Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790), was a jack-of-all- trades* and master of many. No other American, except possibly Thomas Jefferson, has done so many things so well. During his long and useful life, Franklin concerned himself with such different matters as statesmanship and soapmaking*, book-printing and cabbage-growing, and the rise of tides and the fall of empires. He also invented an efficient heating stove and proved that lightning is electricity.
As a statesman, Franklin stood in the front rank* of the people who built the United States. He was the only person who signed all four of these key documents in American history: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States. Franklin's services as a diplomat in France helped greatly in winning the Revolutionary War. Many historians consider him the ablest and most successful diplomat that America has ever sent abroad.
Franklin helped establish Pennsylvania's first university and America's first city hospital.
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, Mass., on Jan. 17, 1706. He was the 15th child and youngest son in a family of 17 children. His parents, Josiah and Abiah Franklin, were hard-working, God-fearing folk. His father made soap and candles in his shop «at the sign of the Blue Ball» on Milk Street. Franklin did not care much for the trade of candle- making. At the age of twelve, Ben Franklin first began to learn the business of printing the truth. His father persuaded him to become an apprentice to his older brother James, a printer. James proved to be a good teacher, and Benjamin a good pupil. By the time Ben was seventeen, he was a fully skilled printer able to work in any print shop. For five years, Franklin sought to master the printers' trade. During this time, he also strove to improve his education. Franklin read numerous classics and perfected his writing style. He wrote several newspaper articles, signed them «Mrs. Silence Dogood,» and slipped them under the door of his brother's newspaper, the New England Courant. James admired the articles, and printed several of them. But he refused to print any more when he discovered that Benjamin had written them.
From 1723 to 1730, Franklin worked for various printers in Philadelphia and in London, England, where he was sent to buy printing presses. In 1728, at the age of twenty-two, Ben opened his own printing office in Philadelphia. His most famous publications were a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette and his annual Poor Richard's Almanack. He had many new ideas for publishing and he is known for printing cartoons, illustrated news stories, and letters to the editor. He believed in the power of the press, using his printing press as a way to bring the news to all people. Franklin used cartoons and pictures so that everyone could understand the news, even people who had not learned to read. His name gradually became known throughout the colonies.
Franklin's printing business prospered from the start. He developed The Pennsylvania Gazette into one of the most successful newspapers in the colonies. He laid many of his projects for civic reform before the public- in his newspaper. Franklin published The Pennsylvania Gazette from 1729 until 1766.