This column was originally scheduled for publication on June 16, 2018 and missed publication.
A young 16-year-old Ben Franklin is apprenticed to his older brother James, a printer who also publishes the New England Courant, a Boston newspaper.
Ben wants to write for this paper, but doesn’t want his brother to know. What can he do?
Well, he writes a letter to the editor under the name of Silence Dogood, a widow. He doesn’t mail the letter, but instead slips it under the door of the Courant office.
Readers love the letter, and many more follow. Ben offers all sorts of thoughts and advice under this pseudonym. Brother James eventually finds out about it, but by then Ben has proven to himself that he’s got remarkable abilities as a writer.
So begins Ben’s writing career, which peaks with the publication of Poor Richards’s Almanac, a perennial best-seller in the colonies.
Writer, inventor, scientist, patriot. And it all began the moment a teenage boy first delivered a letter to a newspaper under the name of a middle-aged woman.
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Rix Quinn is a former magazine publisher who works as an independent biographer and broadcaster.