Character List


Benjamin Franklin The author, writing his Autobiography in his old age, reveals himself to be something of a "renaissance man," skilled in many fields: business, science, public affairs, and diplomacy. He believes in hard work, honesty, and the capacity of all men to improve themselves. He possesses a subtle sense of humor.

Dr. Thomas Bond The physician who originated the idea of a public hospital in Philadelphia to serve the poor, whether residents or travelers.

General Edward Braddock The Commander-in-chief of forces sent to defend the Colonies against French and Indian attacks in 1755. Braddock ignored warnings about the Indians' usual ambush tactics and was subsequently killed. His army was slaughtered.

Andrew Bradford The best-established printer in Philadelphia when Franklin arrived there looking for work. In his first days Franklin boarded with Bradford, though he was employed by Keimer, a rival. Once Franklin began his own printing-house, however, he and Bradford became great rivals. As postmaster, Bradford forbade his riders to carry Franklin's newspapers. Bradford's father, William, of New York, had originally recommended that Franklin try to find work in Philadelphia.

Dr. John Browne An inn-keeper near Burlington with whom Franklin stayed on his first journey to Philadelphia. Browne remained Franklin's friend for life, though Franklin felt that Browne's doggerel parody of the Bible might cause much harm.

Peter Colinson A London merchant and scientist who sent the Philadelphia Library Company its first Leyden jar for electrical experiments, and who later read Franklin's papers on electricity to the London Academy.

John Collins Franklin's boyhood friend whose superior argumentative abilities spurred Franklin to learn to write good prose. Later Collins came to Philadelphia but found no work, borrowed money Franklin held in trust, and never repaid the debt.

Denham A prosperous Philadelphia merchant Franklin met on his first voyage to England, who advised the youth when he was left stranded in London. Denham later made Franklin manager of his Philadelphia store, but died shortly afterwards.

Governor Denny The last governor mentioned in the Autobiography, who once tried to bribe Franklin on behalf of Pennsylvania's Proprietors. Though he had given a personal bond not to do so, Denny himself was finally "persuaded" to sign a bill taxing the Proprietary estates.

Fothergill A London physician who wrote the preface for Franklin's published papers on electricity and later advised Franklin when he arrived as Assembly Agent to petition the government against the Proprietors.

James Franklin Benjamin's brother, a Boston printer, to whom he was apprenticed at the age of 12. James was imprisoned for opposing government measures and was forbidden to publish his newspaper. He cancelled Benjamin's contract in order to make him figurehead publisher, and soon afterwards Benjamin refused to work for him. James was resentful when a prosperous Benjamin returned from Philadelphia, but the two were reconciled years later when Benjamin promised to train James's son as his own apprentice.

Josiah Franklin Franklin's father, who immigrated to New England to find greater religious freedom, and who inculcated in his son a desire to become both prosperous and useful.

William Temple Franklin Franklin's son, who accompanied him on military trips and government missions in Pennsylvania and England. Later Governor of New Jersey, Temple sided with England during the Revolution, and therefore estranged himself from his father.

Thomas Godfrey Glassblower, astronomer, and mathematician of excellence, who rented part of Franklin's printing house as a home and became a charter member of the Junto.

David Hall Franklin's partner for 18 years, he managed the printing-house after Franklin himself retired from active participation in it.

Andrew Hamilton Famous lawyer against whom Governor Keith plotted. Franklin accidentally uncovered the schemes and warned Hamilton, who later became one of Franklin's allies in the Assembly.

Samuel Keimer Franklin's first employer, who was so personally unpleasant that he was repeatedly ignored by the influential people befriending Benjamin, of whom he was apparently jealous.

Governor Keith Governor of Pennsylvania when Benjamin arrived at Philadelphia, Keith signed much excellent legislation but never furnished the money or credit he had promised Franklin.

Lord Loudoun Commander-in-chief of the British forces in America in 1756. His vacillations irritated Franklin by delaying the packet on which Franklin planned to sail to England.

Hugh Meredith Franklin's first partner, who decided after about a year that he was unfit for printing and sold Franklin his share of their business.

Samuel Mickle An old man of Philadelphia whom Franklin labeled a croaker" because he was always forecasting disaster for every person and enterprise. He warned Franklin that any printing venture was doomed because Philadelphia was about to die. Franklin's wryly ironic portrait of Mickle has been cited as a good example of his skill at portraying character.

Governor Morris One of Franklin's English friends whose love of argument soon led him into trouble with the Pennsylvania Assembly and to a very turbulent administration.

Abbe Nollet French author of a theory on electricity whose ideas Franklin disproved and who attacked Franklin in print.

Ferdinando Paris "A proud angry man" who disliked Franklin for his tart replies to Paris's messages on behalf of Pennsylvania's Proprietors. He was lawyer for Thomas Penn.

James Ralph Would-be poet who accompanied Franklin on his first trip to England and who later became a highly respected prose writer at the Court in London.

Deborah Read Franklin's wife, "a good and faithful Helpmate."

Gilbert Tennant Clergyman who raised money to build a church for the Protestants whom Whitefield had once converted. Tennent is the only man mentioned in the Autobiography whose request for help on a public project Franklin refused.

Vernon Rhode Island resident who asked Franklin to collect a debt for him in Pennsylvania. Franklin suffered great remorse after he loaned most of the money to John Collins. Paying Vernon back his money was one of Franklin's first triumphs.

Whitefield Evangelist who triggered the "Great Awakening" in America, and with whom Franklin became personal friends.

Wygate A friend with whom Franklin worked as printer during his first stay in London. Franklin taught him to swim and considered touring Europe with him.

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