Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack: Summary & Sayings

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  • 0:01 The Book
  • 1:55 Other Interesting Facts
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Benjamin Franklin is known as an inventor, a humorist, a founding father of the United States, and a gifted writer. In this lesson, we will examine his work 'Poor Richard's Almanack,' a compilation of wise sayings, weather forecasts, and entertainment.

The Book

Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States. He was a gifted author, printer, politician, scientist, inventor, statesman, and diplomat. When Benjamin Franklin was only twelve, he became a printing apprentice. Through the years he tried creative writing and published letters under the pen name Mrs. Silence Dogood to get his work in the 'New England Courant.' People loved them. Among his many accomplishments was the writing of Poor Richard's Almanack.

During the colonial days, people depended on almanacs for weather forecasts. Astronomers or astrologers were actually paid quite well to predict upcoming weather patterns. As many people were farmers and there were no other weather forecasters, the almanac was essential for knowing when to plant crops. Poor Richard's Almanack included these weather forecasts, letting people know whether to expect a dry or wet season, so they could plan accordingly. The almanac also provided a day by day forecast.

Poor Richard's Almanack included whimsical sayings, poems, stories, and history, but most of what Franklin compiled in the Almanack was not his original writing. Sometimes he received credit for sayings he did not actually create.

Here are some fun quotes that can be found in Poor Richard's Almanack:

  • 'Never spare the Parson's wine, nor the Baker's pudding.'
  • 'Visits should be short, like a winters day, Lest you're too troublesome hasten away.'
  • 'A house without woman & Fire-light, is like a body without soul or sprite.'
  • 'Kings & Bears often worry their keepers.'
  • 'Light purse, heavy heart.'
  • 'He's a Fool that makes his Doctor his Heir.'
  • 'Eat to live, and not live to eat.'
  • 'Beware of the young Doctor, and the old Barber.'
  • 'Nothing more like a Fool, than a drunken Man.'
  • 'Innocence is its own Defence.'

Other Interesting Facts

The Almanack contained a mixture of both religious and pagan advice. People sought their horoscopes in these writings. Based on early pagan beliefs that the world was made up of four elements: air, water, fire, and earth; corresponding body fluids were attached to the elements. These fluids helped people understand each other and events in life. For instance, blood was equated with air, phlegm with water, black bile with earth, and yellow bile with fire. If a person had a bad temper, he was thought as to have more blood in his body. The ideal personality would contain a balance of all four fluids. This idea can be seen in Franklin's 'Man of Signs' page with connections to astrology.

Interestingly, Franklin wrote about the Almanack, and here is what he had to say:

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