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Here's some of the many hoaxes played out in Benjamin Franklins "Poor Richard's Almanac."|
Ben Franklin was a scientist, political leader, and philosopher, but probably more than any other he enjoyed playing hoaxes.
In his Poor Richard's Almanac for 1736 he predicted:
"In 1736 many of America's cities will be under water."
"A power with which the country is not even at war will carry off great numbers of fully laden vessels, out of our seaports."
"An "Army of Musketeers" will land in this country to harass the inhabitants."
Ben's devoted readers found out how "right" he was in the 1737 edition.
"Did heavy rains not 'put cities under water'?"
And the "power were not at war with" Franklin explained was the wind that drove many vessels out to sea.
And, Franklin said the "Musketeers" were mosquitoes who harassed people with their sharp bite.
Franklin gave himself a 100% score for accurate information.
Ben most relished hoaxing his publishing competitors. Rival Titan Leeds was heavy on Astrological nonsense and his publication was named "Leeds Almanac."
Franklin published a prophesy of the day and hour of Leed's "death" that year.
When the day arrived, Leeds stated "I'm not dead yet, Ben."
Franklin was not perturbed however, when his "prediction" didn't come true.
In the following year, Franklin published "In Memoriam - Notable Deaths of the Year Passed" - and Titan Leeds was named as one who had died the previous year. Franklin just insisted that his rival had actually died.
Leeds was livid of course, and he had cause to be upset. With the report of his death, sales of his almanac declined while those of Poor Richard's, soared.
Year after year, Franklin repeatedly declared that Leeds was no more. More and more readers decided that the Leeds Almanac continued publication was a fraud.
After 8 years, Leeds finally did die. Poor Richard's praised Leed's friends for "finally" admitting to the fact that Leeds was dead.
Later, during the Revolutionary War, Franklin used his con-artist talents to undermine British use of the German mercenaries known as Hessians.
Franklin published a spurious letter about a made-up Hessian officer named "Schaumbergh." The letter described how the Hessians were to be compensated for any of their men who were killed in battle. Schaumbergh was described as "throwing fits" because the British weren't paying up. It also said that he was encouraging the British battlefield doctors to let the injured Hessians die. "You're robbing me by keeping them alive," Franklin reported him as saying.
Hessian officers were harassed by English soldiers who were enraged by Shaumbergh's alleged money-grubbing. Hessian soldiers deserted in large numbers, a result that exceeded Franklin's fondest hopes.
One of Franklin's most influential cons was the case of "Polly Baker," who was reportedly arrested 5 times for mothering 5 bast.ard children.
Franklin published an account of Polly's fifth trial, including her impassioned speech in her own defense: "I could do a better job of supporting my children if you'd stop fining me every time I have one. And the men themselves have never been prosecuted even though they were as responsible and made me false promises."
but there was no "Polly." Franklin simply made her up to protest the treatment of women by the legal system.
Polly's speech was reprinted around the world - and supposedly still is - and often called the first American attempt to advocate for women's rights.
Ben was always capable of making a con work to his advantage.
One tale goes that one day he went to a tavern while on a short journey by horse. When he entered the tavern he was told there was no room left. Franklin is reported to have said: "'Tis a shame, but you serve my horse a dozen oysters?" Other patrons of the tavern heard this and, in disbelief, just had to go see the horse eating oysters. Enough people went outside for Franklin to sneak in and get a seat.
Soon, the proprietor returned and told Franklin that his horse would not eat any of the oysters, to which Franklin replied: "In that case, feed them to me and feed that fussy lout some oats."
Ben Franklin definitely knew how people would act and react, and he knew how to use that to get his way.