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Benjamin Franklin, the Franchisor

  Joseph Berger  |    Feb 21, 2019 11:08:00 AM  |    Franchise Opportunities

Timothee Print ShotEarly Franchising in America

Franchising has roots in the middle ages and has been a part of the American economy since colonial times. In 2007, Franchising World published an article questioning whether Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a "Father of Franchising". While there is evidence of franchising before Franklin, he may have been one of the first Americans to conduct a franchising business. Also a discoverer of the powers of electricity and ocean currents, Franklin was truly ahead of his times.

Franklin was infamous for his production of Poor Richard's Almanac as well as the Pennsylvania Gazette. He found great success with these publications. In 1733, Franklin started a six-year contract with Thomas Whitmarsh, allowing him to set up as a publisher in South Carolina. Franklin fronted the costs of the printing press and types in exchange for a third of the profits. Franklin would go on to conduct a few deals in this manner and was able to support himself as a politician on these profits. Some speculate that these royalties allowed Franklin to carry on as the diplomat for the fledgling in the United States. As the negotiations led to an alliance with France that played a vital role in the revolution, some may say that early franchising had a profound indirect effect on the founding of the United States. 

The First Female Franchisee

The aforementioned Thomas Whitmarsh would die two years before the end of his contract with Franklin and his journeyman, Lewis Timothée would take over that contract. Timothée would also pass prematurely and his wife Elizabeth would in turn take over the contract and the accompanying printing press. As such Elizabeth Timothée is the first female franchisee as well as the first female editor and newspaper Lewis_Timothy_print_shop_plaquepublisher. Elizabeth would receive compliments for her work from the readers of her newspaper for the broad and high-minded content she regularly printed. Franklin commented that Elizabeth was a superior business manager than her late husband, stating that she "not only sent me as clear a state as she could find of the transactions past, but continued to account with the greatest regularity and exactness every quarter afterwards, and managed the business with such success, that she not only brought up reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration of the term, was able to purchase of me the printing-house, and establish her son in it".

Elizabeth would eventually hand over the publication to her son, Peter. She thereafter directed her focus on her second business, a bookstore, though undoubtably remained involved to some extent with the publication.

Elizabeth was a native of the Netherlands, but these business ventures all happened in Charleston, South Carolina, about a twenty minute drive from our franchising headquarters in the suburb of Mount Pleasant. Anyone who comes to visit us for a Discovery Day or for training will have an opportunity to see the building where Elizabeth ran her franchise as well as pay homage to her grave in the haunted St. Phillips Cemetery. 


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