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Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin was born at Ecton, Northamptonshire, England on December 23, 1657, the son of Thomas Franklin, a blacksmith and farmer, and Jane White. His mother, Abiah Folger, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts on August 15, 1667, to Peter Folger, a miller and schoolteacher, and his wife Mary Morrill a former indentured servant.
In around 1677, Josiah married Anne Child at Ecton; and over the next few years, this couple had three children, all of whom being half-siblings of Benjamin Franklin. They included: Elizabeth (March 2, 1678), Samuel (May 16, 1681), and Hannah (May 25, 1683).
Sometime during the second half of 1683, the Franklins left England for Boston, Massachusetts; and while in Boston, they had several more children, including: Josiah Jr. (August 23, 1685), Ann (January 5, 1687), Joseph (February 5, 1688), and Joseph (June 30, 1689) (the first Joseph having died soon after birth).
Josiah's first wife Anne died in Boston on July 9, 1689. He then remarried, to Abiah, on November 25, 1689 in the Old South Church of Boston by the Rev. Samuel Willard.
They had the following children: John (December 7, 1690), Peter (November 22, 1692), Mary (September 26, 1694), James (February 4, 1697), Sarah (July 9, 1699), Ebenezer (September 20, 1701), Thomas (December 7, 1703), Benjamin (January 17, 1706), Lydia (August 8, 1708), and Jane (March 27, 1712).
Autograph of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler, a maker of candles, who married twice. Josiah's marriages produced 17 children; Benjamin was the tenth and youngest son. His schooling ended at ten and at 12 he became an apprentice to his brother James, a printer who published the New England Courant. While a printing apprentice he wrote under the pseudonym of 'Silence Dogood' who was ostensibly a middle-aged widow. His brother and the Courant's readers did not initially know the real author. His brother was not impressed when he discovered his popular correspondent was his younger, precocious brother. He left his apprenticeship without permission and in so doing became a fugitive.
At the age of 17, Franklin ran away to Philadelphia, seeking a new start in a new city. When he first arrived he worked in several printer shops around town. However, he was not satisfied by the immediate prospects. After a few months, while working in a printing house, Franklin was induced by Pennsylvania Governor Sir William Keith to go to London, ostensibly to acquire the equipment necessary for establishing another newspaper in Philadelphia. Finding Keith's promises of backing a newspaper empty, Franklin worked as a compositor in a printer's shop in what is now the Church of St Batholomew the Great, Smithfield. Following this he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 with the help of a merchant named Thomas Denham, who gave Franklin a position as clerk, shopkeeper and bookkeeper in Denham's merchant business.
Upon Denham's death, Franklin returned to his former trade. By 1730, Franklin had set up a printing house of his own and had contrived to become the publisher of a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette. The Gazette gave Franklin a forum for agitation about a variety of local reforms and initiatives through printed essays and observations. Over time, his commentary, together with a great deal of savvy about cultivating a positive image of an industrious and intellectual young man, earned him a great deal of social respect.
Franklin established a common law marriage with a woman named Deborah Read in September, 1730. In 1724, while a boarder in her mother's home, Franklin had courted Deborah before going to London at Governor Kieth's behest. At that time, Miss Read's mother was somewhat wary of allowing her daughter to wed a seventeen year old on his way to London. Her own husband having recently died, Mrs. Read declined Franklin's offer of marriage.
While Franklin was finding himself in London, Deborah married a man named John Rodgers. This proved to be an regrettable decision. Rodgers shortly fled debt and prosecution by going to Barbados, leaving Deborah behind. With Rodgers' fate unknown, and bigamy an offense punishable by public whipping and imprisonment, Deborah was not free to remarry.
Franklin himself had his own actions to ponder. During 1730, Franklin acknowledged an illegitimate son named William, who eventually became the last Loyalist governor of New Jersey. While the identity of William's mother remains unknown, perhaps the responsibility of an infant child gave Franklin a reason to take up residence with Deborah Read. In any event, William eventually broke with his father over the treatment of the colonies at the hands of the crown, but was not above using his father's notoriety to enhance his own standing.
At a time when many colonial families consisted of six or more children, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin eventually had two. The first was Francis Folger Franklin, born October 1732. In one of the most painful moments of Franklin's life, the boy died of smallpox in the fall of 1736. A daughter, Sarah Franklin, was born in 1743. She eventually married a man named Richard Bache, had seven children, and cared for her father in his old age.
In 1732 Franklin began to issue the famous Poor Richard's Almanack (with content both original and borrowed) on which much of his popular reputation is based. Adages from this almanac such as "A penny saved is twopence clear" (often misquoted as "A penny saved is a penny earned") and "Fish and visitors stink in three days" remain common quotations in the modern world.
Franklin and several other members of a philosophical association joined their resources in 1731 and began the first public library in Philadelphia. The newly founded Library Company ordered its first books in 1732, mostly theological and educational tomes, but by 1741 the library also included works on history, geography, poetry, exploration and science. The success of this library encouraged the opening of libraries in other American cities, and Franklin felt that this enlightenment partly contributed to the American colonies' struggle to maintain their privileges.
In 1736 he created the Union Fire Company, the first volunteer firefighting company in America.
Franklin began to concern himself more with public affairs. In 1743, he set forth a scheme for The Academy and College of Philadelphia, which he was appointed President of on November 13, 1749. The Academy opened on August 13, 1751, and seven men graduated on May 17, 1757, at the first commencement; six with a Bachelor of Arts and one as Master of Arts. It was later merged with the University of the State ofPennsylvania, to become the University of Pennsylvania, today a member of the Ivy League. He founded an American Philosophical Society to help scientific men discuss their discoveries. He began the electrical research that, along with other scientific inquiries, would occupy him for the rest of his life (in between bouts of politics and money-making).
An illustration from Franklin's paper on "Water-spouts and Whirlwinds."
In 1748, he retired from printing and went into other businesses. He created a partnership with his foreman, David Hill, which provided Franklin with half of the shop's profits for 18 years. This lucrative business arrangement provided leisure time for study, and in a few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with the learned throughout Europe and especially in France.
These include his investigations of electricity. Franklin proposed