, but he was also known for writing under the pseudonym of Issac Bickerstaff.  In 1708, Bickerstaff (Swift) began publishing an Almanac titled “Predictions for the Year 1708”.

This Almanac lay the groundwork for a printed April Fool’s Day prank. One of the events predicted was that “by a raging fever” famous astrologer John Partridge would die at exactly 11p.m. on March 29 of that year. Partridge also happened to write for a different almanac.

Almost immediately, Partridge issued a reply that the prediction was a fraud and that “His whole Design was nothing but Deceit. The end of March will plainly show the Cheat”, he declared.

On March 31st, a pamphlet titled “The Accomplishments of the First of Mr Bickerstaff’s Predictions”  was circulated throughout London to announce that the prediction had come true; but that the timing had been off by four hours, with Partridge having died at 7:05 p.m. instead of the predicted 11 p.m.. Given the slow speed of news in those days, Partridge’s supposed death only became generally known throughout London on April 1st, April Fool’s Day.

An enraged Partridge published an almanac article, proclaiming that Bickerstaff was a fraud and that he still was alive. Bickerstaff responded that no man could have written such rubbish under Partridge’s credited authorship and that the real Partridge was obviously not alive. Plus, Bickerstaff wrote, Partridge’s own wife had earlier claimed about her husband that he had “neither life nor soul”.

The comments from a wife were probably never expected to be seen in print. All told though, the hoax did serve to discredit Partridge as an astrologer and eventually caused him to stop printing the almanac that was competing with Bickerstaff. (Swift)

The lesson that Franklin apparently learned was that if it worked once, why not use it again. Remember, Franklin (in the Almanac) was credited with “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. I’m not sure how that applies to lying about an opponent. Come to think of it, these stories kinda remind me of politics today.

And now, pic o’ day brings us a little Christmas spirit.

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