Throwback Thursday: The Debut of Silence Dogood

Her (ahem, his) first letter ran in the New England Courant on April 2, 1772.

To the Author of the New England Courant.


It may not be improper in the first Place to inform your Readers, that I intend once a Fortnight to present them, by the Help of this Paper, with a short Epistle, which I presume will add somewhat to their Entertainment.

That’s how Silence Dogood’s surely entertaining letter to the New England Courant began, in which she tries to succinctly sum up the story of her life. Except it’s all made up.

Middle-aged widow Silence Dogood, is not, in fact, a widow. Or middle-aged. She’s teenage Benjamin Franklin—the Boston-born, Philadelphia transplant whom we know and love. Franklin wrote to the Courant, where he was a print shop apprentice, under a pseudonym, while his brother, James Franklin, was the paper’s editor.

Why did he do it? After several failed attempts to contribute with his own byline, he devised this alternate plan to be featured in print. Her identity unknown to readers (and to James Franklin), Silence Dogood’s first letter was published on April 2, 1772. And she wrote more than a dozen after that.

Dogood told tales of her life, and often criticized daily life in colonial America. From bashing large petticoats, or “monstrous topsy-turvy Mortar-Pieces,” to fielding marriage proposals from gentlemen readers, Dogood was quite the character.

Thanks, Ben, for being you.