Franklin Court Printing Office

Printing Office exterior Market Street

In his will, Benjamin Franklin identified himself as a printer.  Even though he retired from active participation in printing at the age of 42, he kept his hand in printing for the remainder of his life.

NPS photo


Benjamin Franklin well understood the power of the press. At the Franklin Court Printing Office, visitors can see how an 18th century printing office operated and discover the pivotal role the printed word played in the American Revolution and the founding of the nation. Adjacent to the Printing Office is the house Franklin built for his grandson, printer and newspaper owner Benjamin Franklin Bache. Bache's newspaper office provides a glimpse into the newspaper culture of the 1790's.


Benjamin Franklin, the Printer

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

In October, 1723 Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in the American colonies. Upon his arrival, Ben continued to work as a printer and made many friends in the trade. One of his friends, Sir William Keith, governor of Pennsylvania, convinced him to move to London to buy printing equipment. In London, he would then be able to purchase the equipment needed to begin his own business. Within a year, at the age of eighteen, Franklin had arrived in London and was ready to begin work at Palmer's and Watt's, two of the most prestigous printing firms in the city.

In October, 1726 Ben returned to Philadelphia . He continued his trade as a printer, first working with a partner then, at the age of twenty-four, taking the business over on his own.

In 1729, Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, an ailing paper known to be dull and poorly managed. Known for his hard work and determination, Ben used his wit and intelligence to turn the gazette into an informative and entertaining paper. Ben's philosophy for success, work harder than your competition, drove the success of the paper as it gained recognition throughout the colonies.

In 1730, Ben entered into a commonlaw marriage with his longtime friend Deborah Read Rogers, whose husband John had left her in 1725.

Franklin was an innovator in the publishing business. He was the first to publish cartoons and maps to accompany and illustrate his articles. He printed his political theories to gain public support. In 1733, Franklin began publishing Poor Richard's Almanac under the name Richard Saunders. The almanac became more popular than any of his newspaper ventures. The almanac, which was published yearly through 1758, had Franklin's sayings scattered throughout. His witty and wise sayings preach frugality, industry, and thrift. "God helps them that help themselves," "He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir," and "He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals" are just a few.


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