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Benjamin Franklin's Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America

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Overview

In Benjamin Franklin’s Printing Network, Ralph Frasca explores Franklin’s partnerships and business relationships with printers and their impact on the early American press. Besides analyzing the structure of the network, Frasca addresses two equally important questions: How did Franklin establish this informal group? What were his motivations for doing so?

This network grew to be the most prominent and geographically extensive of the early­ American printing organizations, lasting from the 1720s until the 1790s. Stretching from New England to the West Indies, it comprised more than two dozen members, including such memorable characters as the Job-like James Parker, the cunning Francis Childs, the malcontent Benjamin Mecom, the vengeful Benjamin Franklin Bache, the steadfast David Hall, and the deranged Anthony Armbruster.

Franklin’s network altered practices in both the European and the American colonial printing trades by providing capital and political influence to set up workers as partners and associates. As an economic entity and source of mutual support, the network was integral to the success of many eighteenth-century printers, as well as to the development of American journalism.

Frasca argues that one of Franklin’s principal motivations in establishing the network was his altruistic desire to assist Americans in their efforts to be virtuous. Using a variety of sources, Frasca shows that Franklin viewed virtue as a path to personal happiness and social utility. Franklin intended for his network of printers to teach virtue and encourage its adoption. The network would disseminate his moral truths to a mass audience, and this would in turn further his own political, economic, and moral ambitions.

By exploring Franklin’s printing network and addressing these questions, this work fills a substantial void in the historical treatment of Franklin’s life. Amateur historians and professional scholars alike will welcome Frasca’s clear and capable treatment of this subject.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216144
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: bibliography, index, illustrations
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph Frasca is Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of the “Saturday Globe” and American War Reporting: The Mexican-American War.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : the challenge of Franklin's printing network 1
1 The art of virtue and the virtue of the art 7
2 From apprentice to journeyman to master printer 22
3 The moral foundations of Franklin's journalism 36
4 Communicating instruction in Philadelphia 48
5 Spreading virtue to South Carolina 64
6 Network expansion from New York to the Caribbean 78
7 The political imperative of the Pennsylvania German partnerships 98
8 Franklin plants a printer in his native New England 115
9 Renegade second-generation printers 123
10 The Franklin network and the Stamp Act 138
11 Rebellion and network loyalties 155
12 The moral reform of a scurrilous press 168
Conclusion : God, humanity, and Franklin's legacy 192
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