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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On this day in 1732, Benjamin Franklin began publishing "Poor Richard's Almanac" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Franklin's almanac included weather reports, eclipses, tides, and tables of English Kings. But what made it famous were the witty proverbs about life that Franklin included as filler, such as, "Well done is better than well said" and "Haste makes waste" and "Neither a Fortress nor a Maidenhead will hold out long after they begin to parley."

Ben Franklin's inspiration may have come when he was 15 years old and he worked in his brother's print shop. He would sneak into work at night and leave letters to the editor signed "Silence Dogood." The letters became very popular, but when young Franklin told his brother James that he was writing them, the two came to blows and Ben ran away to Philadelphia. When Benjamin Franklin started 'Poor Richard's," his brother was publishing an almanac of his own called "Poor Robin's Almanac."

It was on this day in 1843 that Charles Dickens came out with "A Christmas Carol." He got the idea in mid-October and struggled to finish the story in time for the holidays. He published the book himself with gilt-edged pages and a red bound cover within a week of Christmas and sold 6,000 copies in the first few days.

The instant bestseller revived Christmas when it was on the decline in England, during the Industrial Revolution, and it launched Dickens into a fame much like The Beatles -- on his reading tours, Charles Dickens was mobbed by adoring fans, who would rip his clothes, wait in long lines to shake his hand, and pull down the windows on his train car to grab at him.

From The Writer’s Almanac, American Public Media, edited by my friend Rick Norton.

Reminder: Socrates Cafe is tomorrow, Thursday, December 20. 7 pm Trinity Church, 19th & Broadway. Free, and lots of free parking, most parking meters are free after 6 pm. RSVP at or just show up.

Also, IDEA Cafe, Friday, December 21. 2 pm at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant here in Denver. Two fantastic speakers this week. Details and RSVP at

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