Benjamin Franklin's Vision of American Community: A Study in Rhetorical Iconology

Lester C. Olsen

Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, April 2004. This book received two national awards: the Rhetoric Society of America’s 2005 Book Award and the 2005 Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award from the Public Address Division of the National Communication Association.


This book is an interesting and highly informative examination of iconography by an insightful scholar of eighteenth-century culture and a pioneer in the study of visual rhetoric. Through careful and extensive research, and by combining the theoretical and critical perspectives of rhetoric, history, and culture studies, Lester C. Olson has produced a genuinely original and most engaging work; this important book will appeal to scholars and students in disciplines across the humanities."— James R. Andrews, Professor Emeritus of Communication and Culture and American Studies, Indiana University

"Lester C. Olson demonstrates once again how visual ‘emblems and devices’ were an abiding interest of colonial persuaders. As he examines nuances in design and dissemination, Olson articulates a rich dimension of Benjamin Franklin’s artistry and charts key shifts in his political commitments. Along the way, he also reveals how the circulation and appropriation of images constitute democratic public culture."—Robert Hariman, Department for the Study of Culture and Society, Drake University

"Tracing the production, dissemination, and reception of four of Benjamin Franklin’s pictorial images depicting the British colonies, Lester C. Olson argues brilliantly that they constitute a significant historical record revealing the ‘transformation’ of Franklin’spolitics from Whig to republican. Olson’s scholarship is meticulous. The book provides an exemplary methodology for serious examination of the complexities of visual rhetoric and, I believe, will become a classic."—Diane S. Hope, William A. Kern Professor in Communications, Rochester Institute of Technology