A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 04, 2014
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is often credited with the following quotation about education:

“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

There is no documentary evidence that these words are from Benjamin Franklin. A book by the Library of Congress, Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (2010), listed the quotation as “Unverified.”

The earliest evidence comes from the Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, MA) on November 29, 1848:

“Dr. Franklin, in speaking of education, says: ‘If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.’”

The quotation was changed in the Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, MA) on February 16, 1849:

“A SAFE INVESTMENT. Dr. Franklin, speaking of education, says: ‘If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.’”

A different version appeared in many newspapers in 1852:

“‘A man can find nowhere so good a Savings Bank as by emptying his purse into his head. Knowledge is the best capital he can possess; it is at his command every moment, and always above par.’—Doctor FRANKLIN.”


Wikipedia: Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin FRS (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and in many ways was “the First American”. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and a university.

29 November 1848, Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, MA), pg. 1, col. 5:
Dr. Franklin, in speaking of education, says: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.”

5 December 1848, Newark (NJ) Daily Advertiser, pg. 2, col. 4:
Dr. Franklin, in speaking of education, says—“If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.”

Chronicling America
9 January 1849, Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis, IN), pg. 2, col. 3:
A SAFE INVESTMENT.—Dr. Franklin, in speaking of education, says: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.”

Chronicling America
10 February 1849, Saturday Morning Visitor (Warsaw, MO), pg. 2, col. 3:
Dr. Franklin, in speaking of education, says: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take his treasure from him.”

16 February 1849, Daily Evening Transcript (Boston, MA), pg. 2,. col. 5:
A SAFE INVESTMENT. Dr. Franklin, speaking of education, says: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

21 September 1852, Easton (MD) Star, pg. 3, col. 3:
“A man can find nowhere so good a Savings Bank as by emptying his purse into his head. Knowledge is the best capital he can possess; it is at his command every moment, and always above par.”—Doctor FRANKLIN.

Chronicling America
5 October 1852, Meigs County Telegraph (Pomeroy, OH), pg. 3. col. 4:
“A man can find nowhere so good a Savings Bank as by emptying his purse into his head. Knowledge is the best capital he can possess; it is at his command every moment, and always above par.”—DR. FRANKLIN.

Chronicling America
10 November 1858, The Raftsman’s Journal (Clearfield, PA), pg. 3, col. 2:
Dr. Franklin, speaking of education, says: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Google Books
Respectfully Quoted:
A Dictionary of Quotations

Edited by the Library of Congress
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
2010
Pg. 185:
If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.

Attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Poor Richard, in The Home Book of Quotations, ed. Burton Stevenson, 10th ed., p. 1054 (1967), and The Home Book of American Quotations, ed. Bruce Bohle, p. 220 (1967). Unverified.

Google Books
Benjamin Franklin:
American Founder, Atlantic Citizen

By Nathan R. Kozuskanich
New York, NY: Routledge
2014
Pg. ?:
How do we know that Franklin never said that “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”? First, simple keyword searching reveals that the phrase appears nowhere, in whole or in part, in Yale’s Franklin Papers. It does not appear in any pamphlet or newspaper published before 1818, including Franklin’s own Pennsylvania Gazette

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, November 04, 2014 • Permalink