Bumping Into Benjamin Franklin on The West Wing

I am slowly binge-watching episodes of West Wing and notice in Season 6, Episode 20, “In God We Trust” that Franklin shows up in the decorations of people in both parties. It’s a nice compliment that the set designers imagine both these classy characters would want Franklin’s image nearby.

Seated Statuette on the set of West Wing

The Senate office of Republican Senator Vinick of California (played by Alan Alda) features a seated Franklin.

Oval office bust of Franklin

Meanwhile, over in the White House, in the Oval Office of Democratic President Bartlet, we have a bust of Dr. Franklin. The bust, I believe, is by Jean-Jacques Caffieri. The University of Pennsylvania cites the 1777 bust as “Franklin’s preferred likeness of himself.”

I found the seated statuette on eBay (it got away from me) and am not otherwise familiar with it. Does anyone know more about it?


This is the first Bumping into Benjamin Franklin entry. I will be sharing the frequent experience of connecting to Franklin while not directly looking for him. Thanks for reading!



Resting and Fasting

This article from Dubai credits Dr. Franklin with The best of all medicines are resting and fasting. Best of Ramadan wishes to all, but I don’t recognize that as a Franklin line: the only fasting I recall from Franklin was in connection with vegetarianism – that he has since occasionally abstained from eating meat – in the Autobiography.

World’s Fair of Money

An attractive lecture series coming up in Philadelphia on August 15th, 2018:

Sundman Luncheon

To highlight the Founding Father’s role in shaping U.S. money, the 2018 theme for the Sundman Lecture Series is “Fugio to Franklins: The Influence of Poor Richard”.

Enjoy lunch with this year’s lecturers at a catered, gourmet luncheon from 12:15-1:45 p.m. Aug. 15 in Room 126A, near the lecture area. Attendees may choose from roasted chicken breast, grilled skirt steak, or a vegetarian option.

Sundman Lecture Presenters

10:00 AM—Raymond Williams: “The Influence of Ben Franklin on Early American Money”

11:15 AM—John Colley: “Benjamin Franklin—A lightning Rod for American Numismatics”

2:00 PM—David McCarthy: Franklin’s Correspondence on a Contract Coinage for the United States

3:15 PM—Rod Gillis: “Benjamin Franklin and His Influence on Modern Coinage”

The luncheon is $15 per person and is underwritten by Maynard Sundman/Littleton Coin Co. Lecture Series Endowment and David Sundman. Registration is required by July 27.

Epitaph for a Printer – The New Colophon

The Papers cites an article in the New Colophon, A Book-Collectors Miscellany published in 1950:

“For an exhaustive discussion of the sources, variations, and sequels of the Epitaph, see L. H. Butterfield, “B. Franklin’s Epitaph,” New Colophon, III (1950), 9–30, where eleven variants are considered. ”

This New Colophon article is beautifully available online from the Posner Memorial Library of Carnegie Mellon University as part of the Posner Memorial Collection in Electronic Format. The article describes multiple archival versions of this piece:

1. Gimbrel Holograph (B. Franklin) image reproduced here.
* Lettering & Gilding
* the work shall not be lost
* new and more elegant Edition

* Corrected and improved

2. Upcott Holograph (B.)

3. The Mason-Yale Holograph (B.)
* Lettering and Gilding
* the work shall not be wholly lost
* new & more perfect Edition
* Corrected and amended
* He was born Jan 6, 1706, Died ___ 17___

4. The Jonathan Bayard-Script Transcript (Ben:)

As this was the only holograph when more of the first name (Ben:) than the capital B, I looked further: From the Princeton Library, a commonplace book by a 1760 student at Princeton. It has two corruptions: contents worn out (instead of torn), and food for the worms instead of food for worms.

5. Stiles Transcript (B.)
6. Ames Almanack Text
7. Pennsylvania Chronicle Text
8. Benjamin Vaughan’s Text
9. William Temple Franklin’s Text
10. The Stevens Library of Congress Text (B.)

11. German Translation
12. French Translation

Antecedents, etc. – page 31
A Final Irony, page 38 (about his death)
article ends, page 39.

I was looking to see if there was a Franklin manuscript listing his first name as “Ben”, rather than “B.” or “Benjamin.” I made note of an image shown at a Smithsonian presentation with “Ben,” and have inquired to the presenter.

Thomas Kidd’s recent work, Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father, inserts a manuscript image on page 57 that appears to be Yale’s “new” manuscript mentioned in a footnote on page 22 of the New Colophon article, as it contains the incorrect birth month of June, which Butterfield mentions. This holograph has multiple early corruptions, referring to “Benjamin Franklin,” “food for the worms”, and “a new + most beautiful edition.” Kidd’s book acknowledges Yale. Butterfield summarizes it as “a complete an inexplicable hybrid.”

Three-Wheeled Clock

An auction notice caught my eye, about a clock designed by Dr Franklin.

Papers online has this:

James Ferguson: Account of Franklin’s Three-Wheel Clock

Printed in James Ferguson, Select Mechanical Exercises: Shewing how to construct different Clocks, Orreries, and Sun-Dials, on Plain and Easy Principles,…(Second edition, London, 1778), pp. 1-4.

A Clock shewing the Hours, Minutes, and Seconds, having only three Wheels and two Pinions in the whole Movement. Invented by Dr.Franklin of Philadelphia.

The dial-plate of this clock is represented by Fig. 1. of Plate I. The hours are engraven in spiral spaces, along two diameters of a circle containing four times 60 minutes. The index A goes round in four hours, and counts the minutes from any hour it has passed by, to the next following hour. The time, as it appears in the figure, is either 32½ minutes past XII, or past IIII, or past VIII; and so on in each quarter of the circle, pointing to the number of minutes after the hours the index last left in its motion. Now, as one can hardly be four hours mistaken in estimating the time, he can always tell the true hour and minute, by looking at the clock, from the time he rises till the time he goes to bed. The small hand B, in the arch at top, goes round once in a minute, and shews the seconds as in a common clock.

Fig. 2. shews the wheel-work of this clock. A is the first or great wheel, it contains 160 teeth, goes round in four hours, and the Index A (Fig. 1.) is put upon its axis, and moved round in the same time. The hole in the index is round, it is put tight upon the round end of the axis, so as to be carried by the motion of the wheel, but may be set at any time to the proper hour and minute, without affecting either the wheel or its axis. This wheel of 160 teeth turns a pinion B of 10 leaves; and as 10 is but a 16th part of 160, the pinion goes round in a quarter of an hour. On the axis of this pinion is the wheel C of 120 teeth; it also goes round in a quarter of an hour, and turns a pinion D, of 8 leaves, round in a minute; for there are 15 minutes in a quarter of an hour, and 8 times 15 is 120. On the axis of this pinion is the second-hand B (Fig. 1.) and also the common wheel E (Fig. 2.) of 30 teeth, for moving a pendulum (by pallets) that vibrates seconds, as in a common clock.

This clock is not designed to be wound up by a winch, but to be drawn up like a clock that goes only 30 hours. For this purpose, the line must go over a pulley on the axis of the great wheel, as in a common 30 hour clock. Several clocks have been made according to this ingenious plan of the Doctor’s, and I can affirm, that I have seen one of them, which measures time exceedingly well. The simpler that any machine is, the better it will be allowed to be, by every man of science.

[emphasis added to a great sentence by Mr. Ferguson].

Ferguson’s document is online at archive.org. While it starts with Dr. Franklin’s clock, it goes on to include an astronomical clock (page 19), and others to show the apparent daily Motions of the Sun, Moon, and Stars; with the Times of their rising, etc. A quick browse shows this book to be  beautifully illustrated and full of lively text.