We all think we know Benjamin Franklin. He is ubiquitous and iconic, linked with the American Enlightenment, “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” electricity, early US diplomacy, and our transition from bickering colonies to nationhood.
We never figured him for much of a family man, though. As a teenager, he fled his brother’s Boston printing shop for Philadelphia. He spent years apart from his common-law wife, Deborah, while he lived and worked in London. He was estranged from his illegitimate son, William, a Loyalist during the American Revolution.