The month of July 1726 marked Benjamin Franklin’s return to Philadelphia from England (Elliot 28). Immediately following his return, he began to work for Thomas Denham, the merchant who loaned him the money that he used to go home. He worked as a shopkeeper and a bookkeeper in the store. Denham’s store sold imported hardware and clothes.
Benjamin Franklin and other travelers landed in Philadelphia on October 11 and found that several changes existed. For instance, Major Gordon was the replacement of Keith as the governor. He met him walking as an ordinary citizen on the street, but they did not speak to each other. He also looked forward to seeing Miss Read who he knew married Rogers in his absence.
Notably, Benjamin Franklin called Philadelphia his home for the majority part of his life. He had strong ethics in working, despite his few failures. In addition, he was a hardworking man who created opportunities that he and those around him pursued. On his arrival in Philadelphia in 1726, he was virtually penniless but ended up being one of the richest men of his time. He was not only a scientist, but he was also a political leader and a diplomat. During his stay in England, he had involvement in the print business. On his arrival back at home in Philadelphia, he continued with the same and established the biggest printing franchise in the United States during the time. Concerning his wife, Deborah, it is significant to note that he met her before he went to England and when he returned; she was someone else’s wife. Following Mr. Read’s fleeing from the city, he married her. His business ventures consisted of his purchase of the Gazette. It was the best colonial newspaper in the colonial period, but only after he improved it. Another business venture was the founding of the public library, which remained private. It was open for people to read books. Another achievement that Franklin had was his instrumentality in the establishment of the first Police Academy in Philadelphia, a police force, and fire department. Later on, the Academy became the University of Pennsylvania. As a statesman, he held his post at the Pennsylvania Assembly for fourteen years. He also became the inter-colonial delegate in the Congress. The stove that he invented in 1744 had the aim of reducing chimney smoke. It is still in use to date.
In the early 1740s, Franklin began to experiment with electricity (Elliot 50). It is through these experiments that he invented the lightning rod. Later on, he sold his big printing business to focus on scientific experiments. One of his most famous scientific experiments was the flying kite which he undertook during a lightning storm.
In 1727, Mr. Franklin had several experiences. One of them was his first pleurisy attack. After recuperation, he left his job with Denham. Keimer, a printer who hired him previously, rehired him. It is unclear whether the affair that he had was in 1727 or 1728 (Elliot 28). However, it is evident that it resulted in the birth of his son, William. Another relevant issue was the death of George I and the subsequent succession of George II in England. In October 1727, he argued with Keimer, which resulted in him quitting. Nonetheless, his employer hired him a month later when he could not find a person that cut currency as good as Franklin did. In the same year, he was among the founders of Junto, which was a society that consisted of young men that met together on every Friday evening for mutual aid, conviviality, and self-improvement (Elliot 29).
Franklin’s brother-in-law, Holmes, advised him to return to business. Keimer offered large wages for his (Franklin’s) management of the shop. Due to the negative character that Franklin’s wife and her friends told him of Keimer, he was reluctant to join him in running his shop. He tried to work as a merchant’s clerk but went to Keimer when life became hard for him.
When he went working for Keimer, he met Hugh Meredith who was a Welsh Pennsylvania. According to Mr. Franklin, Mr. Meredith was sensible, honest, hardworking, and observant. Nonetheless, he was alcoholic. In June 1728, Benjamin Franklin established a printing shop in Philadelphia in partnership with him (Elliot 29). They rented a building that served as both a home for Franklin and the store. In addition to that, he composed the “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion” in the same year. Later on, the husband of Deborah Read, John Rogers, stole salves and ran away from Philadelphia.
In 1729, he wrote the pamphlet, “The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency” (Elliot 29). In addition to that, he purchased the “Pennsylvania Gazette” from its previous owner, Samuel Keimer. After that, the city elected him as the official printer for Pennsylvania. Following his growing success, he took Deborah Read Rogers as a wife through common law. He also bought out his partner, Hugh Meredith. He became the sole owner of the business that he started with him. Later on, there was a fire that destroyed the South of Philadelphia. He began to agitate for protection programs against fire.
Franklin found an Oxford scholar as a servant. It was uncommon for him. The academic told him that he was from Gloucester, and was about 18 years of age (Elliot 29). He was a grammar scholar and was among the top and distinguished members. He explained to Mr. Franklin that he was in that situation because he could not afford school fees. He also kept bad company that misled him to pawn his clothes and waste bread.
Benjamin Franklin joined the Freemasons Lodge in early 1731. He also drew up the first legislation about companies called the “Library Company’s articles. It was the first lending library in the United States. It remains a private one to date. In addition, he sponsored Thomas Whitmarsh to become his printing partner. Mr. Whitmarsh was Franklin’s former journey companion. He bought the printing firm in which the two were in partnership in South Carolina for a third of the company’s profits in six years. It is what made him a printing franchiser. He also began to rent commercial space to his mother-in-law who sold ointments. In the latter part of 1731, he printed the news of the imminent passage of the “Molasses Act” on the Gazette.
Franklin began to feel that his services were not as critical as they should be. He also noticed that Keimer’s attitude towards him changed because his wages were a burden to him. They became less civil with one another and frequently quarreled. Franklin was patient and knew that his circumstances were partly to blame for Keimer’s change of attitude. The argument that they had was public, and Franklin decided to focus on his partnership print shop with Meredith following the quarreling. His wife gave birth to his son, Francis Folger in 1732 (Elliot 36). In the same year, he began to print the nation’s first newspaper in German. He called it “Philadephische Zeitung” (Elliot 36). Nevertheless, it failed. He also published the first edition of his book, “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” He baptized his son at the Anglican Christ Church the next year. It was Deborah’s home church. Franklin stopped attending church (Presbyterian Church) the previous year.
The business proposal that Meredith and Franklin had, according to the latter, was agreeable. Even though Meredith continued to drink, the presence of his son and the fact that he knew he needed him, refrained him from overdrinking. They provided inventory, which arrived in time. They also found a vacancy. However, it initially remained idle. After a few days, the shop began to get business. His passion made him to be a good printer. He was successful. He also realized that his satisfaction in printing was among the driving forces behind his pursuit for business.
Franklin became the Grand Master of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Masons, PA. Following his election to the position, he bought property on Philadelphia Market Street. He, later on, put several lands together in the same street that housed printing shops and had spaces for commercial rent. In the contemporary era, it forms Franklin Court. He also bribed post riders to carry the PA Gazette since the Postmaster, Andrew Bradford forbade riders to take it. The two were not in a good relationship. Among the friends that helped him get the position were Samuel Bustill, Judge Allen, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and the Smiths. In addition, there was Isaac Decow who was the surveyor-general. They all saw good fortunes for Franklin.
During the death of Benjamin Franklin’s brother, James Franklin, he sent his wife over 500 copies of his book, “poor Richard” so that she could sell them. It is imperative to note that Andrew Bradford was also a Philadelphia lawyer and defended John Peter Zenger in court. Eventually, the latter became Franklin’s patron. The government named him the Clerk of PA Assembly. All this while, his printing business was doing relatively well. In fact, in 1736, he began to print currency for New Jersey (Elliot 37). However, he experienced a loss when his son died at the age of 4 due to smallpox. He printed “A Treaty of Friendship held with the Chiefs of the Six Nations at Philadelphia” (Elliot 38). He received his appointment as the Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 (Elliot 39).
The late governor of Virginia, Colonel Spotswood and the then postmaster general were unhappy with the conduct of the former’s deputy. They realized that he was negligent. They took the position from him and gave it to Benjamin Franklin. He readily accepted it because of the great advantage that it had. According to him, despite the salary being relatively small, it facilitated correspondence ad improved his newspaper. Thus, it helped him to afford a considerable income.
Robbers raided his house in 1739 (Elliot 39). It is the same year that George Whitefield, the preacher of the Great Awakening first arrived in Philadelphia. Franklin met him. After that, he led an environmental protest against pollution by Slaughter-Houses (Skinner Lime-Pits and Tarn Yards). His printing business continued to flourish as the businessman became the official printer for New Jersey. He was among the thousands of Philadelphia residents that attended the preaching session by George Whitefield. Following that, he bought 5,000 acres of land where he purposed to build a school for African Americans (slaves during that prod). Eventually, he did not build the school. However, he printed a lot of material for the preacher.
He built the “Franklin Stove” in 1741 and began to advertise it (Elliot 40). He also published “The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle” for the first time. It was the first edition. It was the earliest magazine in the United States. Nonetheless, it was not a success since it failed after the publication of six issues (Elliot 41). He got involvement in John Batran’s issues when he organized and publicized the sponsorship of plant collection trips for the botanist. In 1743, he attended lectures by Archibald Spencer on natural philosophy, which included electricity (Elliot 43). He came up with “A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge” in the same year. It was the founding document for the American Philosophical Society. His wife gave birth to his daughter, Sally, who they baptized at the Christ Church. He led the American Philosophical Society in its first meeting in the same year (Elliot 45).
Franklin studied languages and became a master of French. According to him, the main reason for that was so that he could read French books with ease. After finishing French, he began to study Italian with a friend of his helping him. The friend would tempt him to play chess with him. He refused to play because he did not have the time to do so. Eventually, Franklin undertook Spanish as well.
Franklin only had a year in Latin School, which according to him was not enough (Elliot 45). Nonetheless, he became friends with A Spanish, Italian, and French during that time as he learned the three languages. He began to read the Latin testament, which encouraged him to study more than he was doing.
Franklin lost his son in 1736 due to smallpox. He deeply and bitterly regretted that he did not give him any form of treatment through inoculation. He mentioned it to help other parents that do not take into perspective the healthcare of their children through omission. According to him, parents should not forgive themselves if they lose a child through avoidable circumstances.
When Mr. Whitefield left preaching at Philadelphia, he went to the colonies of Georgia. Even though they were beginning to experiences enlightenment, other features prevented them from being successful. For example, they had a preference for labor and not machinery. It was not fit for the enterprises that were rising during that era. In addition, families were the ones that gave the labor and owned shops. It was a clear sign that the colonies were yet to embrace the enlightenment era fully. Another characteristic that made the colonies hinder behind the rest in knowledge as the high debt levels that people in business in the period had. Franklin notes that such were indolent and idle habits. The absence of skills in the region hindered success. The sight of the miserable situation of Georgia caught the heart of Mr. Whitefield. He developed the idea of Orphan House that would support the educated. According to Franklin, the sermons of the preacher gave him to shame, and he resorted to giving silver to slaves and workers. During the speech, he gave all his money to the offering dish. He advised him to give to his neighbors.
Mr. Whitefield’s enemies argued that he would use the collections that the members of the congregation gave to him for his private property. Nonetheless, Franklin had a personal acquaintance with the man and knew that they were lying. He knew of his integrity and never had any suspicion regarding it. Thus, he gave testimony in his favor.
When Mr. Whitefield arrived at Boston, he wrote to Franklin that he would go back to Philadelphia. He explained that there were mistakes that he did in the past, but were for the sake of Christ. Franklin describes the preacher as having a loud and clear voice and articulated words carefully before he spoke them. Someone could hear and understand him at a great distance. When he was talking, people became silent and listened to him. Franklin was curious to learn more from him and hear his knowledge that he knew. Therefore, he purported to allow him to preach again in Philadelphia. One of the lessons that Franklin says that he got from him was the differences between his travel sermons and the ones that he composed when he was to preach to a great crowd. He also states that the writings of the preacher had significant advantages for his enemies because they consisted of erroneous opinions, unguarded expressions, and words that they could use against him.
- Eliot, Charles E. Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. P. F. Collier & Son Company, New York, 1909.