Born 1706 in Boston, Benjamin Franklin was the 15th of his father's 17 children. He went to school as a child with the intent of becoming a minister, as his father, Josiah, intended. However, that idea was dropped after Franklin showed a keen interest in reading and writing. He was apprenticed to his brother, James at a young age, but after fighting with his brother he quit the job and moved to Philadelphia, where he worked for a man named Samuel Keimer. After befriending some prominent political figures, including the royal Governor, Franklin left for England, where he spent 18 months working for a printer with his friend James Ralph, with whom he later became estranged. Shortly after returning to America in 1726, Franklin formed a debating club called the Junto. Two years later, he took over The Pennsylvania Gazette from Keimer and turned it into a successful publication with tools from London. In 1730, Franklin wed his old sweetheart, Deborah Read, with whom he had two children. The first, William Franklin, was born approximately one year later; he is the man to whom the Autobiography is addressed in Part One.
Throughout the 1730s, Franklin held some minor positions doing printing work for the government. In that time, he began Poor Richard's Almanac and became postmaster of Philadelphia. Towards the end of the decade, he invented the Franklin stove. In the 1740s, Franklin worked on several projects, including the fire brigade, the police force, the University of Pennsylvania, the street sweeping service and some other smaller public works projects. He retired from the printing business in 1748 and began to conduct scientific experiments in lightning. In 1753, he was awarded honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale, and he became Postmaster General of America. The following year, when war broke out between England and France (the French and Indian War Franklin began to draft proposals outlining means by which funds could be raised for colonial defense. He succeeded in many of his proposals, and he personally played a large part in organizing the war effort. The Autobiography, however, breaks off in 1757; it is left unfinished.
The Autobiography itself was written in three different times: 1771 in England, 1783-83 in France, and 1788 in America. If Franklin meant to complete it, he died before he got the chance.