He was not long in obtaining employment with a printer of the name of Keimer; and, during his stay at Philadelphia, was favorably noticed by the governor, Sir William Keith, who frequently invited him to his table; and at length promised to advance the funds requisite to place him in business on his own account. He had previously advised his young protegé to proceed to Boston and ask assistance from his father, who, however, gave no encouragement to the scheme, but dismissed Franklin with his blessing, who retured to Philadelphia. Sir William now recommended him to visit England, in order to procure an adequate stock of printing materials, and establish a connection with some London booksellers; and offered to furnish him with letters of credit and introduction. Upon this recommendation, Franklin set sail for England, but the ship which carried him to London, in December, 1724, was found to have carried none of the promised letters from the governor of Pennsylvania.
He was now thrown entirely upon his own resources, and having taken lodgings in Little Britain, at one shilling and nine pence per week, he got into work at Palmer's printing-house, in Bartholomew Close, in which employ he continued for nearly a year. From Palmer's he removed to Watts's, near Lincoln's Inn Fields, where, by his companions, he was dubbed the Water-American. 'From my example,' he says, a great many of them left off their muddling breakfast of beer, bread, and cheese, finding they could, with me, be supplied from a neighboring house with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbled with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, viz., three-halfpence.' About this period, he fell in with some deistical companions, renounced his religious principles, commenced sceptic, and published A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, in answer to Wollaston's Religion of Nature. This work introduced him to the notice of Sir Hans Sloane, Dr. Mandeville, Dr. Pemberton, and other eminent persons, though Franklin acknowledged the printing of it as one of the errors of his life. After having been in London eighteen months, he accepted the offer of a Mr. Denham, a merchant of Philadelphia, to return with him as his clerk, at a salary of L50. He arrived at Philadelphia on the 11th of October, 1720: but, Mr. Denham dying in the following year, his clerk was compelled to return to his former occupation, and again entered into the employ of Keimer; acting in the several capacities of letter-founder, ink-maker, engraver, and copper-plate-printer. The press which he used in the latter calling was constructed by himself, and was the first erected in America. A quarrel with Keimer, led to a final separation between him and Franklin, who now entered into partnership with a young man of the name of Meredith. We had scarcely,' says Franklin, opened our letters and put the press in order, before George House, an acquaintance of ours, brought a countryman to us, whom he had met in the street inquiring for a printer. All our cash had been expended in the variety of particulars we had been obliged to procure, and this countryman's five shillings, being our first fruits, and coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any money I have ever since received.' The frugality and industry of Franklin soon brought their business into a thriving condition, and he began to think of establishing a newspaper, when he was anticipated by Keimer, who started one of his own. He now wrote, in conjunction with a friend, a series of papers called The Busy Body, which so much eclipsed the publication of his rival, that he was glad to dispose of his paper, at any price, to Franklin. Meredith proving inattentive to business, Franklin was persuaded to dissolve partnership, and take the concern entirely into his own hands, which he was enabled to accomplish, through the liberal assistance of two acquaintances, who were members of the Junto. This was a club, established by Franklin, for the discussion of subjects connected with morals, politics, and natural philosophy; it eventually became the centre of thought for the whole people; and contributed, in a great degree, to the success of their struggle for independence.
In September, 1730, he married a female to whom he had been previously attached, when she was Miss Read, but who, during his absence, had conceived herself forgotten, and given her hand to a potter, of the name of Rogers. This person had involved himself in debt, and fled to the West Indies, but Franklin's affection was not damped by the probability of the lady's first husband being still alive, and he consented to make her his spouse.
In 1732, he published his celebrated almanac, under the name of Richard Saunders, more generally known as Poor Richard's Almanack,' and which became so celebrated for its numerous happily-expressed and valuable moral maxims. These were collected, many years afterwards, in to a little tract, called The Way to Wealth; having for its object the ex tension of industry and economy, habits which no man ever practiced more successfully than Franklin himself. Dr. Bard a Scotchman, residing in Philadelphia, used to say to him, The industry of this Franklin is superior to any thing of the kind I ever witnessed. I see him still at work when I return from the club at night, and I find he is at it again in the morning, before his neighbors are out of bed.' On one occasion, having laid down a rule that he would compose a sheet a day of a particular work, in folio, he had the misfortune, after his evening's labor, to derange two whole pages. Such, however, was his perseverance; that he distributed and composed them anew before he retired to bed.