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Now a successful printer, Franklin broadened his interests. The first of these interests was Deborah. After Franklin left for England in 1724 and failed to return, Deborah had married a man named John Rogers. Rogers soon abandoned her, however. When Franklin returned, he and Deborah resumed their courtship. They finally entered a common-law marriage on September 1, 1730. They could not be married in the church because Deborah was technically still married to John Rogers, whose whereabouts were unknown. Rogers never turned up again, and Deborah remained Franklin's wife until her death in 1774. The couple raised Franklin's illegitimate son, William (who had been born sometime during 1728 or 1729) and soon had two children of their own.
Franklin was busy. In 1731 he joined the Freemasons and was soon elected their leader. In the same year he wrote the founding agreement for the Library Company of Philadelphia, which became America's first public library. He served as president, librarian, and then secretary of the library, making sure it grew and succeeded. In 1734 he organized the Union Fire Company, America's first fire department. He also urged the city of Philadelphia to hire night watchmen and developed a method of printing money that made it more difficult to counterfeit. In 1736 he was elected clerk of the Pennsylvania assembly; in 1737 he was appointed Postmaster General of Philadelphia.
Franklin's work as a writer also picked up steam. In 1731 he published Poor Richard's Almanack, writing most of it himself. It soon became the most popular almanac in America, selling over 10,000 copies annually. All across the colonies, people read and repeated the famous sayings of Poor Richard, the almanac's simple-minded, homespun fictional narrator. While Poor Richard succeeded spectacularly, Franklin's repeated attempts to establish a German language newspaper failed, as did his plans for a magazine.
While trying better society, Franklin also tried to better himself. As he would later describe in his Autobiography, he listed thirteen useful "virtues" such as Temperance and Charity and spent a week concentrating on each. He recognized that he would never be perfect, but concluded, "I was by the Endeavour made a better and happier Man than I otherwise should have been." He recommended the technique to others, earning the dubious distinction of being America's first self-help guru.
By the 1730s, Franklin was an important social figure and a prosperous businessman. He was, by every measure of his era, a success. He had worked single-mindedly on achieving this success for most of his youth, and must have been very satisfied to achieve it. He could have sat back and enjoyed his success, but instead he threw himself into just about every imaginable scheme to improve the world. Why?
Franklin wanted to be a respected and influential member of society. He seems never to have sought money for its own sake. Rather, money was a means of achieving things that would benefit society and bring honor to him. His interests were very broad. In the fall of 1727 Franklin founded a discussion and self-improvement group known as the "Junto," a loose collection of thinkers and leaders that discussed everything from morals to science to agriculture. They shared a belief that individuals working as a group could improve the world for everyone. They formed a core group of reformers, with Franklin in the lead. The library, the fire company, and the night watch all represented a fulfillment of their ideals.
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