Benjamin Franklin and Visual Rhetoric

Some fascinating tidbits from Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln by James C. Humes:

When he [Franklin] arrived in Versailles to become the American minister to France, he wanted to stand out among the bewigged members of King Louis XVI’s court, who were garbed in the silk and velvet fashions of the day. Franklin’s daughter Sally said, “Poppa, you must buy new clothes if you’re going to Versailles.”

Franklin answered, “I want to look more like a pioneer than a prince.”

So instead of silk, Franklin wore just plain American broadcloth and no wig. … At a time when the “natural man” of Rousseau was the philosophical rage, Franklin played the role of the New World “natural man” and inspired a coterie of groupies.

In 1783, at the time the peace treated that ended the American War for Independence was signed, Benjamin Franklin sported his slightly tattered brown Manchester greatcoat that buttoned from the neck to the knees. Fellow peace commissioner John Adams berated him for wearing such attire on this glorious day for Americans. Franklin replied:
Adams, I wore this coat on that day of the “Cockpit Trial,” prosecuted by that British Attorney General Wedderburn about ten years ago, and I want to give my old brown coat a little revenge.(Humes 15)

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