|Sailing from England on July 23, 1726, Franklin finally landed
in Philadelphia on October 11. Benjamin was now bound to work for
the merchant Thomas Denham for the period of one year, and he had
the former Governor William Keith to blame for his troubles. Sir
Keith never offered any apologies or explanations as to why he sent
Franklin to England without providing the proper funding.
Unbeknownst to Benjamin, Deborah Read, the woman Franklin secretly pledged to marry, had abandoned any hope of his return from London. Consequently, she had wedded a potter and a poor husband named John Rogers. Upon discovering that Rogers practiced polygamy, Deborah promptly left him and renounced his name. Benjamin, meeting Deborah for the first time since his arrival, was ashamed, for he had written his sweetheart only once while in Europe.
Acting as an expert salesman in Denham's shop, Franklin gained valuable experience. The store dealt essentially with English goods imported to the colonies in order to earn high profits. Through the course of Franklin's employment, Denham became a virtual father figure, filling in for the natural father Franklin left behind in Boston. Denham even lent his favorite employee large sums of money over and above his wages. Tragically, just after Benjamin reached the age of twenty-one, both individuals contracted deadly diseases. Franklin, stricken with pleurisy, managed to recover. However, Denham was not so fortunate. After a long bout of illness, he passed away. As a testament to his generosity, Denham forgave Franklin's debt in his will.
Unemployed due to the collapse of Denham's operation, Franklin desperately sought work. Reluctantly, he returned to assist his former boss, Keimer, a Philadelphian printer. At the print shop, Benjamin's job entailed training the lower-paid and often inexperienced workers. He was, in essence, the shop's manager and was instrumental in making Keimer's business a success. When his boss received an order from the assembly in Burlington, New Jersey to print the first paper currency ever created in the colonies, Franklin aided in the design of the bills and even constructed a copper plate press, the first in America. Nevertheless, verbal arguments and disputes over pay drove Franklin to quit his term of employment.
Upon discovering Franklin was leaving Keimer's shop, Hugh Meredith, a fellow worker, proposed that Franklin and he establish their own printing business, using the capital of Hugh's father. The idea came to fruition in 1726 with Meredith and Franklin acting as the two principal partners. Benjamin's shop quickly blossomed into a successful business venture. Many citizens had claimed Philadelphia could not support three competing printers. However, Franklin proved his critics wrong and established a reputation as being the most skilled and the most industrious printer in town. One wealthy Phialdelphian said of Franklin: "For the industry of that Franklin is superior to anything I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home from the club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed."
Franklin working diligently on his writings
At around the same time, Franklin founded the printing business, he also established the Junto, an informal gathering of his friends and close associates. Every Friday evening, members met to discuss political, religious, and business matters. Above all, the men who gathered discussed how to improve both their individual lives and society as a whole. All of the individuals were up-and-coming citizens who provided Franklin with business contacts and political allies throughout life.
Astonishingly, the Junto lasted for approximately forty years. The club was both an influential and enjoyable turning point in Franklin's life.