The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Characters

Benjamin Franklin

The author of the Autobiography. He was the youngest son of Josiah Franklin, began in life as poor printer’s apprentice and went on to be one of the most important founding figures in… (read full character analysis)

Josiah Franklin

Franklin’s father, a candle and soapmaker (“Tallow Chandler and Sope-Boiler”). He was a man with a strong physical build, was of average height, could draw well, sing prettily, and practiced music on his violin… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
William Franklin
Benjamin Franklin’s son and the addressee of Part One of the Autobiography. In Parts Three and Four, William is a companion of Franklin’s on diplomatic missions. Later, he served as governor of Pennsylvania.
Abiah Folger
Franklin’s mother, Josiah’s second wife, a woman with a strong bodily constitution and an industrious nature.
James Franklin
Franklin’s brother, a printer, to whom Franklin was apprenticed. A strict master who beat Franklin, James did not get along with Franklin for much of his life because Franklin broke his terms of service to him. Eventually Franklin and James reconciled, and Franklin adopted James’s son after James's death.
John Collins
Franklin’s boyhood friend who helped him to escape from Boston for Philadelphia. He was a drunk who became indebted to Franklin, encouraged him to break into Vernon’s money, and never paid Franklin back.
William Bradford
A printer in New York and the father of Franklin’s future rival printer in Philadelphia, Andrew Bradford, to whom he recommended Franklin as a worker.
Andrew Bradford
Franklin’s first employer in Philadelphia, a bad, but well-established printer and later business rival whose poor conduct as deputy postmaster served as a counterexample for Franklin when he later took the same position.
Sir William Keith
Royal Governor of Pennsylvania when Franklin first arrived there. Keith was on the surface a very respectable man who took an early interest in Franklin, but Keith proved to be scoundrel, promising Franklin to set him up in business but failing to deliver on his promises.
Major Gordon
The man who replaced Sir William Keith as governor.
Colonel French
An influential man and friend of Governor Keith who later became Franklin’s friend and supporter.
Governor Burnet
Governor of New York who took an interest in Franklin, whom he considered a promising youth.
John Franklin
Franklin’s brother whose Friend, Vernon, entrusted Franklin a considerable sum of money.
Friend of Franklin’s brother John. Vernon entrusted Franklin with a considerable sum of money. Franklin spent it and was very anxious about paying Vernon back.
James Ralph
One of Franklin’s early, bookish friends in Philadelphia. He went with Franklin to England, abandoning his wife and child, adopted Franklin’s name as a pseudonym. He was a poor poet, but eventually became a much admired prose stylist.
Charles Osborne
One of Franklin’s early, bookish friends in Philadelphia, a harsh critic of James Ralph’s poetry who later became a lawyer in the West Indies.
Joseph Watson
One of Franklin’s early, bookish friends in Philadelphia. Franklin calls him “the best of the set,” unfortunately Watson died young and in Franklin’s arms.
Charles Brogden
A scrivener who employed Charles Osborne and Joseph Watson.
Andrew Hamilton
Famous lawyer who became friends with Franklin and supported him.
Mr. Denham
Quaker merchant Franklin met on his first trip to London. He and Franklin became fast friends and Denham employed Franklin as a clerk before he (Denham) died.
Royal printer in London who ignored Franklin.
Printer in London who employed Franklin.
Printer in London who employed Franklin.
Franklin’s fellow workman at Watts’s whom he taught to swim.
Sir William Wyndham
A gentleman who wished Franklin to instruct his children in swimming.
Mr. Wilcox
Londoner with a large library who became Franklin’s friend and lent him many book.
London surgeon who admired Franklin’s pamphlet, “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain.”
Dr. Mandeville
Author, and the director of a club in London.
Dr. Pemberton
A man who promised to take Franklin to see Isaac Newton, but failed to do so.
Sir Hans Sloan
A collector of curiosities in London who befriended Franklin.
Mrs. T—
A milliner who was the mistress of James Ralph.
Scoundrel lawyer in cahoots with Governor Keith to ruin Andrew Hamilton.
Mr. Keimer
Franklin’s longtime employer and sometime friend in Philadelphia, a poor printer but a decently intelligent man.
Hugh Meredith
A workman of Franklin’s at Keimer’s who later went into partnership with Franklin but was a worthless partner and a drunk.
Mr. Meredith
Hugh Meredith’s father who provided Franklin and Hugh with half the money they needed to start their press, but never provided the money in full, plunging Franklin into debt.
Stephen Potts
Workman of Franklin’s at Keimer’s.
David Harry
Workman of Franklin’s at Keimer’s, Keimer’s apprentice and, briefly, Franklin’s rival printer.
George Webb
Oxford scholar and workman of Franklin’s at Keimer’s. Webb was an indentured servant.
A wild Irishman who worked for Franklin at Keimer’s but soon ran away.
Ms. Read’s first, abusive husband.
James Hamilton
Son of Andrew Hamilton. He later became governor.
Dr. Bard
Governor Keith’s secretary.
Drunken Dutchman
Passenger on Franklin’s ship from New York to Amboy whose life Franklin saved.
Robert Holmes
Franklin’s brother-in-law, a merchant, who encouraged him to return to Boston and get the blessing of his family to set up as a printer in Philadelphia.
Mr. Read
Franklin’s father-in-law, sometime landlord, and one of the first men he saw in Philadelphia.
Ms. Read
Franklin’s fiancé and then wife, an industrious and good woman to whom Franklin attributes much of his success in life.
Mrs. Read
Franklin’s mother-in-law who, early on, discouraged him from marrying her daughter.
George House
Acquaintance of Franklin who brought him his first customer.
Joseph Bretnal
One of the original members of the Junto.
Joseph Godfrey
One of the original members of the Junto.
Nicholas Scull
One of the original members of the Junto.
William Parsons
One of the original members of the Junto.
William Maugridge
One of the original members of the Junto.
Robert Grace
One of the original members of the Junto who lent Franklin money to set up his own printing house.
William Coleman
One of the original members of the Junto who lent Franklin money to set up his own printing house.
Governor of Massachusetts when Franklin set up shop with Hugh Meredith.
Friend of Franklin’s in London who later worked for him in Philadelphia.
The Godphreys
Family of boarders who lived with Franklin and tried to set up an engagement between Franklin and the daughter of a relation of theirs.
Abel James
Quaker man and friend of Franklin’s who read part of Part One of Franklin’s Autobiography and wrote a letter to persuade him to finish it.
Benjamin Vaughn
Friend of Franklin’s who wrote him a letter urging him to finish his book.
Talented Irish preacher Franklin supported. Hemphill presented stolen sermons as his own.
Colonel Spotswood
Postmaster General who took Franklin as his Philadelphian Deputy.
Reverend Whitefield
Talented Irish travelling preacher who raised money to build an orphanage in Georgia.
Reverend Peters
The man whom Franklin established as the overseer of his college.
Colonel Lawrence
The man Franklin suggested to serve as colonel of the Philadelphia militia.
Governor Clinton
Governor of New York who lent Franklin cannons for his militia.
Mr. Logan
Quaker man who wrote in favor of defensive war.
Michael Welfare
One of the founders of the Dunkers who thought it best that they not codify their beliefs in writing.
Governor Thomas
Governor of Pennsylvania who offered Franklin a patent on the stove he invented.
Mr. Francis
Attorney General employed with Franklin in drawing up the constitution of Franklin’s academy.
David Hall
Friend of Franklin’s whom he took as a partner around the time he established his academy.
Proprietary Governors
Landed British gentry who disputed with the Assembly in Pennsylvania over taxes.
Dr. Thomas Bond
Franklin’s friend whom he helped with his plan to build Philadelphia’s first public hospital.
Rev. Gilbert Tennent
Presbyterian minister whom Franklin refused to help raise subscriptions for a new meeting house.
Mr. Norris
Speaker of the House for the Pennsylvania Assembly who accompanied Franklin to a peace meeting with the Six Nations Native Americans.
Thomas Penn
One of the delegates who went with Franklin to Albany to propose a peace treaty with the Six Nations.
Secretary Peters
One of the delegates who went with Franklin to Albany to propose a peace treaty with the Six Nations.
Governor Morris
The Governor of Philadelphia after James Hamilton. He was in constant dispute with the Assembly.
Captain Denny
Governor who succeeded Mr. Morris in Pennsylvania and continued the same disputes with the Assembly.
Mr. Quincy
The solicitor from Massachusetts who came to Pennsylvania to ask for monetary aid with defense.
General Braddock
A brave man but poor general to whom Franklin sent aid during the French and Indian War.
Colonel Dunbar
A colonel of General Braddock’s. He was persnickety and a coward.
General Shirley
A man briefly called to replace Braddock as the British general during the French and Indian War.
Colonel Clapham
Man who took over command of Franklin’s troops on Pennsylvania’s northwestern frontier.
Mr. Collinson
Englishman who made a gift of a glass tube for electrical experiment to Franklin’s library.
Dr. Fothergill
An English friend of Franklin’s who was a member of the Royal Society.
Mr. Kinersley
A neighbor of Franklin’s whom he set up as a demonstrator of electrical experiments.
Count de Buffon
Frenchman who translated Franklin’s papers on electricity into French.
M. de Lor
French scientist who performed Franklin’s experiments for the king of France.
Lord Loudoun
An inept buffoon of a general who replaced Shirley in the French and Indian War.
Mr. Hanbury
Virginia merchant who took Franklin to meet Lord Granville, President of the British Council.
Mr. Granville
President of the British Council.
Ferdinand John Paris
A rival of Franklin’s and the solicitor of the proprietary governors.
Abbe Nollet
Leading French theoretician on electricity who wrote a book challenging Franklin’s scientific ideas.
John Clifton
First man in Philadelphia to place a streetlamp at his door.
Dr. Brown
Man who kept an inn near Burlington, he befriended Franklin and admired his literariness.
Aquila Rose
Former workman of Bradford’s in Philadelphia. He had been an ingenious man and talented poet before his untimely death. Franklin later took his son as an apprentice.
Peter Folger
Franklin’s grandfather on his mother’s side.
Franklin’s cousin, a cutler, to whom he was briefly apprenticed.
Thomas Franklin Sr.
Franklin’s grandfather on his father’s side.
Thomas Franklin Jr.
Franklin’s uncle, a man very similar to Franklin himself.
Benjamin Franklin (2)
Franklin’s uncle.
George Brownell
A famous educator (at the time) who instructed Franklin after he left grammar school.