Young Benjamin Franklin

LESSER-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

"Benjamin Franklin, at a young age, possessed a curiosity and determination that was truly insatiable; his pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement would go on to shape not only his own life, but the very fabric of a nation."

– Thomas Jefferson

On a brisk January morn in 1706, in the bustling town of Boston, Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin took his first breath as the 15th of a brood of 17 children.

His father, Josiah Franklin, earned his living by the honest trade of soap and candle making, while his mother, Abiah Folger, toiled to raise their sprawling family.

Young Benjamin's schooling was brief, for at the tender age of ten, his father whisked him away from the books to labor in the family business.

Despite his keen mind and industrious spirit, Franklin found little joy in the soap and candle shop. His heart yearned for the open sea and the life of a sailor, yet fate had other plans for our young hero.

For it was to his brother James' printing enterprise that Benjamin was sent, apprenticed to learn the trade of the wordsmith.

And so, a new chapter of his life began.

HE INVENTED A FAKE PSEUDONYM 

Silence Dogood
© History Oasis

While working alongside his brother, Benjamin discovered a burning passion for the written word.

In an effort to hone his craft and reach the eyes of the world, he conceived a most cunning plan: to adopt the persona of "Mrs. Silence Dogood."

Through this clever guise, he published his thoughts in the pages of James Franklin's very own newspaper, The New-England Courant.

At the green age of 16, Benjamin took on the character of a middle-aged widow, wry and keen-eyed, and penned a series of 14 letters under the nom de plume.

His musings on life in colonial America were met with great acclaim, and the public eagerly awaited each installment from the fictional Mrs. Dogood.

Yet all good things must come to an end, and young Franklin's ruse was eventually uncovered by his brother James, who responded with ire and resentment.

And so, with his apprenticeship in tatters, Benjamin fled the confines of Boston and set sail for the city of Philadelphia.

HE WAS VEGETARIAN (KIND-OF)

Benjamin Franklin as a vegetarian
© History Oasis

Though Benjamin Franklin is known for his many inventions and contributions to the sciences, few are aware that he once dabbled in the abstemious practice of vegetarianism.

Inspired by the teachings of Thomas Tryon in "Wisdom's Dictates," Franklin adopted a meatless diet, believing it to be both morally and physically superior.

Though he never purported to possess the secret to eternal health through vegetarianism alone, Franklin's foray into the world of plant-based diets played a role in shaping the thoughts and habits of others, such as Sylvester Graham and William Alcott.

Their combined influence laid the groundwork for the modern vegetarian movement.

HE FLED TO PHILLY

young Benjamin Franklin in Philly
© History Oasis

At 17 years old, Franklin embarked on a daring escape to Philadelphia, where he found employment in various printing shops.

In this city of opportunity, he attracted the attention of Sir William Keith, the Governor of Pennsylvania himself.

The ambitious Keith saw potential in young Franklin and offered to support him in starting his own newspaper.

THEN HE WENT TO LONDON

Young Benjamin Franklin in london
© History Oasis

Blinded by the allure of success, Benjamin followed Keith to London, only to find that the Governor's promises were naught but empty words.

Forced to make his own way in the unfamiliar city, Franklin found work as a typesetter.

It was not until the kind-hearted Thomas Denham intervened, offering him employment as a clerk, shopkeeper, and bookkeeper, that Benjamin was able to return to his beloved Philadelphia.

HE RETURNED TO PHILADELPHIA AGAIN & GOT MARRIED

young Benjamin Franklin getting married
© History Oasis

With the kindness of Thomas Denham, our young Franklin was able to return once more to his beloved Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and new beginnings that had so captured his heart those years ago.

Upon settling again in those familiar streets, Franklin, having reached the age of maturity, took Deborah Read as his lawfully wedded wife, thus embarking on the next chapter of his bustling life as a married man and future founding father of a fledgling nation.

With his new bride at his side, Franklin now yearned to make his permanent mark upon the city he called home.

HE FORMED A CLUB

Junto club
© History Oasis

Upon his return to Philadelphia, Franklin, now 21 years old, sought to further the exchange of ideas and knowledge within his community.

Inspired by the English coffeehouses where great minds gathered to discuss matters of import, he formed the Junto discussion group in 1727.

The Junto aimed to bring together artisans and tradesmen of Philadelphia, fostering an environment of self-improvement and civic-mindedness.

Recognizing the need for a shared repository of wisdom, Franklin proposed the creation of a communal library by pooling the group's books together. This innovative idea would eventually give rise to the esteemed Library Company of Philadelphia.

Yet the Junto's influence did not end with the formation of a library.

In its wake, numerous other organizations sprouted throughout the city, all sharing the common goal of promoting learning and betterment among their fellow citizens.

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