I had been working with “posts” to my “blog” for a while before it occurred to me that a post I published on Saturday Evening was a Saturday Evening Post. You wouldn’t think it would have taken me that long, but it did.
This Saturday, I want to honor Benjamin Franklin who assembled the first Saturday Evening Post and also Howard da Silva, who plays the part of Franklin on Broadway and in the movie version of 1776. John Adams prevails on him to write the Declaration of Independence. Franklin declines on the grounds that his prose doesn’t have the necessary gravity.
But, Mr. Adams
The things I write are only light extemporania
I won’t put politics on paper
It’s a mania
I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania
Howard da Silva makes a great Franklin, but there is more to his story than I knew. He was born Howard Silverblatt in Cleveland in 1909. He was charged as “a troublemaker” by fellow actor Robert Taylor and called before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. He refused to answer their questions and was promptly blacklisted.
I suspect that Stan Freberg knew that. You never really know about Freberg. It is true, nevertheless, that in his History of the United States, Volume 1, Freberg presents a little dialog between Franklin and Jefferson. Jefferson is trying to get Franklin to sign the Declaration of Independence. He calls it “a little petition I’ve been circulating around the neighborhood.” Franklin is reluctant.
Jefferson: Come on and put your name on the dotted line.
Franklin: I got to be particular what I sign.
Jefferson: It’s just a piece of paper
Franklin: Just a piece of paper, that’s what you say.
Jefferson: Come on and put your signature on the list.
Franklin: It looks to have a very subversive twist.
Jefferson: How silly to assume it. Won’t you nom de plume it today? You’re so skittish, who possibly could care if you do.
Franklin: The un-British Activities Committee, that’s who.
My guess is that Freberg knew da Silva or at least knew about him and that’s why the un-British Activities Committee shows up in the song. You sign a harmless piece of paper, Franklin whines, and “ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee.” He also says he’s too busy to be messing with politics. “You know,” he says, “every Saturday evening, I bring out the mag.”