Industry, Frugality, Fertility
Doubt not my behaving well in Wedlock, having all the Industry, Frugality, Fer-tility, and Skill in Oeconomy, appertaining to a good Wife's Character.
--The Speech of Miss Polly Baker, 1747
"SHE PROVED a good and faithful helpmate. . . . We throve together and have mutually endeavor'd to make each other happy."1We throve together is an understatement: They did splendidly. By 1732, two years after they were married, Franklin had finished paying off his debts. Under the same roof on Market Street, less than two blocks from the spot where he had first caught sight of Deborah, he ran a newspaper, a printing shop, and a general store. His Pennsylvania Gazette was a very staid paper, more given to news than to controversy, a far cry from James's hell-raising New-England Courant, now defunct. The store carried a wide range of merchandise, from the salves and ointments concocted by Deborah's mother "sufficient to remove the most inveterate itch"2 to the "crown" soap made in Boston by Franklin's brother John according to a secret recipe. In a neat cycle of self-promotion, the newspaper advertised both the products of the press and the goods in the shop. That same year, 1732, Franklin launched his Poor Richard's Almanac which was eventually to sell at the rate of ten thousand copies a year, his first chance at fame and fortune. Also in 1732, Deborah gave birth to their son Francis Folger--and Philadelphia broke ground for its State House, later to become Independence Hall.
The shop was Debbie's special preserve. She sold printing and writing materials, bills of lading, servants' indentures, powers of attorney, blank books, quills, ink, ink horns and ink powders, pounce (powder to blot ink), slates, parchment, sealing wax, and spectacles. There was also a brisk trade in books, those her husband printed and those he imported from England: primers, Bibles, psalters, maps, dictionaries, grammars, ballads, the highly popular almanacs--both other authors' and the home-grown Poor Dick, as she called it.