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What didn't Ben Franklin do?

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Born 300 years ago Tuesday - on Jan. 17, 1706 - Franklin grew up in a large, poor family in Boston.

From the age of 10 until he was 12, Ben worked in his dad's shop, helping make candles and soap. But he was smart, although he had attended only two years of school. So he was apprenticed to his brother, James, who was the publisher of a newspaper.

It was at his brother's newspaper that Ben created "Silence Dogood," a fictional widow whose name he used when writing opinion articles for the newspaper.

The Silence Dogood letters marked a turning point in Ben's life. Through them he publically expressed his political opinions for the first time.

Those letters, 14 in all, are still famous today. (You may have even seen a reference to them in the recent Disney movie, "National Treasure.")

Five years later, when he was 17, Ben had the courage to move to Philadelphia, where he started his own newspaper, the Philadelphia Gazette. He also printed the popular "Poor Richard's Almanack." Published annually, the book contained information on many subjects.

Some of Franklin's most famous sayings first appeared in that almanac: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," and "If you would be loved, love and be lovable."

Through publishing, Franklin was able to achieve financial freedom and reach new audiences. That helped him devote much of his later life to politics.

Franklin was a skillful and energetic politician. He proved time and again that he wasn't afraid to take risks.

Franklin's first job as a politician was as Philadelphia's city clerk. From there, he rose to become Philadelphia's postmaster general and then deputy postmaster general for North America.

In 1775, the Revolutionary War began. The Colonies fought England for their independence.

At that time, Franklin was named a member of the Second Continental Congress. Over the next 13 months, he joined Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, and others in drafting the Declaration of Independence.

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