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American History: Young Benjamin Franklin

Young Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Josiah and Abiah Franklin on January 17, 1706.

Josiah was a diligent worker, frugal and disciplined. He believed that his son would one day become a minister so he began to prepare him for a life of clergy. Young Ben did not share the interest and when his father realized this he took his young boy around the city of Boston to get him acquainted with the different vocations. Even as a young boy Ben showed a love for reading and would eventually choose printing as his vocation.

One of this first jobs as a printer was as an apprentice to his older brother, James. James ran the newspaper, The New England Courant. It was here that Benjamin Franklin would cut his teeth as a printer.

While working under the strict hand of his brother, young Benjamin Franklin, under a pseudonym, penned the letters of Silence Dogood. In order to hide the identity from his brother Franklin disguised his handwriting and wrote as a middle aged woman. Once his brother learned that Silence Dogood was in fact his younger brother, he was not happy. Thirsting for more freedom he ran away to seek new opportunities in Philadelphia at the age of 17.

While in Philadelphia he worked with many different printers and began courting Deborah Reed. During this time he became acquainted with Pennsylvania Governor Sir William Keith. Sir William led Franklin to believe that he had the financial backing for his own print shop so he sailed to London to acquire the equipment. Once he arrived he learned that Sir William Keith was an untrustworthy man and his word meant very little. Unfortunately Franklin did not have enough money to sail back to Philadelphia so he worked in London.

American History: Young Benjamin Franklin

While in London young Benjamin Franklin showed great discretion and frugality. He did not drink beer like many of the others. He exercised and even taught swimming. Although he squandered some of his money through pleasure and relationships that had gone sour, Franklin learned to live on very little and waste nothing. This brief time spent in London, while disappointing, taught him many lessons. Once he arrived back in Philadelphia he began work under a merchant and believed to be done with printing.

He and some of the young entrepreneurs and intellectuals of Philadelphia organized a group called “The Junto” which would meet and discuss various topics such as philosophy, politics, and their latest readings.Young Benjamin Franklin and the others would often share their books which gave him an idea for a public library. The members of the Junto also gave Franklin quite a few important connections. These young men would turn into successful merchants and businessmen and some of Philadelphia’s most influential men.

Eventually Benjamin Franklin entered into the printing business again and became the owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette. He quickly rose to success and proceeded to agitate many in public office. He would often write under many different pseudonyms to bring his points across. This gave him the ability to argue for/against local reforms. It also preserved his image as a hard working young man. Franklin was not shy about allowing many different opinions in his gazette. This caused quite the stir and many challenged this practice. Franklin masterfully defended it by summing up John Milton when he argued in his “Apology of Printers” that Truth and Error deserve fair play and if given that fair play, people would inevitably choose truth.

Young Benjamin Franklin married Deborah Read and had two children, along with one illegitimate son William. His daughter, Sally, was a source of lifelong joy who would take care of him in his elderly years. His young son Frankie would be a source of lifelong pain after his death at 6 years old. The tale of William is tragic. William and his father were close all the way up until the American Revolution when William sided with the British and Franklin with the Americans. They would speak once before the war and then never speak again.

Franklin joined a Freemason lodge and rose quickly to Grand Master.

He came to Philadelphia with nothing more than a couple rolls in his pocket and the clothes on his back and through hard work he would eventually stand before kings.