Benjamin Franklin: Printer & Publisher
Not the first title that comes to mind still, but a dang important one.
In fact, Benjamin Franklin seemed to be most proud of this role and liked to describe himself as a “humble printer”.
Publishing was a trade that set Ben apart from other entrepreneurs of his age. Not only did it pave the way for his success as a thought leader of his time, it was also his money maker.
From his start as an apprentice to his brother publishing the New England Courant to his very own Philadelphia Gazette, all the way to his most popular Poor Richard’s Almanack, Ben Franklin strengthened his talent for spreading the written word through the 13 colonies.
This is the Benjamin Franklin we know and love. The ambitious, foxy minx that captured our hearts through the pages of our 7th grade history books and has grown in stature (sorta...he was only 5’9”) and importance through the ages.
Like we said, Mr. Franklin started out as an apprentice. An intern of sorts. He ran around getting his brother’s coffee and keeping out from underfoot to the big important men who had things to say and do. All the while, listening and learning.
He watched his big brother James establish the New England Courant, a newspaper to spread the word about who did what, where, and why. Little Ben found inspiration in Jimmy’s work and (after his bro went to prison for pissing off someone or other), he found the funds and courage to launch his own expedition into the world of publication.
The Philadelphia Gazette, he called it. A devilishly cunning piece of work that wouldn’t get him arrested like his not-so-keen brother, but would allow Ben to lead his readers to form the appropriate opinions. His opinions, of course. The RIGHT opinions. That charming rapscallion took pen to paper and published his OWN works in his very own newspaper -- under pseudonyms no less!
Well not only did he get away with it, but Old Ben thrived in his new career. He went on to publish one of the more influential pamphlets in American history, Poor Richard’s Almanack. In it, he published anything that he thought had merit. From short stories to poetry to weather forecasts, Poor Richard’s had it all. He even included proverbs of his own making. Little ditties like:
● “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
● “There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”
● “Fish and visitors stink in three days.”
● “The Proud hate Pride -- in others.”
● “He’s a Fool that cannot conceal his Wisdom.”
Ben kept it real.
His publishing ventures, especially his almanac, paid for his other ventures. Ever wonder where he got the money to fund his electricity idea? Look no further than 10,000 copies of Poor Richard’s Almanack sold in the colonies each year.
Ben even had the ahead-of-his-time idea to capitalize off his success, by training apprentices in the business and then sending them off to start publishing companies of their own! Through this network, he formed a string of like-minded publishers printing their opinions, and he kept cash flowing into his pocket.
Of course, Old Ben made it worth their time. He set it up so that these past apprentices paid off their education to him and still kept a paycheck. He maintained business partnerships with them even after their debts were repaid, essentially inventing the concept of franchising in America.
Basically, he was the OG owner of the McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Walmart of his time. Except he inherently understood the concept that those who control information control the world. Instead of burgers and fries, Franklin dealt in words and ideas. Legendary, really.
What we’re really trying to get at here is that Benjamin Franklin was one heck of a guy. He not only influenced the publication world even today by really taking control of the phrase “Freedom of Speech”, but his contributions to the published word are still recognized in the modern world. He kicked off his career by establishing himself in a trade and then completely dominating at it. And he didn’t have HALF the resources we have today. Do yourself a favor and be like Ben.
Take the first step today and invest in your future. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be creating a coin about you someday.