Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in the city of Boston in a small house on 17 Milk Street, across the street from the Old Meeting House. His father was Josiah Franklin, a chandler (soap and candle maker). Josiah Franklin, emigrated from England in 1682. He had seven children with his first wife, Jane White. When Jane died, Josiah married Abiah Folger, the daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, and had 10 more children, a total of 17 in which Benjamin was the 15th and youngest son.
At 8 years old, Benjamin Franklin began attending South Grammar School and showed a early talent for language. The following year he attended George Brownell’s English School, a school for writing and arithmetic. He showed great talent for writing and little for arithmetic.
Young Franklin loved reading; he would borrow books from friends and save every penny to buy books. When he was sixteen, he became a vegetarian so that he could save the money he would have spent on more expensive meats to buy books. Josiah Franklin encouraged Benjamin to leverage this talent in service to the church (Presbyterian) but Benjamin showed no interest in being a minister.
At 10 Franklin’s father took Benjamin in as an apprentice in his soap and candle making shop. He was in charge of cutting wicks for candles, filling molds, attending the shop and running errands. His father intended for his young son to inherit the business when he retired however Benjamin did not want to follow his father’s business. In 1717 his brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up a printing business, New England Courant, in Boston. Josiah took Benjamin on as an indentured apprentice which bounded him to the shop until he turned 21 and only then he could earn wages.
Benjamin was in charge of setting the letters for the printer and sell newspapers door to door. This job did not satisfy him, he wanted to write but knew his brother would object. One day he left an anonymous article under the door of the print house signed under the pen name of Silence Dogood. From April to October 1722, he submitted fourteen Dogood letters which were well received and published by the Courant. Dogood was a fictitious character, the widow of a country minister, “an Enemy to Vice, and a Friend to Virtue”. She abhorred arbitrary government and unlimited power.
The New England Courant was a liberal newspaper publishing humorous articles and cartoons against the colonial government. One of the pieces published in June 1722 offended the Assembly and James was jailed for two weeks for contempt as he did not disclose the author. While James was in jail Benjamin ran the business. When James was discharged, he was prohibited from printing the Courant. When James was banned from printing the Courant, Benjamin was secretly discharged of his apprenticeship so that the newspaper could continue to be printed in his name. In 1723 at age 17, Benjamin took advantage of this clause and decided to leave his abusive brother and go to New York in search of work.