Constitution Day
ATT: Dinah Zeiger
JAMM - University of Idaho
P.O. Box 443178
Moscow, ID 83844-3178

FAX: (208) 885-6450

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Coeur d'Alene

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Idaho Falls

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II. Benjamin Franklin, printer

A. Resources

i. Excellent source for history of the period: Emergence of a Free Press, Leonard W. Levy. Ivan R. Dee, Chicago. 1985 (available in pbk)
ii. Another informative source of information is: Benjamin Franklin and the "Pennsylvania Gazette" by Alfred Owen Aldridge. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 106:1, pp. 77-81. [Permalink]

B. Pennsylvania Gazette

i. One resource for a front page of the newspaper: Ben Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette

ii. Reading this can be challenging but it can give students a sense of the purpose of a newspaper in colonial America.
iii. The National Humanities Center website ‘translates’ the antique print in the Philadelphia Gazette into a more accessible alphabet: Pennsylvania Gazette (pdf)

1. The website’s section of “Printed Broadsides” also offers three examples of this form of information distribution.

Discussion Questions

1. After reading the front page of the Pennsylvania Gazette, what kinds of information seems to be important? Why do you think shipping news is so critical? Why are essays included? What goods and/or services are advertised?

2. Based on his editorials, what advice might Benjamin Franklin offer to newspaper editors and online bloggers today about their duties to the reading public? What advice would he offer to the readers?

3. The National Humanities Center’s website includes “Printed Broadsides” with three examples of this form of information distribution. How do these differ from newspapers? Where and how would they have been distributed?

Adapted from the National Humanities Center


1. After reading the excerpts and example of the Pennsylvania Gazette, ask students to select an event leading up to the Revolutionary War or an act of rebellion and write an editorial response to the incident. In the spirit of Franklin, have them adopt a pen name (not Anonymous). [suggested by Prof. Weinberger, Penn State University-Harrisburg]

1 a. As a follow up to this exercise, ask students to reflect on the similarities and differences between colonial practices of adopting a pen name as a cloak of anonymity and the use of online pseudonyms to protect privacy.

2. The Pennsylvania Gazette published the first political cartoon, said to have been drawn by Franklin, “Join or Die” published May 9, 1754. See the Cartoon. (Image from Library of Congress)
Have students research the origin of the cartoon and discuss how it was used both at the time it was created and in later periods of U.S. history. Ask what they think it means.