Nick Bunker's YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (w/ George Boudreau)

Please join us for a reading and discussion with Nick Bunker—author of Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity—in conversation with George Boudreau!

In YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: THE BIRTH OF INGENUITY, Pulitzer Prize finalist Nick Bunker presents a fresh account of one of the most important figures in American history. From the fascinating story of the first 40 years of his life, Franklin emerges as a complex, even conflicted human being: ambitious, tough, and even ruthless as he picks his way through a harsh colonial world, but also poetic and imaginative, with strong emotions and a rebellious streak.

This is an athletic young Franklin, very different from the familiar image of the elder statesman with long grey hair and spectacles. He cuts his teeth as a journalist by apprenticing at his brother’s newspaper, writing satirical articles under the pseudonym “Silence Dogood” and angering the authorities. Fleeing the confines of Boston, he survives a storm at sea and then walks across the wilderness of New Jersey to his new home in Philadelphia. He bucks social norms to embrace a vegetarian diet, he collects relationships with clever and eccentric people, and by the age of 21 he has already spent an adventurous eighteen months in London—the empire’s capital—meeting scientists and free thinkers and perfecting his skills as a printer.

Bunker draws on untapped archival material about Franklin’s ancestors—the Franklins in England—whose own ingenuity led them to become highly skilled craftsmen and to establish themselves in society. Far from being completely self-made, as Franklin claimed in his later years, he was a man whose drive and talents had a solid foundation in his family history. Bunker also depicts Franklin’s early relationships with mentors and other powerful people of the time, some of whom took advantage of the brilliant young man’s ambition and taught him important lessons about whom to trust. He covers the darker sides of Franklin’s ambitions, including his indifference to the horrors of slavery during his early business partnerships. Finally, Bunker provides careful analysis of the key turning point in Franklin’s life in the 1740s when he made his decisive turn toward scientific research.

YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN contains a host of new discoveries about the people and incidents described in Franklin’s memoirs. Through meticulous research, Nick Bunker provides readers with a broader and deeper awareness of the world from which Franklin emerged, the early political climate of the American colonies, and the dawning of an age of science in the New World.

NICK BUNKER is the author of three non-fiction books, including An Empire On The Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for History and won the 2015 George Washington Prize. His current book, Young Benjamin Franklin: the Birth of Ingenuity, tells the story of Franklin’s origins and early life and his emergence as America’s first great scientist. Born in London and educated in the UK at King’s College, Cambridge and then in New York at Columbia University, Bunker started out as a newspaper reporter in Liverpool in the 1980s and then moved to the Financial Times. After leaving journalism he worked in the stock market and in corporate finance, chiefly for the HongKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. A keen mountain walker, he now lives in the English cathedral city of Lincoln with his wife Sue and their otterhound, Mercury.

GEORGE BOUDREAU is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, and public history. He has published extensively, and his 2012 book Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia (Westholme 2012, paperback 2016) explores the sites related to the nation’s founding and the diverse people who lived within them. Penn State Press will release his co-edited collection, A Material World: Culture, Society, and the Life of Things in spring 2019. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to educate teachers about Benjamin Franklin and the eighteenth century. In addition, he has been awarded research fellowships from the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He a postdoctoral fellow at Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg in fall 2018.

Event date: 
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101874417
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - September 18th, 2018

Independence: A Guide to Historic Philadelphia Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594162596
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Westholme Publishing - April 10th, 2016