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American History: Silence Dogood

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Silence Dogood was the pen name that Benjamin Franklin used at the age of sixteen. Young Franklin worked for his older brother James where he learned of his ability for writing, however his brother would not allow him to publish anything in the New England Courant. In an effort to get published, Franklin disguised his handwriting and style. He chose a middle aged widow as his vehicle to deliver his message.

Silence would rant about the local happenings of Boston. She would often poke fun at the religious hypocrites, the town drunks, the fashions of the day and the persecution of Women. She was a widow of a minister who had three kids and stated that she did not care for the life of a widow and would marry again. Franklin’s persona was so convincing that there were single men who upon finding out that Silence was single, proposed.

American History: Silence Dogood

James Franklin never knew that is was his younger brother Ben and not a middle aged widow who was writing the letters. It is an impressive feat for a sixteen year old to be able to pull a hoax like this off. This exceptional writing ability would bring him a fortune and thrust him into the national spotlight. Franklin had a knack for finding out what people wanted to talk about. Silence disappeared in Boston after fourteen letters, but Poor Richard would surface in Philadelphia some years later.