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“Benjamin Franklin”

 

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. He was the

tenth son of soap maker, Josiah Franklin. Benjamin's mother was Abiah

Folger, the second wife of Josiah. In all, Josiah would father 17

children.

 

Josiah intended for Benjamin to enter into the clergy. However, Josiah

could only afford to send his son to school for one year and clergymen

needed years of schooling. But, as young Benjamin loved to read he had

him apprenticed to his brother James, who was a printer. After helping

James compose pamphlets and set type which was grueling work,

12-year-old Benjamin would sell their products in the streets.

 

Apprentice Printer

 

When Benjamin was 15 his brother started The New England Courant the

first "newspaper" in Boston. Though there were two papers in the city

before James's Courant, they only reprinted news from abroad. James's

paper carried articles, opinion pieces written by James's friends,

advertisements, and news of ship schedules.

 

Benjamin wanted to write for the paper too, but he knew that James would

never let him. After all, Benjamin was just a lowly apprentice. So Ben

began writing letters at night and signing them with the name of a

fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Dogood was filled with advice and very

critical of the world around her, particularly concerning the issue of

how women were treated. Ben would sneak the letters under the print shop

door at night so no one knew who was writing the pieces. They were a

smash hit, and everyone wanted to know who was the real "Silence

Dogood."

 

After 16 letters, Ben confessed that he had been writing the letters all

along. While James's friends thought Ben was quite precocious and funny,

James scolded his brother and was very jealous of the attention paid to

him.

 

Before long the Franklins found themselves at odds with Boston's

powerful Puritan preachers, the Mathers. Smallpox was a deadly disease

in those times, and the Mathers supported inoculation; the Franklins'

believed inoculation only made people sicker. And while most Bostonians

agreed with the Franklins, they did not like the way James made fun of

the clergy, during the debate. Ultimately, James was thrown in jail for

his views, and Benjamin was left to run the paper for several issues.

 

Upon release from jail, James was not grateful to Ben for keeping the

paper going. Instead he kept harassing his younger brother and

administering beatings from time to time. Ben could not take it and

decided to run away in 1723.

 

Escape to Philadelphia

 

Running away was illegal. In early America, people all had to have a

place in society and runaways did not fit in anywhere. Regardless Ben

took a boat to New York where he hoped to find work as a printer. He

didn't, and walked across New Jersey, finally arriving in Philadelphia

via a boat ride. After debarking, he used the last of his money to buy

some rolls. He was wet, disheveled, and messy when his future wife,

Deborah Read, saw him on that day, October, 6, 1723. She thought him

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