Ben Franklin Biography

Ben Franklin Biography

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Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. He was one of the seventeen children of Josiah Franklin, a soap maker. Josiah’s second wife, Abiah Folger mothered young Benjamin. As a child, Benjamin loved to read and at twelve years of age was apprenticed to his older brother, James, who was a printmaker. The family decided this would be best for young Benjamin after his father could only afford one year of studies in clergy for his son. James soon after started The New England Courant, the first newspaper in Boston to include opinionated articles written by James’s friends. At only fifteen, Benjamin wanted to be included in these chronicles. He created a fictional character known as “Silence Dogood” and wrote daily letters in regard to advice and criticisms toward the town. His creation was greatly admired by readers and soon young Benjamin confessed. His brother loathed and ignored him while his friends supported him; manifesting a great jealousy between the two brothers. Soon after, smallpox hit Boston and caused a great deal of religious debate with vaccination. Though the majority of the people believed that these vaccinations only worsened the conditions. However, they did not believe that James’s mockery of the clergy was just. He was thrown in prison for his prints and the company was left to Benjamin. However, upon his release, he was not grateful to his brother and took over.
Young Franklin knew that this was not the lifestyle he wanted and reacted to this by running away. He arrived in Philadelphia and used the last of his money to buy some rolls. He was wet and messy when his future wife, Deborah Read, met him on October, 6, 1723. She never imagined marrying him until 7 years later. Eventually, Franklin found work once again as an apprentice printer. He did so well that the governor of Pennsylvania promised to set him up in business if he went to London for print stamps and fonts. However, upon his arrival, the governor changed his mind, leaving young Franklin in England, once again printmaking. Upon his returning to Philadlephia, he opened up his own business on a loan and worked nonstop. Soon enough, the whole town became aware of his diligent lifestyle. Franklin was never caught wasting time. He proposed to Deborah after her husband had left her and they united with Benjamin’s son, William.

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In addition to the print shop, they owned a book store and another store selling goods that ranged from soaps to textiles. The town acknowledged this entrepreneurship and respected the newly wed couple.
In 1729, Franklin purchased, printed, and contributed the Pennsylvania Gazette. This would be the first paper to print a political cartoon. Soon after, Franklin established the Junto, a group of men dedicated to politics and literature and soon became extremely sociable. Franklin soon began his next work: Poor Richard's Almanack. This was a series of weather reports, homilies, and witty anecdotes compiled for a poor farmer to help support he and his wife. Benjamin’s work was once again the talk of the town. In the late 1730’s, Franklin arranged projects to clean up and repair Philadelphia and established the first Library Company in 1731. In 1743 he established the American Philosophical Society which set health standards and established the first hospital. This also established the first fire department which encouraged him to protect those who had already lost homes to fires. Franklin established the first insurance agency. As he progressed and retired, he began to study science. He invented a heat efficient stove, bifocals, and the glass armonica. His discovery of electricity acquired international fame.
As he progressed in these studies, Franklin also acquired a love for politics; achieving the position of representing Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Franklin considered himself an Englishman and dwelled upon staying there, but Deborah was afraid to travel by ship; leaving these plans behind. In 1765, Franklin was caught in the middle of the Stamp Act. His testimony before Parliament helped persuade the members to repeal the law and he began wondering if America should break free of England. He grew sick of the corruption he saw all around him in politics and royal circles and proposed a plan for the colonies in 1754. His plans took their toll in the “Hutchinson Affair." Thomas Hutchinson was an English-appointed governor of Massachusetts who pretended to take the side of the people of Massachusetts. Franklin uncovered letters between the parties and revealed this to the colonies. Franklin was condemned from England and came home. Franklin supported America, where his son did not. Causing a rift in the relationship never to be repaired.
Franklin was elected to the Second Continental Congress and worked on a committee to write the Declaration of Independence. Franklin is mainly acknowledged for his contribution because of his ambassadorship to France. The French loved him for his incredible wit and was also loved by the women. Franklin was very flirtatious after his wife had died several years before. Thanks to Franklin, The French signed a Treaty Of Alliance in 1778 and also Signed the Treaty of Paris after the Americans had won the Revolution. After returning to America, he became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania and served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention; signing the Constitution as well as an anti-slavery treaty in 1789. At the age of 84, on April 17, 1790, Franklin died in Pennsylvania where 20,000 people attended his funeral.


Abbott, John S. C. Benjamin Franklin. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1903.

Bodzin, Eugene Saul. “The American Popular Image of Benjamin Franklin, 1790-1868,” Ph. D. diss., University of Madison-Wisconsin, 1969.

Campbell, James. Recovering Benjamin Franklin: An Exploration Of A Life Of Science and Service. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1999.

Clark, Ronald W. Benjamin Franklin: A Biography. 1983. Reprint Edition, London: Phoenix, 2001.
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