Benjamin Franklin was many things: a printer, writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, and civic leader. He was the oldest figure of the American Revolution and was the only person to sign the three documents that established the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the peace treaty with Britain that ended the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution.
As a writer, he is known for Poor Richard’s Almanac and his autobiography. Franklin loved to read. When he was young, he borrowed books from anyone who would lend them. He read about all kinds of subjects.
He also wanted to write, but he didn’t know how. He only had two years of school, so he taught himself to write. He found stories that he liked and rewrote them. Some he rewrote from memory. Other stories he turned into poetry. Sometimes he took notes on a story and then mixed up his notes and tried to put the events back in the correct order.
His writing practice and efforts were worth it. When he was sixteen years old, he submitted fourteen letters to his brother’s newspaper, the New England Courant, and his brother published them. Franklin used the name Silence Dogood to write the letters. Franklin often used pseudonyms, which are fake names used in writing. Franklin made up a whole character that went by the name Silence Dogood and wrote letters as though ‘he’ were a ‘she.’
Franklin’s most famous pseudonym was Richard Saunders, also known as Poor Richard of Poor Richard’s Almanac. This reference book for everyday life was filled with information like calendars and weather forecasts. Before the Internet, TV, and radio, many people would buy an almanac every year so they could look up things like holidays and the moon cycles.
The “author,” Richard Saunders, wrote his first almanac in 1732. Poor Richard presented himself as a slightly dull, but often funny, country fellow who believed in hard work and simple living. Many of Franklin’s most famous quotes are from Poor Richard’s Almanac. They include “Haste makes waste” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Poor Richard’s Almanac was an immediate success. Franklin published one each year for the next 26 years and sold almost 10,000 copies every year. Franklin wrote many other things too. He wrote articles for his own newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, letters about his life (later published as his autobiography), and other letters on a wide range of subjects.