Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” — Ben Franklin
From the rebellious instincts of a runaway apprentice to the discipline and drive of a self-made printer, best-selling author, diplomat and scientist, there’s doesn’t seem much Ben Franklin (1706-1790) couldn’t do.
Franklin’s innovations saved lives through fire prevention (lightning rods), improved vision (bifocals), illuminated crowded streets (street lights), spread knowledge (the first full-service library), and even helped library patrons reach coveted volumes on the top shelf (extension arms). As a boy, Franklin invented swim fins; and today, holds a place in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
A pragmatist and a restless dreamer, Franklin braved eight transatlantic journeys and spent 27 years of his life abroad and never ceased to exhibit an ability to adapt
“He worked with whatever tools were around him,” says Tim E. Ogline, author and illustrator of Ben Franklin for Beginners (For Beginners, an imprint of Steerforth Press, October, 2013). “Were he alive, today, Ben Franklin would certainly champion connective technologies and next-gen media.”
The seed for Ben Franklin for Beginners was planted when Ogline met Dawn Reshen-Doty, the publisher of For Beginners (http://www.forbeginnersbooks.com), at a trade show. “We had a conversation about their line, and I mentioned that they should consider including more American History titles… and my enthusiasm for Benjamin Franklin became quite apparent. After the show I produced a sample chapter with text and illustrations, and a few months later we had a signed contract to produce Ben Franklin For Beginners.”
In his informative and entertaining Graphic biography of Franklin’s achievements,Ogline reminds readers that though Franklin enjoyed great success (he retired a wealthy man at the age of 42); he also experienced failure (and criticism) and used them to his advantage.
You might not know, for instance, that after numerous mishaps, disasters and penniless adventures, Franklin set up a successful printing business in 1728 (which he ran for 20 years before the reins of the business were transferred to partner David Hall) printing government documents and currencies, legal forms, broadsides, newspapers, almanacs, papers and flyers, as well as the first novel to be published in the United States — Pamela by Samuel Richardson.
Or that Franklin was harshly criticized for his willingness to print unpopular and/ or impolitic content? In Apology for Printers, Franklin demonstrated his belief in a free press, and refused to bow down to the demands of public opinion.
Or that he had the presence of mind to align his actions with his moral compass. Along with many other founding fathers, Franklin profited from slavery, but eventually joined the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery—and worked (eventually, unsuccessfully) to abolish the institution by submitting a petition to the Congress of the United States in 1790.
Tim Ogline’s award-winning illustration work has been published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, and the Utne Reader among others. Ogline’s design practice has served Pennsylvania Governor (and former Philadelphia Mayor) Ed Rendell, SmithKline Beecham, the White House, the National Governors Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and many more. Ogline is also an educator as well, teaching in the Illustration and Graphic Design Departments at Moore College of Art & Design and also at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. Ogline has also served as the Art Director and as a Contributing Editor for the Wild River Review. Additionally, he is the Creative Director of Wild River Books.
WRR: You’ve said that Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today… In what ways?
OGLINE: Franklin was a tremendous innovator, working with what was around him. He used the media to get his message out as well as further his agenda. At sixteen, he wrote the legendary Silence Dogood letters because he wanted to prove himself… and especially to his brother and his peers. He would write pamphlets to promote the public good in making the argument for a paper currency (The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency, 1729), the necessity for a militia (Plain Truth, 1747), and the need for quality Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning (Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, 1749). He wrote numerous editorial pieces as well as satires to steer public opinion, including the famous anti-slavery hoax, Address of Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim of 1790. He also created his own media channels with The Pennsylvania Gazette (a newspaper purchased from his former employer) and Poor Richard’s Almanack, which allowed him to retire from the printing business as a wealthy man at the age of 42… right at the mid-point of his 84 year long life.
Ben Franklin, were he alive today, would certainly be a technophile. He would likely be on numerous corporate boards and advising venture capital firms. He would absolutely be blogging and podcasting, as well as be widely followed on Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, etc.
WRR: What drew you to write a book about BEN FRANKLIN? When did the process begin? How long did it take?
Ogline: The genesis of my Franklin project began in 2003 after hearing a story on NPR about the upcoming tercentenary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth in 2006. This became the impetus for a number of book projects that are in various stages of development… including an alphabet book: B. Franklin A to Z, a historical fiction graphic novel: Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty League, the just published Ben Franklin for Beginners (published by For Beginners and distributed by Random House), and a nearly completed graphic novel adaptation of The Way To Wealth(Franklin’s famous fictional Father Abraham speechifcation of 25 years of the most memorable maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack) originally developed under contract to SmarterComics.
Overall, this project took five years to produce from start to finish (although I was certainly working on other projects in the meantime, including The Way To Wealth as well as my commercial graphic design and illustration work). The book began with the manuscript, then the illustration stage, and then the rewrite, and ultimately on to the design and packaging process.
WRR: What’s are the two most surprising things you learned about Ben Franklin in your research process?
OGLINE: What surprised me most about Franklin stems from preconceptions I had about this garrulous old man with a twinkle in his eye… I never thought of someone who might be motivated by anger.
We’ve all heard (or should have heard) about the dressing down that Franklin received from Lord Alexander Wedderburn on January 29, 1774 before the Privy Council in London in the aftermath of the Hutchinson letters affair. Benjamin Franklin had a comfortable relationship with his British peers at that time… He was an influential Colonial Agent as well as the Deputy Postmaster General of North America, but once his role was exposed in the double game he was playing in the leak of the confidential correspondence of the Royal Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson, that all changed.
He had been publicly humiliated and was then stripped of his post. Benjamin Franklin turned from a loyal British subject into an American. It doesn’t seem to be a slow evolution in political philosophy that occurred in Franklin, but a seismic shift. In the end, it was anger that ignited his Revolutionary zeal.
Another thing that surprised me was related to the subject of African slavery… not necessarily in the fact of its existence, but in its dissonance with Revolutionary ideals. None of the Founding Fathers seemed able to definitively tear down the institution of slavery in America. They made bargains and compromises with themselves and each other to put off the final showdown on the issue. Most people knew it was wrong… they knew it was the great evil of the age. They were too dependent on it in the fabric of the economy and social structure, and that they would never be able to unite the states (particularly the South) if they did the right thing. It was a festering wound that would open into the horrible schism of the Civil War some 80 to 90 years later.
Franklin did own a pair of slaves when he ran his printing business and had servants at other times in his life. He also profited from the slave trade through advertising in his newspaper as well as in other materials he printed.
In 1787, however, he recognized his part in the hypocrisy and joined the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and later submitted a petition in 1790 to the Congress of the United States to abolish the institution when he served as the society’s president.
WRR: Ben Franklin excelled in—and even defined— a number of professions including printer, writer, postmaster, scientist, inventor, public citizen, politician, and diplomat. What didn’t he do? And where do you see his limitations?
OGLINE: I see Franklin’s limitations as chiefly in his own family life… I think he gave himself to the world, but wasn’t quite so giving to those closest to him.
He was abroad serving the interests of the American colonies and away from his wife Deborah for many years at a time. In fact, he was in England from 1764 to 1775—over ten years—despite Deborah’s many pleas to come back. She died of a stroke at the age of sixty-six while he was an ocean away.
He was also unforgiving of his son William, for not following his lead and embracing the Revolutionary cause. William was the Royal Governor of New Jersey, and Franklin demanded his son reject the authority of the Crown. Benjamin Franklin was able to forgive loyalist friends for remaining true to their King, but he would never forgive his son (and would even work toward turning William’s son Temple against his own father).
WRR: Why should children and young adults know about Ben Franklin today?
Ogline: Ben Franklin is the quintessential American success story… from runaway boy to international icon. He was the Horatio Alger story before there was a Horatio Alger. He made his own way and he made his own opportunities, but also knew the importance of making alliances and building powerful networks of like-minded individuals to achieve great things.
Franklin started each day asking himself the question, “What good shall I do today?” And he answered it by making improvements to that which he saw around him… starting with the man in the mirror, and working out to the everyday objects that he made better or invented (bifocals, lightning rod, urinary catheter, Pennsylvania Fireplace), and then on to his very society (helping to create institutions including the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Hospital… and, oh yes, America).
Franklin showed us that we can all do better. We just need to be creative. We need to be bold. We need to want to change the status quo.
WRR: What personally inspired you MOST during the research?
OGLINE: The single most important thing that inspired me during the research was in what this man—as well as the other Founding Fathers—risked in their struggle for American Independence. We’re talking about staking their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor (as Thomas Jefferson put in the “Declaration of Independence”). We’re talking about these men committing treason against the British Crown… If they failed, they would certainly be marched straight to the gallows at bayonet point. As Ben Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
We assume now that the end-result of the American Revolution was inevitable, not so. Providence and determination was on their side… and a fair amount of luck as well.
WRR: Since you wrote and illustrated Ben Franklin for Beginners, did using these two talents tap into different perspectives on Ben?
Ogline: I’ve had a lifelong passion for storytelling, and have always seen my professional work in graphic design and illustration as using iconographic and conceptual means to engage in storytelling… whether to communicate an idea or to convey a brand value proposition. Another principal medium I’ve used in the practice of storytelling has been in sequential narrative (i.e. comics), but I’ve always been interested in the written word as well and have enjoyed writing as much as making visual representations. Employing storytelling through the combination of text and illustrations in concert was a way for me to represent Ben Franklin, to tell his story.
WRR: What Ben Franklin quote most sums up your writing/ drawing process?
OGLINE: If you would not be forgotten,
as soon as you’re dead and rotten,
either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
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The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
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ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson