Jazzy Ben Franklin




Jazz You’ll Never Know
by Margaret Hasse
Alex dresses up in a sweet black suit
for his Central High senior picture
holding his trumpet as if
he will raise it
like a silver night-blooming moonflower
to play “Sweet Georgia Brown” or “Almost Blue.”
Alex has sat in on jazz gigs in New Orleans,
San Francisco, D.C.
and Saint Paul.
He attends summer jazz camps, jazz competitions,
jazz schools,
listens to Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra records.
He once ate ice cream
named Jazz,
ate an apple
named Jazz,
hopes there’ll be a car
branded Jazz,
wears a cologne with notes
of jazzy fragrance from a blue bottle.
When he shakes his silver ID bracelet
his own name flashes on one side,
Louis Armstrong on the other.
Alex, I ask, what is it with you and jazz?
If you have to ask, Mom, he says, quoting his hero,
you’ll never know.
“Jazz You’ll Never Know” by Margaret Hasse from Earth’s Appetite. © Nodin Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.

It was on this day in 1775 that the Continental Congress established the Postal System. In the early days of colonial America, there was no centralized system for transporting correspondence — merchants or slaves carried letters between towns, and taverns or inns collected overseas mail. Early American settlements were coastal and relatively isolated from each other. Most mail was transatlantic, going from colonists to friends or relatives back in Europe. Mail that needed to be transported within the colonies was carried by postal riders, who rode alone through dense wilderness, marking the way by slashing marks into trees with axes.

In 1707, the British Crown officially took over the North American postal system, and appointed a series of postmasters general. One of these was Benjamin Franklin, who worked hard to make the system more organized and efficient.

In January of 1774, Franklin was fired from his post for being sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. By that point, revolutionaries had set up alternative systems to deliver mail without the Crown’s knowledge. These systems were invaluable for secret correspondence, but also as a way to publicize revolutionary materials to a wider audience — otherwise, when the revolutionaries published anti-British newspapers and pamphlets, the Crown post simply refused to deliver them. Americans supported the alternative mail systems as one more way to boycott England — the Crown mail service came to be seen as a form of taxation. Soon, this alternative system became the more popular and profitable of the two.

In May of 1775, the Second Continental Congress formed a committee to determine the best way of organizing this new alternative system. The six committee members, including Franklin and Samuel Adams, spent two months deliberating, and delivered a report on July 25th. The following day — on this day in 1775 — it was approved by the Congress, and the Postal System was established. Franklin was unanimously elected as postmaster general, with an annual salary of $1,000.

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