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Benjamin Franklin Founding Father of the United States Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Born: January 17, 1706, Boston, MA Died: April 17, 1790, Philadelphia, PA Spouse: Deborah Read (m. 1730–1774) Children: William Franklin, Francis Folger Franklin, Sarah Franklin Bache Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. He was the tenth son of a soap maker, Josiah Franklin. Benjamin's mother was Abiah Folger, the second wife of Josiah. In all, Josiah would father 17 children. Josiah intended for Benjamin to enter the clergy. However, Josiah could only afford to send his son to school for one year, and clergymen needed years of schooling. But, as young Benjamin loved to read he had him apprenticed to his brother James, who was a printer. After helping James compose pamphlets and set type that was grueling work, 12-year-old Benjamin would sell their products in the streets. Learn More: Franklin Timeline Apprentice Printer When Benjamin was 15, his brother started The New England Courant the first "newspaper" in Boston. Though there were two papers in the city before James's Courant, they only reprinted news from abroad. James's paper carried articles, opinion pieces written by James's friends, advertisements, and news of ship schedules. Franklin as printer Benjamin wanted to write for the paper too, but he knew that James would never let him. After all, Benjamin was just a lowly apprentice. So Ben began writing letters at night and signing them with the name of a fictional widow, Silence Dogood. Dogood was filled with advice and very critical of the world around her, particularly concerning the issue of how women were treated. Ben would sneak the letters under the print shop door at night, so no one knew who was writing the pieces. They were a smash hit, and everyone wanted to know who was the real "Silence Dogood." After 16 letters, Ben confessed that he had been writing the letters all along. While James's friends thought Ben was quite precocious and funny, James scolded his brother and was very jealous of the attention paid to him. Before long the Franklins found themselves at odds with Boston's powerful Puritan preachers, the Mathers. Smallpox was a deadly disease in those times, and the Mathers supported inoculation; the Franklins' believed inoculation only made people sicker. And while most Bostonians agreed with the Franklins, they did not like the way James made fun of the clergy, during the debate. Ultimately, James was thrown in jail for his views, and Benjamin was left to run the paper for several issues. Upon release from jail, James was not grateful to Ben for keeping the paper going. Instead, he kept harassing his younger brother and administering beatings from time to time. Ben could not take it and decided to run away in 1723. Now a man in his late seventies, Franklin returned to America. He became President of the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and signed the Constitution. One of his last public acts was writing an anti-slavery treatise in 1789. Franklin died on April 17, 1790, at the age of 84. 20,000 people attended the funeral of the man who was called, "the harmonious human multitude." His electric personality, however, still lights the world.