As one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a key figure in shaping the history of America. But even more so, he was a highly individualistic character, and showed a truly dynamic personality when compared to the early leaders of American history. His unique personality has been admired by those throughout history for his pragmatism, his soothing nature and ability to act as a mediator with others. He was known for his leadership skills, and respected as a writer, visionary, philosopher and inventor.
Benjamin Franklin is still relevant today from students learning about his science experiments to the printing and technical industries benefiting from his inventions. Probably the most impressive quality about Franklin is the fact that he appealed to the everyday working class people. Born in Boston in 1706 to Abiah and Josiah Franklin, his father was a chandler and soap maker from England (Benjamin Franklin In Search of a Better World, 2005). Early on the young Ben Franklin was intrigued by reading and writing.
One of his first inspirations was The Spectator essay written by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison. Franklin was impressed with the authors’ passages about the vanities and values of contemporary life. He read the essays as a learning experience. After reading the pages he then re-wrote the text in his own words and evaluated what he could correct and then enhance—eventually creating his own unique, writing style. In addition to the essays of the day, he also immersed himself in the books that he borrowed from friends who worked for local book masters.
In 1721 his brother James started the New England Courant, and the 16-year-old Benjamin wrote articles for it under an assumed name. Knowing his brother would not let him write for the paper, he found another way to get his writings in print. He wrote letters and signed them via a pseudonym of a made up widow dubbed: Silence Dogood. His musings were filled with the plight facing women and an analysis of the current landscape of the time period. All in all, readers loved the letters and clamored to find out more about the infamous scribe.
Eventually the young writer confessed that he created the Dogood tales. Discovering this led to touchy altercation among the brothers; James said the compliments paid to Benjamin’s writing made him “vain. ” The relationship between Benjamin and his older brother would lay the groundwork for his future philosophies and work ethic. As he revealed in his autobiography: “I fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life.
(The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, p. 20). This approach would later show up in Franklin’s dealings as a printer and in competing with other newspapermen of the day, as well as in his political dealings and his “man of the people” stance on issues. Benjamin Franklin bought out a competitor’s newspaper called, the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. Combining his many skills, Franklin wrote for the paper as well as printed the periodical. The Gazette was Franklin’s bread and butter for his printing service.
To enhance the content, he focused on more up-to-date content and improved the quality of the writing and added a dose of wit and spirited prose. This newspaper saw much success within the area and in filled it more and more with political writings (In Search of a Better World, 2005). For example, Franklin created and published the first political cartoon in the paper. The Gazette was unique in that it had an open-press policy and “He was scrupulously evenhanded in his coverage of politics…. his open-press policy