Benjamin Franklin’s Last Gamble: The Dividing Death of the Favorite Founder, the Enduring Afterlife, and the Blueprint for American Prosperity (Mariner), by Michael Meyer

Benjamin Franklin added “obvious” to the line “We hold these truths” in the Declaration of Independence. He was also America’s first diplomat, invented the lightning rod and bifocal lenses, and urged compromise at the Constitutional Convention – when he wasn’t coining phrases (“A penny saved is a penny…”) that have lasted for centuries. Less remembered are the pair of endowments he created in Boston and Philadelphia, lending money at low interest rates to help “tradesmen,” skilled laborers, establish careers.

With Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet, Michael Meyer, professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, explores this revolutionary act of philanthropy and how it has been used or abused over time. Unlike the vociferous philanthropists of today, with their showy demands and naming rights, Franklin’s legacy was intended to quietly foster the growth of a skilled workforce and support trade schools, much like the mission of MATC.

As Meyer notes in his engaging account, Franklin would be disappointed by the scarcity of young people these days who are willing to roll up their sleeves and learn how to snake a drain or fix a slamming air conditioner.

David Luhrssen

David Luhrssen has taught at UWM and MIAD. He is the author of The Vietnam War on Film, Encyclopedia of Classic Rock and Hammer of the Gods: Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism.

Read more by David Luhrssen

May 05, 2022

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