Letter from American History – October 2010

Busy Body Ben

In a 1729 essay signed “Busy Body,” Benjamin Franklin penned a satirical account of men who believed they could get rich quick by searching for gold and silver buried by pirates. “The rational and almost certain Methods of acquiring Riches,” Busy Body concluded, “are by Industry and Frugality.” Franklin, then an upstart 23-year-old printer, was wise beyond his years. As Thomas Levenson reveals in this month’s cover story, “Franklin’s Greatest Invention,” young Ben recognized that the scarcity of gold and silver currency in the 13 colonies was a chronic cause of economic woes and could be remedied by the creation of a medium of exchange that did not yet exist in the Old World: paper money. What’s more, through his own industry and frugality, Franklin was soon the go-to printer for colonial currency and became a wealthy man.

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