Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Peters, 17 September 1754

To Richard Peters

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

New York, Sept. 17. 1754

Dear Sir

The Bearer, Mr. Elphinston,5 has a secret Art, by which he teaches, even a veteran Scrawler, to write fairly in 30 Hours. I have often heard you laugh at the Secretary’s Writing,6 and I hope he will take this Opportunity of mending his Hand; for tho’ we are about to have a new Governor,7 and, they say, a new Assembly, I do not desire to see a new Secretary: I only think it convenient that what he writes may possibly be read.

But to be serious. Many Gentlemen and Ladies of this Place have improv’d their Hands exceedingly under this Gentleman’s Direction, and in a Time so short, as is really surprizing; the Testimonies will be produc’d to you. Mr. Elphinstone visits Philadelphia, hoping, from the Character of the Place, that so useful an Art will not fail to meet with Encouragement there. He bears the Character here of an honest worthy Man, and as such I beg leave to recommend him to your Patronage. With the greatest Respect, I am, Dear Sir, Your affectionate humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. I have heard our good Friend Mr. Allen8 sometimes wishing for a better Hand; this may be a good Opportunity for him to acquire it easily. His Example and yours would be the Making of the Artist’s Fortune.

R. Peters Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5William Elphinstone (fl. 1750–1775), writing master of New York, advertised in Pa. Gaz., Sept. 26, 1754, that he could teach children to write legibly in five weeks and could improve the penmanship of adults, bringing it “to a neat regular form, accompanied with a free easy air, extremely well adapted to business.” He returned to New York in 1755, remaining there through 1775, except for a short stay in Boston, 1756, and a return to Philadelphia, 1758. Pa. Gaz., May 6, 1756, April 27, 1758; Robert F. Seybolt, Source Studies in American Colonial Education: The Private School (Urbana, Ill., 1923), pp. 84–5, 94. William Alexander of New York also wrote Peters, Sept. 16, 1754, introducing Elphinstone and recommending his specimens of penmanship, some of them “so surprising that they almost want a Voucher to make the honesty of them believed.” I Pa. Arch., II, 170.

6A private joke. Secretary Richard Peters’ hand might have profited by Elphinstone’s attentions.

7Gov. Robert Hunter Morris reached Philadelphia on October 3. Pa. Gaz., Oct. 3, 1754.

8Chief Justice William Allen.

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