While doing some shelf reading yesterday I ran across around little volume entitled The Art of Making Money Plenty in Every Man’s Pocket, printed by Samuel Wood around 1811. The get rich quick title caught my eye and when I opened it up I was fascinated to see that it was presented in the form of a rebus.As you can see from the portrait on the left-hand page, the text is attributed to Benjamin Franklin.It turns out to be a shortened and simplified adaptation of his Way to Wealth, a collection of advice and aphorisms about money first printed as “Father Abraham’s Speech” in the 1758 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac, which we also have in our collection. In the 1758 almanac, the financial advice began with the preface, and ran through the monthly pages as well, as you can see at the lower left of the December page shown below. The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin notes that “while some readers consider [it] a jest about money getting and money lending, most readers understand the narrative to stand in as Franklin’s lightly mocking advice, often not listened to, regarding working hard and saving one’s earnings rather than spending them on superfluities.” The Cambridge Companion also points out that The Way to Wealth proved to be a very popular instructional text for children and was printed over 80 times by 1850, in formats ranging from pamphlet to broadside to newspaper article and that “for less educated readers simplified and ever distorted versions of this text and others of Franklin’s also emerged” including The Art of Making Money Plenty, which was first published in 1791. The Library Company of Philadelphia has a nice online exhibit that highlights the evolution and different editions of The Way of Wealth and its derivatives.
Here is the text of our copy, which gives the rebus version above and a translation below. I really enjoy the images that are used in the rebus, including some that might be less familiar to us today, such as the car on the first page, the cann (a drinking vessel like a mug) on the second page, and the pockets on the fourth page (women’s pockets were a separate article of clothing worn either over or under the skirt).The Art of Making Money Plenty was also printed in broadside format, such as this 1817 version in the Library of Congress and an 1840 version at the Library Company of Philadelphia.