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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ben Franklin Was Not A Stripper


Kristy made a startling confession the other day which prompted this blog entry. She said when she was a little girl, she used to think that the guy on the Quaker Oats label was Ben Franklin.

I, for one, was shocked to hear this. In fact, I can only liken the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach and the uncontrollable racing of my heart to the feeling that came over me only one other time in my life and yes my friends that was when I discovered that bunnies do not, in fact, lay eggs. Not even chocolate ones.

You see, I still thought (until the other day when I read her blog) that the guy on the Quaker Oats package was Benjamin Franklin, and come to think of it, I never once gave a thought as to why Ben Franklin would be associated with oatmeal, except that he was a Quaker.

Or was he?

I decided that at fifty one years old it was about time I stopped living in a fantasy world and get the facts. So I did. I typed into Google "Was Ben Franklin a Quaker?" and I got more than I bargained for.

This one site, a Ben Franklin FAQ, told me pretty much all if not more than I ever wanted or needed to know about Ben, including the fact that he was not, nor had he ever been a Quaker.

Benjamin Franklin was not a Quaker. He was baptized in 1706, at the Old South Church congregation's Cedar Meeting House on downtown Washington Street, Boston. Built in 1729 as a Congregational church, Old South was the largest building in colonial Boston.
In Philadelphia he occasionally worshiped at Christ Church, the Church of England parish established in colonial Philadelphia in 1695 and later reorganized into the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

So, Ben Franklin was notorious for eating lots of oatmeal.

Or was he?

What did Ben eat?
Ben decided to become a vegetarian when he was 16 years old. He prepared his own meals, and mentions eating boiled potatoes, rice, hasty pudding, bread, raisins, and water. Quickly finishing his simple meals gave Ben more time for reading.
Ben later gave up vegetarianism; during the voyage from Boston to Philadelphia he ate fish.
Autobiography, Chapter 4: www.earlyamerica.com/lives/franklin/chapt4/index.html
www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Autumn04/food.cfm

Simple meals, yes. Specifically oatmeal, no.

Ok, so maybe Ben grew oats.

Not quite.

What businesses did Ben have?
Ben was a printer and a postmaster.

I know!!! Ben invented oatmeal!!!

Afraid not.

What did Ben discover?
Ben's discoveries include: the gulf stream, whirlwinds, and the electrostatic machine.

So, even though we know that Ben Franklin was not a Quaker and didn't eat a lot of oatmeal wasn't an oat grower, didn't invent oatmeal and is supposedly not the guy on the oatmeal label, I conclude (after putting all the clues together like a good amateur girl detective does) that someone a long long time ago when Oatmeal was first discovered and put into a convenient package came up with the idea to use a "Ben Franklin like" image on the label because that someone thought he was a Quaker or that he loved oatmeal, grew oatmeal or invented oatmeal and told everyone so. This was back in the day before fact checking was an occupation and so everyone just nodded and said, "hey good idea," and next thing you know, old Ben sold out to The Man. When someone (who knows when) discovered the truth, Quaker just went about their business, having absolutely no intention of changing something that was obviously working for reasons I cannot explain.

I mean, really. Ben Franklin? Why would he make me want to eat Oatmeal - standing there with his large protruding belly and all? In fact, this description of Ben really makes me want to stay away from simple foods, and vegetarianism (with the occasional fish) forever.

What did Ben look like?
Pages 90 - 91 of Carl Van Doren's book, Benjamin Franklin offers the following comments on Franklin's physical appearance:
No certain early likeness of him survives, but what he outwardly was when he returned to Philadelphia may be imagined backwards from later portraits and various chance notes on his personal appearance. Strongly built, rounded like a swimmer or a wrestler, not angular like a runner, he was five feet nine or ten inches tall, with a large head and square, deft hands. His hair was blond or light brown, his eyes grey, full, and steady, his mouth wide and humorous with a pointed upper lip. His clothing was as clean as it was plain. Though he and others say he was hesitant in speech, he was prompt in action.

Anyway, if Quaker never claimed it was Ben, they probably just continued to deny (if asked) that Ben is the guy on the label most likely claiming he is just a Ben-like character from the same era as Ben, but not Ben. At all. I mean, I don't know how they answer that question, if asked and perhaps I should have asked them before writing this blog entry but I have only so much time to devote to this particular pursuit. I mean. Really.

Obviously this is a time in my life where myths are dismissed and dreams/illusions are shattered, so feeling the need to take you along on this journey, I will leave you with one last thing that Ben did NOT do.

Did Ben really say that beer is proof of God's love?
There is no evidence to suggest that Ben ever said that beer is proof that God loves us. However, he did have this to say about wine:
We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.
So, Old Ben, My Man Ben said it was WINE, not beer that is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. Now, I could have told you that, but I'm not Ben Franklin so why would you listen to me? Is my face on an oatmeal box? No.

Oh, and by the way, this isn't the only time that Ben was involved in a case of mistaken identity. Remember when Ben was mistaken for a stripper?


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