Benjamin Franklin As A Child


Michael Benton, Contributor

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benjamin franklin as a childBorn in Boston in 1706, Benjamin Franklin was the youngest son of Josiah Franklin and Abiah Folger. It was Josiah's second family and Benjamin was his tenth son; there would be no great inheritance for Benjamin, everything would have to be earned on his own. For young Ben Franklin, childhood included only a few years of formal education which only sparked his curiosity and set him on a path of intense independent study. At the age of 12, he was apprenticed to his brother James who was a printer and for Ben Franklin, early life got difficult. He excelled at work in the print shop and after his brother founded a newspaper called The New England Courant, young Benjamin got the idea that he wanted to write and share his opinions. James would have none of it, but Benjamin was a clever boy; he wrote lengthy, opinionated letters under the pseudonym Mrs. Silence Dogood and sent them into the paper anonymously. Although these letters garnered a lot of attention for the newspaper, they also brought controversy and James was very upset when Benjamin admitted that he was indeed the author. It was around this time that Benjamin Franklin ran away to Philadelphia and began an independent career in a new print shop.

Benjamin Franklin's childhood also included his first invention. As a lover of the open water and a strong swimmer, Franklin wanted to go faster. Imitating nature, he devised and constructed wooden paddles that became false flippers worn on both his hands and feet. This simple and sensible invention helped him maximize the potential force of each stroke and propelled him to speeds that would be difficult or impossible for the strongest of unaided swimmers. This experience shows that Benjamin Franklin, as a child, was already tackling life's little problems with sensibility and innovation.

In Philadelphia, Franklin quickly became noticed for his talents and was recruited by the Governor of Pennsylvania for a mission to buy printing equipment in London. Although Franklin arrived in London in 1724 at the age of 18, the Governor's letters of credit never showed up and Benjamin was stranded in England for two years. It was only a loan from a wealthy Philadelphia merchant that allowed Franklin to return and for the next year he had to work off the debt. Benjamin Franklin, as a kid, had shown sparks of genius, and as a young adult, his ambition carried him to greater heights. In 1727, Franklin helped to establish a society of young, like-minded men of enlightened philosophy and great ambition who called themselves the Junto. Only a year later, Franklin and his business partner founded The Pennsylvania Gazette out of their mutually owned print shop. For Benjamin Franklin, early life was looking up. In 1731, Franklin wrote the charter for the world's first subscription library which he opened with the help of his Junto brethren and called the Library Company. This organization still exists today and now houses thousands of important documents from U.S. and World History.