Signatures on envelopes – Free franks
Benjamin Franklin was a printer, an inventor, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was also frugal. It was his “mission.” When he hit the ripe old age (for then!) of 20, Franklin decided to embark on what he called “moral perfection.” He created a list of four resolutions to follow. He resolved to become more frugal so that he could save enough money to repay what he owed to others.
So Franklin had one eye on the mail and one eye on his bottom line. And the “father” of the future U.S. postal system took advantage of a nice “perk” while serving as postmaster of the American colonies. He enjoyed a “franking privilege.”
To send his missives on their way, all Franklin had to do was sign his name on an envelope and write the word “free.” No fuss, no muss, and no stamp. Now frugal Franklin may have been tight with a buck, but he was very generous with his political protests. And instead of signing his mail “B. Franklin, Free”, the sneaky devil wrote, “B. Free Franklin.”
It was a clever subliminal message broadcasting his commitment to gaining freedom and independence from the English government. Recently this special “protest signature frank” sold for over $18,000.
The Franklin Privilege still exists today. You can see examples of it when you receive official mail from your Congressperson or Senator. And you thought that wigged-out old trickster just fooled around with kites!