BENJAMIN was born on January 17, 1706, the youngest son among seventeen children of Josiah Franklin, a Boston candlemaker. Long before his two years of education in the grammar school-and that was all the formal education he ever had-the boy learned to read and write, probably with some assistance. At ten he was put to work in his father's shop, but he never could make himself like dipping candles and cutting wicks all day long. In the end, feeling that the only thing his son ever really liked came from books, old Josiah consented to send the boy to his grownup son, James, to be an apprentice at the art of printing. But the older brother apparently was not aware of his baby-brother's talents -- and never came to recognize them, as he died prematurely in 1735 -- and treated Benjamin as one of his workers. Soon afterward, James started a newspaper, the New England Courant ( 1721) which published, among other material, fourteen articles signed by an unknown widow by the name of Silence Dogood, articles which turned out to be secretly written by young Benjamin. This incident proved to be quite irritating to James.
As a result of the quarrel, young Franklin ran away and came to live in Philadelphia ( 1723), where he eventually opened a printing shop of his own. There he printed all kinds of things: leaflets, pamphlets and books. In 1729 he took over the publication of the Pennsylvania Gazette. And three years later he embarked upon a new venture, a calendar with witty and sound sayings, just the kind of practical wisdom which appealed to the colonists; this calendar known as Poor Richard's Almanack quickly became a literary and business success and continued appearing until 1757.
All along Franklin kept himself busy studying and learning. He read a great deal, including the works of Xenophon, Plutarch, Shaftesbury, and Locke. He mastered four languages, at least for the purposes of reading, namely French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. For self-guidance, he wrote "articles of belief," dealing with the practical meaning of religion and morality, and found that good will may be described in terms of thirteen virtues, among them temperance, moderation, chastity, humility, fru-