A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Detail image of the first page of the 17-24 September 1722 issue of The New-England Courant. This issue featured Silence Dogood essay 13 about "Moon-light evenings" in Boston; click here to view the online presentation of this issue.

Introduction—Boston of Benjamin Franklin's Youth

HIS web presentation displays materials relating to Benjamin Franklin’s youthful career as a fledging journalist and newspaper publisher in Boston, before he left for Philadelphia—and everlasting fame—in 1723.

Benjamin Franklin was born on Milk Street in Boston on 6 January 1706 (old style), the son of Josiah and Abiah Franklin. Many years later, in his celebrated Autobiography, Franklin described his childhood along the Boston waterfront in relatively idyllic terms. However, as one of seventeen children of a tallow merchant and cloth dyer, by the time he was twelve he had left school for good and become an apprentice to his older brother, James, the printer and publisher of The New-England Courant, an early Boston newspaper, located on Queen Street.

The "Couranteers," as the contributors to James Franklin's paper came to be known, started something new in America--a lively journal, without ties to the Massachusetts colonial government, that published attacks on Boston's political and religious establishment. The "Couranteers" expressed strong opinions on religion, politics, free speech, and smallpox inoculation, to name a few. Click here for a brief account about the Courant and the smallpox controversy. Their satirical attacks grew so strong that James Franklin was imprisoned and later forbidden to publish without prior censorship. James went into hiding, but The New-England Courant continued to appear with his teenage brother Benjamin at the helm.

It was also during this apprenticeship, that Benjamin Franklin became a published writer, contributing a series of essays to the Courant under the name of Silence Dogood.

The detail image above is from a facsimile of Capt. John Bonner's 1722 map, The Town of Boston in New England.
The New-England Courant
was located at the corner of Queen Street and Brattles [sic] Street.
In present day Boston, this is the intersection of Court Street and Franklin Avenue.

Funding from the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation supported this project.