Episode 28: Ben Franklin and the Leeds Devil

As long as there has been written word, there have been written feuds. And as long as there have been American news sources, there has been determination to steal market share from one another.

Just ask Benjamin Franklin, an OG publishing troll.

This week, we celebrate our belated Hybrid Pub Scout anniversary by having an Emily and Corinne only podcast. We discuss the new Barnes & Noble CEO and dig up a historical flame war that led to an urban legend that has given New Jersey a LOT of material.


We discuss Corinne’s acting skills and the biggest high school drama role she ever had that she totally forgot. Also, Corinne’s high school drama teacher said she wasn’t bitchy enough! She’s grown so much.

If you have an iPhone, please review us on Apple podcasts, even if you don’t listen through that app. Pleeeeeaaaaaseee.

We believe in you!


It’s been over a year since we embarked on a co-hosting adventure for this podcasting. Corinne basically invited herself in the middle of her interview, and I was SO glad she did. You can listen to that very episode right here.

Also Corinne talks about her podcast beefs, proving to her high school drama teacher how she has TRULY developed as a human being.


We talk about how much we miss just shooting the shit. You all can now look forward to the return of the Emily/Corinne goofball podcasts. We’re thinking of doing some history-of-publishing-stories similar to what we’ve done in this episode? What do you think? Let us know on our social media accounts linked below!


Buckle up, folks, Corinne’s got an article about Barnes & Noble’s recent changes through Elliot Advisors’ purchase. Someone is finally (probably!) replacing Len Riggio for good. Also I couldn’t find an applause sound effect because I didn’t look for an applause sound effect.


When we say kitsch, we mean nostalgia. We admit to our embarrassing 90s Nostalgia Pinterest boards. Also, here is the Tumblr account of photocopied Delia’s pages. You’re welcome.


Here’s a non-obituary postmortem on Len Riggio’s storied career from Shelf Awareness.


Emily introduces the book she’s been reading and how it ties in to today’s theme. And almost completely informs it as well—The Secret History of the Jersey Devil by Brian Regal and Frank Esposito!


We lay down the legendary story of Mother Leeds’s 13th child and its hooves, bleathery blat wings, and tail. It flew out the chimney and has haunted the New Jersey Pine Barrens ever since. Sounds like someone drew devil horns on her baby’s vision board.) Also we can’t be bothered to look up Atlantic City on a map, but here’s the book Emily read about it.


Why are we talking about this? Turns out publishing and politics helped create this legend, specifically pamphlet feuds. These were the protracted versions of the modern flame war (sure it’s an antiquated term. Shut up.).


Through pamphlet feuds, we learn about the trash print media of 1700s Pennsylvania. Corinne talks about her experiences having to look up the new slang that the kids are saying these days.


The Leeds family was an actual family who lived at the mouth of the Delaware River in the late 1600s and early 1700s, and we’re introduced to a Quaker named Daniel Leeds. Quakers are a pretty progressive group when it comes to a lot of things, but not Leeds’s favorite subject: astrology. He created a pamphlet that had some occult explorations and the very people he was trying to impress were…nonplussed.

Daniel Leeds’s desired legacy as an intellectual didn’t quite pan out how he wanted it to.


The pamphlet war between Daniel Leeds and the Quakers begins. The word “strumpet” comes into play. Could this possibly get any better? Spoiler alert: It does.


“Satan’s Harbinger” passes along responsibility for the Leeds Almanac to his son Titan Leeds. And from there, we move on to the inexplicably lady-killing founding father Benjamin Franklin.

Btw, please enjoy this, this, this, this, and this cartoon from Kate Beaton featuring our naughty founding father.


Hear ye the extremely Capricorn early history of Ben Franklin’s publishing career. This includes his too-cool-for-school attitude and the first nom de plume he ever used to get one over on someone, in this case his brother James. No, Corinne, it was not Frenjamin Branklin.


Young Franklin strikes out on his own, illegally leaving his internship early and heading to Philadelphia, then London, then back. We’re also pretty sure he started going bald from stress.


The boys are back in town! Franklin returns to Philadelphia to see what kind of trouble he can stir up. This includes a library, some questionable political pamphlets, printing the Bible (when it was against the law for anyone but the King’s Press to do so). Also, for further reading, here is what the Benjamin Franklin Historical Society has to say about Ben Franklin’s changing views on slavery.


Poor Richard’s almanac debuts in 1733, and with it a brand new pseudonym. We circle back to Titan Leeds, who is currently running the most popular almanac in Pennsylvania. But not for long, if Ben Franklin has anything to do with it.


Poor Titan Leeds takes Franklin’s trolling way too seriously, stirring up the feud even further. He takes the fight to his grave. And beyond, if Richard Saunders is to be believed.

They’ll do anything to sell those almanacs.


Once Leeds actually dies, Benjamin Franklin comes clean and behaves in a respectful manner regarding the death of his rival. Lol jk!


Somehow this all got wrapped up in the lore of the Jersey Devil. And now. Here we are.


Corinne stans New Jersey. Theoretically.

This week’s sources:

What are we reading??


Normal People by Sally Rooney of which Erin Pehlivan is a huge fan. We talked about it in Episode 21.


The Secret History of the Jersey Devil by Brian Regal and Frank Esposito

Hybrid Pub Scout is connecting a community of readers, writers, and publishing professionals to build a better publishing world. Sign up here for free podcast updates and news about all the amazing projects that our contributors are putting out. 

Share this post!

Join our troop

Be a part of our growing community of readers, writers, and publishing professionals who are working together to create a better literary world!