Ben Franklin's weekends
October 15, 2012 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Did Benjamin Franklin have a weekend schedule? Looking at his daily schedule makes me curious as to whether he adhered to it seven days a week or if he did something different on Saturday and Sunday.

I've read that weekends weren't established for the working class in the US until the labor movement pushed for it in the 1800s, so I'm not sure if any Americans "practiced" weekends before then.
posted by ignignokt to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: After reading that again, I think this clarification is needed: I don't actually need Benjamin Franklin's weekend schedule. All I want to know is if he rested on weekends.
posted by ignignokt at 7:52 AM on October 15, 2012

While the weekend was not established at the time, Sunday was kept as a day of rest. Franklin wasn't very religious and would seldom attend church on a Sunday, but his autobiography mentions that he enjoyed "Sunday's leisure", which took the form of private study. Perhaps he still kept to his schedule but simply replaced the 'work' with working on whatever he liked, though I'm just speculating in that regard.
posted by notionoriety at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2012

Best answer: I don't know, but looking at his autobiography, these are the contexts in which the word Sunday appears:

- My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my father used to exact on me when I was under his care [. . .]
[so he grew up in a home where Sundays were for religion and the printing shop was closed]

- Then one of the company knew the place to be Cooper's Creek, a little above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out of the creek, and arriv'd there about eight or nine o'clock on the Sunday morning, and landed at the Market-street wharf. [. . .] Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's he directed me to, in Secondstreet, and ask'd for bisket [. . .] Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this time had many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking the same way. I joined them, and thereby was led into the great meeting-house of the Quakers near the market. I sat down among them [. . .] Walking down again toward the river, and, looking in the faces of people, I met a young Quaker man, whose countenance I lik'd, and, accosting him, requested he would tell me where a stranger could get lodging. [. . .] He brought me to the Crooked Billet in Water-street. Here I got a dinner [. . .]
[so you could travel on Sundays, or at least finish a journey then. At least one bakery operated and there was apparently nothing strange about that. There were Quaker meetings on Sundays, and you could get a room and a meal at an inn (or whatever the Crooked Billet was)]

- My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading. [. . .] Many pleasant walks we four had together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where we read to one another, and conferr'd on what we read.
[Franklin was around 18 then, apparently]

- I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho' some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles.

- Tho' I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. He us'd to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish me to attend his administrations, and I was now and then prevail'd on to do so, once for five Sundays successively. Had he been in my opinion a good preacher, perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday's leisure in my course of study [. . .]

As for "Sabbath":

- Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere in the Mosaic law it is said, "Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard." He likewise kept the Seventh day, Sabbath; and these two points were essentials with him. I dislik'd both [. . .]
[Of course, not 'keeping the Sabbath' doesn't mean that he did not take the day off from his regular work]

- We never worked on Saturday, that being Keimer's Sabbath, so I had two days for reading.
[the other day almost certainly being Sunday, and the fact that Franklin didn't feel the need to say this implies it was a matter of course. Keimer was his employer at the time]

- (another reference about the aforementioned Presbyterian minister and a sermon he gave)

Other things to look into, if you're interested, would be the publication schedule of the Pennsylvania Gazette or any other papers he worked on (I don't know if they were dailies, though), as well as competing newspapers. The autobiography repeatedly mentions Sunday as a day for reading or hanging out with people, though it's not certain whether that was a lifelong habit or just what he did during the particular years he was describing. I would be surprised if he took Saturday off generally, except during the period when he worked for Keimer, whose version of Sabbath-keeping was unusual enough to point out twice.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 9:00 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Two more datapoints:

- he didn't (intend to) take Sundays off with respect to good behavior (his diagram for keeping track of faults)

- a picture of an "ivory memorandum book" like the one he mentions in his bio, containing pages for only 6 days of the week. This website claims that "Franklin both sold such notebooks and transferred his table of virtues onto one."
posted by people? I ain't people! at 9:21 AM on October 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! At this point, it seems likely that he took Sunday off, but not Saturday.
posted by ignignokt at 6:50 AM on October 16, 2012

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