A Modest Man

I’m happy to report that my book about Linn Boyd Benton and Morris Fuller Benton is currently in the design phase at the RIT Press.

During the course of my most recent research for editing the book, I found an anonymous June 1893 Inland Printer article entitled “L. B. Benton,” which gives a brief summary of his life up to that point and a description of his famous punch cutter. One sentence in the article jumped out at me: “Mr. Benton is, like most men who have accomplished much, modest in discussing his achievements.” This succinct and eloquent description of Benton’s temperament is discussed at some length in my book. Linn Boyd Benton has been called a mechanical genius: “He was one of those people who could see with his hands.”[1] But despite this gift, modesty and humility were perhaps the salient characteristics of both Linn Boyd and his son, Morris Fuller Benton, endearing them to their associates but frustrating more than one writer who was trying to tell their story.

That 1893 Inland Printer sentence reminded me of a Greek proverb that my mother-in-law, who also doesn’t like to boast, has often repeated: Τό καλό φαίνετε (Toh kaló fénete), which she translates as, “The good shows.”

Recently I was talking with an RIT student who was raised in Japan. She told me that one of her favorite Japanese proverbs conveyed a similar sentiment. In Japanese it’s written like this:  能ある鷹は爪を隠す。(Nou aru taka wa tsume o kakusu.) A loose translation: “An eagle who knows how to use them well hides its talons.”

After thinking about the Bentons for more than 25 years, I have to say that I’m most impressed by this disposition of theirs. Even from the stories of Linn Boyd Benton’s exceptional childhood, told to me by his granddaughter Caroline Benton Gregg, I got the sense that not only was he a precocious child, but that as a child he was also already beginning to learn humility from his experiences. It may not be considered by many people an essential character trait these days, but St. Augustine wrote that, of all the virtues, the three most important were humility, humility, and humility.


[1] Theo Rehak, in conversation with Linn Boyd Benton’s granddaughter Elizabeth Benton Swain, October 1987.

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4 responses to “A Modest Man

  1. Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  2. I eagerly anticipate publication of your book. I am working on a research project concerning legibility (and Century Schoolbook,) so any information about the reticent Morris Fuller Benton, ATF, etc. is of great interest. Thank you!

  3. My father George Hall Dixon, who is now 91, was raised in part by MFB and Katrina Benton, his aunt and uncle. (Aunt Katrina was my grandmother’s sister) My father has very warm memories of the Bentons. Though the only one I remember right now is that Uncle Morris like to have a raw egg stirred up with tobasco sauce for breakfast.

  4. LEN BORKOWSKI

    I understand the BENTONS lived in WAUWATOSA,WI before they moved to the East Coast—I’m trying to find if this is true–What years ?–This would be a good story for the local Historical society/weekly paper.—LEN BORKOWSKI franlen1@milwpc.com

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