Sunday, June 21, 2009

Benjamin Franklin, Twice Born-Again

Obviously I'm not talking about Benjamin Franklin's religious convictions, but it's interesting to note that two modern businesses have cropped up and claim at least a tangential relation to some 18th century business or another with which Franklin was associated.

I'll start with the more famous example, the Saturday Evening Post. If you go to their website today, you'll run across this text:

The grand legacy of The Saturday Evening Post has endured for nearly 300 years in part due to the creativity and innovation of its founders, publishers, editors and cover artists. The rich history of the Post has been thoughtfully reaching its readers since a time before America yet existed.

The story of The Saturday Evening Post begins with Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, first published in 1728, and became known as The Saturday Evening Post in 1821.

Well...sort of. Yes, there was a Pennsylvania Gazette that was published in 1728. Yes, Benjamin Franklin was associated with the paper (but not until 1729). And the Pennsylvania Gazette was published for many years after that, and the Saturday Evening Post began to be published in 1821. But what the Post website neglects to mention is that the Pennsylvania Gazette ceased publication in 1800.

So what's the connection between a paper that ceased publication in 1800, and one that emerged in 1821? A common print shop.

But there's another Franklin-related business that doesn't advance spurious claims, but instead says that it was inspired by a Franklin-connected business. First, let's look at the original:

The Tun Tavern (the "Tavern") was a brew house built by Samuel Carpenter in 1685. It was located on Philadelphia's historic waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley leading to Carpenter's Wharf near what is today known as "Penn's Landing."...

In 1732, the first meetings of the St. John's #1 Lodge, a Grand Lodge of the Masonic Temple, were held at the Tavern. The election of the first Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was held at the Tavern; subsequently Benjamin Franklin was its third Grand Master. The Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, recognizes the Tavern as the birthplace of the Masonic teachings in this country; there are estimated to be over 2.3 million Masons in the United States today....

In the early 1740's, the then proprietor expanded the Tavern into "Peggy Mullan's Red Hot Beef Steak Club at Tun Tavern," which was known to host George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and on occasion the lst and 2nd Continental Congress....

In 1756, Colonel Benjamin Franklin organized the Pennsylvania Militia and utilized the Tavern as a gathering place to recruit the area's first regiment of soldiers to suppress Indian uprisings.

So there are a lot of Franklin connections, but this particular story was the most fascinating one:

On November 10, 1775, Robert Mullan, the proprietor of the Tavern and son of Peggy Mullan, was commissioned by an act of Congress to raise the first two battalions of Marines, under the leadership of Capt. Samuel Nicholas, the first appointed Commandant of the Continental Marines. Nicholas's grandfather was also a member of the Tun Tavern Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and it is this relationship between Mullan, Nicholas and the Tavern which has resulted in Tun Tavern being acknowledged as the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps. There are an estimated three million active and retired U.S. Marines worldwide who have been exposed in their military training to the historical significance of Tun Tavern. Each year on November 10th, around the world Marines toast the Marine's birthplace on the most significant date in the history of the Corps.

This history inspired Montgomery S. Dahm to create a restaurant and brewery, based in Atlantic City, named after the original Tun Tavern. But he didn't stop there:

The [Tun Tavern Foundation] was formed in 1991 as a non-profit corporation for the purpose of reconstructing an exact replica of the Tun Tavern as a museum. It solicits tax-deductible contributions for that purpose.

The Foundation elected to enter into an exclusive Licensing Agreement (April 21, 1994) with Tun Tavern Brewing Company, Inc.; whereby the Foundation receives a license fee from sales of Tun Tavern beer and future product extensions.

Their mission statement is to rebuild Tun Tavern as a museum. The City of Philadelphia executed a 50 year lease in October of 1994 on a 7,000 square foot plot of land at the corner of 2nd & Spruce Streets with the Foundation.
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