Young Franklin in Boston
Born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was the fifteenth child and the tenth son of Josiah and Abiah Franklin. His father attempted to “tithe” his son to the church in preparation for the clergy, but the expense was too great. Young Franklin was pulled out of school and, at age twelve, apprenticed to his older brother James, a printer.
In 1721 James Franklin published one of the earliest newspapers in America, The New-England Courant, the first to include literary pieces and essays in a newspaper format. The younger Franklin was drawn to the idea of appearing in print and submitted several failed efforts to make it into the pages of his brother’s paper. Finally, at age sixteen, under the pen name of Silence Dogood, Benjamin Franklin developed a character whose commentary appealed to James, which resulted in the publication of fifteen of Mrs. Dogood’s letters in the Courant.
When James Franklin finally learned of the true authorship of the letters, his anger separated the brothers. Soon thereafter James was charged and imprisoned for “scandalous libel” for controversial content in his paper. Benjamin left Boston and settled in Philadelphia. When the Courant was suppressed in 1727, James and Ann Franklin moved to Rhode Island and established that colony’s first press that same year in Newport.