Early American Printer – American Extraordinaire


Benjamin Franklin

1706 – 1790

Who is the greatest American? The question is often asked and yet it is one without an answer

short of opinion. When posed this question, many names will be proffered, the field of candidates

large, and individuals as varied in endeavor as those who would venture an opinion. Certainly,

any debate centered on this eternal question must invariably include non other than Benjamin

Franklin. And clearly a choice to stir little in the way of controversy! The depth and width of his

interests and knowledge remains today as truly legendary: Printer, Writer, Inventor, Scientist,

Musician, Statesman and Diplomat, Signer of the Declaration of Independence…While a lifetime of

wondrous achievement would follow, Franklin began his journey as a printer at the age of twelve

apprenticing to his brother James in Boston. By the age of seventeen, he was a highly competent

printer and in 1728, at the age of twenty-two, opened his own print shop. His publication of The

Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac brought Franklin credibility and respect,

not to mention wealth and as his business flourished, so did his pen and printing press. As a

writer, Franklin’s quips and quotes became a hallmark for others of lesser wit to admire. As a

printer, Franklin was sought out to produce much of the finest and most important printing to be

done in Philadelphia, and indeed the colony. Broadsides and agreements, paper money and

political pamphlets, almanacs, proclamations and much more were all painstakingly produced

in the most respected and influential print shop in colony. Franklin alone, and later with his

partner David Hall, turned out some of the finest work in the colonies and today, it remains as a

wonderful area of collecting. By the way, Thomas Jefferson’s vote on Franklin? In his own

words: “the greatest man and ornament of the age and country in which he lived.”

“Give me 26 lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.”


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