Extract from Thomas Jefferson’s Anecdotes of Benjamin Franklin

“I have made it a rule, said he, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. when I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice Hatter ... was about to open shop for himself—his first concern was to have a handsome sign-board, with a proper inscription. he composed it in these words ‘John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hatsfor ready money,’ with a figure of a hat subjoined: but he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. the first he shewed it to thought the word ‘Hatter,’ tautologous, because followed by the words ‘makes hats’ which shew he was a Hatter. it was struck out. the next observed that the word ‘makes’ might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats. if good & to their mind, they would buy, by whomsoever made. he struck it out. a third said he thought the words ‘for ready money,’ were useless as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit, every one who purchased expected to pay. they were parted with, and the inscription now stood ‘John Thomson sells hats.’ ‘sells hats’ says his next friend? why nobody will expect you to give them away. what then is the use of that word? it was stricken out, and ‘hats’ followed it, the rather, as there was one painted on the board. so his inscription was reduced ultimately to ‘John Thomson’ with the figure of a hat subjoined.”

PoC (DLC).
Author
Thomas Jefferson
Date Range
Date
December 4, 1818
Collection
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson