Franklin Before Philadelphia
Long before he became famous, Franklin lived the first sixteen years of his life in Boston
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Blog 4355: Topic 4355 :
Franklin And the Nation He Created.
The Franklin family (originally Francklyne of Ecton in Northumberland, England) were prosperous and well-connected silk dyers, on the wrong side of history. Whether it was the English Civil War, the plague, the fire, the famine, or something else, they decided to emigrate to Boston. Once there, they were reduced to poverty by the refusal of the locals to accept their money. They survived on sister Jane's invention of bar soap (soft soap treated with salt.) Whether this implanted respect for innovation in Benjamin's mind is unknown.
An older brother had learned printing as a profession, and so Benjamin apprenticed himself to James to follow his example. Both were skalawag hippies, annoying the authorities with satire in the New England Courier under the pen name of "Silence Dogood. " Although James wrote some, Benjamin did write most, and the authorities were not pleased. So, although Ben claimed to be mistreated by James, scholars have since discovered that Benjamin was fleeing to Philadelphia to escape possible arrest. Although he was only seventeen, perhaps he had already learned to be quiet about his past.Arriving nearly penniless, he found Philadelphia needed a printer, and he worked his way up to retirement at the age of 42. Except for a one-year fling in London to buy a printing press, the first part of the book describes the slow, steady climb of this young printer as he gradually absorbed the functions and perfected the techniques of publisher and newspaper owner. He then expanded them into partnerships up and down the Atlantic seaboard on his deputy postmaster roads. In his spare time, he printed New Jersey's paper money and probably prospered from the currency manipulations of the various wars. He got into politics through his associations, and through the Junto of tradesmen, or the acquaintance of Andrew Hamilton and William Allen, eventually becoming the leader of the Quaker party, then their enemy. It's likely that during this period, he became the Grand Master of the local Masonic Temple and somehow became the Grand Master of the three Quaker colonies in his twenties. The scientific achievements forwarded by associations leading toward but never quite succeeding to the Grand Mastership of the Protestant world. The secrecy of the Masons covers up many associations with men of high station, and perhaps we will never know how his portrait comes to hang next to that of George Washington in the Masonic Temple across the street from Philadelphia's City Hall. The overlapping layers of Masonic secrecy are something to behold. Anyway, Franklin, who never went past second grade in school, lost an election and retired to London a hundred feet from Picadilly. A rich man, consorting with Mozart and standing before five Kings. He thought his scientific, sexual, and political careers were over -- but instead, the best parts still lay ahead.
Originally published: Sunday, September 06, 2020; most-recently modified: Monday, September 07, 2020