Poor Richard’s Almanack
On December 19, 1732, Benjamin Franklin published the first edition of his Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym Richard Saunders.
Franklin began apprenticing with a printer when he was 12 years old. For the rest of his life, he considered printing to be his primary occupation.
After running away to Philadelphia at age 17, Franklin worked for several different printers. By the age of 22, he achieved enough success to be promoted to a partner and then two years later became the sole owner. In 1728, he began printing The Pennsylvania Gazette and wrote nearly all of the paper’s content. It became one of the most famous newspapers in the colonies. Historians credit Franklin as the first newspaper editor to publish a cartoon and to include a map with a story – everyday practices in modern newspapers.
In 1732, Franklin sought to expand his printing enterprise with the creation of his own almanac. Franklin chose the pseudonym Richard Saunders, after the English physician and astrologist. Saunders, in turn, had written under the name Cardanus Rider (which is made from rearranged letters of his name). And the name Poor Richard was an adaptation of Poor Robin, a British almanac from the 1660s. The character of Poor Richard was an uneducated philosopher and astronomer.
Franklin first published his almanac on December 19, 1732. Poor Richard’s Almanack included astrological information, jokes, poems, and weather predictions. One of the greatest features of the almanac was Richard’s proverbs, which reflected Franklin’s philosophies of thrift, hard work, and simple living. One of these sayings is featured on the Franklin “Credo” stamp. Other well-known Franklin sayings popularized through Poor Richard’s Almanack are: “A penny saved is a penny earned;” “God helps them that help themselves;” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Poor Richard’s Almanack was quite popular, with print runs of about 10,000 every year. Franklin continued to print it until 1758. It was so popular, it was translated for enjoyment in other countries. And several ships were later named the Bonhomme Richard (French for Good Man Richard) in its honor.
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