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Uncommon Sense

By Holly White · October 12, 2018

Happy 4th Birthday, Ben Franklin's World!

Ben Franklin's Worlddigital projects 4 min read

This week the Omohundro Institute’s award winning podcast, Ben Franklin’s World: a Podcast about Early American History turned four years old! This made us wonder, how would Ben have celebrated? Turns out his letters might offer us some hints.

In 1767, Ben gifted a poem to Mary Stevenson for her birthday:

“You’d have the Custom broke, you say,

That marks with festive Mirth your natal Day;

“Because as one grows old,

One cares not to be told,

How many of one’s Years have pass’d away…”[1]

In a letter to Deborah Franklin written on August 14th, 1771 Ben explained that he celebrated his “Grandson’s Birthday” with the Bishop of St Asaph, the Bishop’s wife, and their children in London. “At Dinner, among other nice Things,” Ben wrote, “we had a Floating Island[2], which they always particularly have on the Birth Days of any of their own Six Children; who were all but one at Table.” The celebration also included toasts to the boy “that he may be as good a Man as his Grandfather.” To which Ben replied that he “hop’d he would be much better.”[3]

So the answer seems to be poems, dinners, fancy desserts, and toasts. We went a slightly different direction. To celebrate this milestone the OI’s Digital Projects team launched a brand new Twitter handle for the podcast: @BFWorldPodcast which has already begun tweeting all sorts of great information about early American history and behind-the-scenes happenings at the show. In addition to our new Twitter handle, we’ve also got our first ever Ben Franklin’s World Digital Apprentice, Emily Sneff. Emily is a first year doctoral student at William & Mary working on early American print and material culture. Emily has been instrumental in the Twitter launch and we’re thrilled to have her on the team!

We aren’t finished celebrating—keep an eye out for more exciting developments with the OI Digital Projects team. Spread the word on Ben Franklin’s World and @bfworldpodcast.**


**Don’t have Twitter? You can also “like” BFW on Facebook and join our listener community page.

[1] “From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson: Verses on Her Birthday, 15 June 1767,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 14, January 1 through December 31, 1767, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1970, pp. 187–188.

[2] A “floating island” was a French dessert consisting of meringue “floating” on vanilla custard.

[3] “From Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Franklin, 14 August 1771,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 13, 2018, [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 18, January 1 through December 31, 1771, ed. William B. Willcox. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974, pp. 204–205.


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