A phenomenal polymath, Benjamin Franklin was—perhaps—the most peripatetic of all the Founding Fathers: a statesman, diplomat, and philosopher, he published periodicals, Poor Richard’s Almanack–which sold 10,000 annually between 1732-1758–pamphlets, and a two-volume autobiography.
In the scientific sphere, he invented the still-available Franklin Stove— (1741); 1750’s Lightning Rod; the flexible catheter (1752)—and—bifocals (1784).
According to History.com, Franklin was just 12 years old in 1729 when he “became the official printer of currency for the colony of Pennsylvania.” He published Poor Richard’s just three years later “along with the Pennsylvania Gazette, one of the colonies’ first and best newspapers. In 1757 he went to London representing Pennsylvania in its dispute with England and later spent time in France. He returned to America in March 1775, with war on the horizon. He served on the Second Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. He was also instrumental in persuading the French to lend military assistance to the colonies. He died in Philadelphia in 1790.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.
On December 23, 1783, George Washington resigned as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army, and retired to Mount Vernon.
In a pithy announcement to Congress, he declared: “Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence, a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task; which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.”
History.com writes there were “political factions” in Congress that “wanted Washington to become the new nation’s king” but by declining the offer and resigning his military post at the end of the war fortified the republican foundations of the new nation.”
Six years later, he ascended to the presidency.
The Grateful American Book Prize suggests The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789 by Edward J. Larson.
On December 28, 1869, the Knights of Labor had—what may have been–the first Labor Day ceremonies, but it wasn’t until 1884 that the American Federation of Labor declared First Monday-In-September Observance.
Over time, acknowledgement of the holiday has had a deep impact. According to History.com, “in the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories, and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.”
The Grateful American Book Prize proposes Ferris M. Washington’s Labor Day, A Day To Remember.: All You Need To Know About Labor Day, Its History and Importance. How It Began and What It Now Means.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.