Made of wood, this composing stick has a head, knee, and rail faced with brass, and used the slotted knew and screw system, standard at the time, to fix the length of the line of type being set. According to Henry Lewis Bullen, who acquired it for the American Type Founders Company Library, it was used by Franklin and his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. Columbia University purchased the American Type Founders Co. Library & Museum in 1941.
The composing stick may have been purchased in France in the 1780s when Benjamin Franklin was serving as United States minister to France. During this period, Franklin operated his own private press in his house at Passy, outside of Paris. He used his press there to produce leaflets, broadsides, and even passports for American citizens. As a young man, Franklin worked at his brother’s printing shop in Boston and then started his own press in Philadelphia. In both Boston and Philadelphia, Franklin wrote and published newspaper articles critical of the British monarchy and urging revolution.