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Benjamin Franklin. Artist unknown. Presbyterian Historical Society.
Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia in 1723 as an apprentice printer looking for work. Upon his death in 1790, Franklin -- printer, publisher, philosopher, scientist, and statesman -- was regarded as one of the most extraordinary public servants in the history of Philadelphia and the United States.
Philadelphia was the second English colony in America and saw its first printing press established by William Bradford (1663-1752) ‘near Philadelphia’ in 1686. Franklin and his cosmopolitan colleagues represent a rich printing tradition that was just one aspect of the vibrant colonial city that was Philadelphia. During this era, Philadelphia was the capital of Pennsylvania (1683-1799), a center of the rebellion and its government, and became the capital of the United States in the year of Franklin’s death (1790). Throughout, it was a center of culture and industry.
With the establishment of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1706, Philadelphia became the center of the nascent Presbyterian church in the American colonies. It was here that many of the early decisions about the future of the denomination were made and appeared in print, and here that the worship and secular material read by Presbyterians was printed.