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Misquote: Ben Franklin on Beer


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  • A TIP of the glass to Dick Stevens, owner of the Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus in Columbus, Ohio, who announced the recall of a batch of promotional t-shirts featuring a witticism frequently — but erroneously — attributed to founding father Benjamin Franklin.

    As reported by Aria Munro of eNewsChannels.com on Sep. 15, 2008:

    Beer-themed web sites, brewing organizations and even "beer writers" are fond of quoting Franklin and his supposed love of beer — "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." But after recently hearing a lecture by Chicago-based brewing historian, Bob Skilnik, that convincingly asserts that Franklin was writing about rain, its nourishment of grapes, and ultimately, its conversion into wine, Stevens decided to do his part in correcting this historical inaccuracy. 

    "I hope that we can set the record straight about this little white lie that has been repeated for years," Stevens said in a press release. "I have no doubt that ole Ben enjoyed a tankard or two of beer with friends and associates, but this beer quote, while well-meaning, is inaccurate."

    The aforementioned Skilnik, author of Beer & Food - An American History, has issued a challenge to promulgators of the quote to come forward with proof, reported my colleague (and fellow beer drinker) Bryce Eddings in 2007. There have been no takers so far.

    For the record, here, in a letter addressed to André Morellet in 1779, is what Benjamin Franklin actually did say:

    Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

    (Source: Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. p.374.)

    Yet more questionable quotes:
    Did Mitt Romney Say "Of Course I'll Win, I'm the White Guy"?
    Did Julius Caesar Say "Beware the Leader Who Bangs the Drums of War"?
    Did Marie Antoinette Say "Let Them Eat Cake"?
    Did Neil Armstrong Say "Good Luck, Mr. Gorsky" on the Moon?
    Did Sarah Palin Say "God Made Dinosaurs 4,000 Years Ago"?
    Did Ronald Reagan Say "I Hope You're All Republicans" to His E.R. Surgeons?
    Did JFK Say "I Am a Jelly Donut" to the People of Berlin?

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