Ann Browne Franklin

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Ann Browne Franklin (Smith)

Birthdate: (66)
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Colonial America
Death: April 16, 1763 (66)
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, Colonial America
Place of Burial: Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Robert Smith and Anne Browne
Wife of James Franklin, I
Mother of James Franklin, II; Abiah Buckmaster; Abigail Franklin; Ann Franklin; Elizabeth All and 3 others
Sister of William Smith; Abraham Smith and Sarah Smith

Occupation: Editor, printer, publisher, journalist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ann Browne Franklin

James Franklin ,1696-1735, and Ann Smith Franklin, 1696-1763, of Newport, were journalists and Rhode Island's first printers and newspaper publishers. In 1727 they set up Rhode Island's first printing press. In 1732 he issued the Rhode Island Gazette, Rhode Island's first newspaper. When James died in February, 1735, the printing shop was continued under the auspices of Ann Franklin, whose imprint appeared as “The Widow Franklin.” 


America's first female newspaper editor. Upon the death of her husband James, she inherited his newspaper, the Rhode Island Almanack.


From August 22 1762: Ann Franklin takes over as Editor of the Newport Mercury

Ann (Smith) Franklin was sixty-seven years old when her son James Jr. died and left her a four-year-old newspaper to tend. Ann Franklin knew exactly what to do.

She had learned the printing business in Boston alongside her husband James, and had instructed his young apprenticed brother Benjamin well enough for him to be able to set up his own press. Ann and James published the New England Courant, which …many considered disrespectful of the civil authorities, so after James spent a month in jail for expressing his opinions a bit too clearly, the couple decamped for Newport.

There they set up Rhode Island’s first printing press and all went well until 1735 when her husband James got terribly sick and died. Ann was thirty-nine years old and found herself left with the family printing business and five young children to feed.

In 1736, she asked the General Assembly of Rhode Island for a contract: Whereas your petitioner being left with several small children which is a great charge to her, and having not sufficient business at the printing trade, humbly prays hour Honors will grant her the favor to print Acts of the Colony and what other things shall be lawful and necessary to be printed, in order for your Petitioner’s support and maintenance of her family, she having no other way to support herself.

She got the job. Operating under the imprint of “The Widow Franklin” she also printed books, sermons, pamphlets, election ballots, legal forms, the Rhode Island Almanack, the colony’s charter, paper currency, broadsides of private quarrels, advertisements for merchants, as well as popular British novels.

She sent her son James, Jr. off to apprentice with his Uncle Benjamin in Philadelphia, while her daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, helped her set type in the shop. When James returned from Philadelphia in 1748, they named the business ‘Ann and James Franklin.’ Ten years later they started The Newport Mercury and it became one of colonial America’s important newspapers.

When James, Jr. died in 1762, Ann went right back to the printing press and became editor of the newspaper as well.

Ann Smith Franklin died on April 16, 1763. Her obituary appeared in The Mercury describing her as someone whose ‘economy and industry … supported herself and her family, and brought up her children in a genteel manner.’ She was the first American woman newspaper editor, the first woman to write an almanac, the official printer to the colony of Rhode Island, and a pioneer in American publishing.


Daughter of Samuel & Anna Smith of Boston. Married James Franklin, son of Josiah & Abiah (Folger) Franklin, on 4 February 1723 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts.

From The Olney Connection Rootsweb database

6 children. The Franklins relocated to Newport RI in 1727.

  1. James b: ABT 1724. Married Eunice Barnes.
  2. Abiah b: ABT 1726. Married George Buckmaster.
  3. Elizabeth b: ABT 1728. Married Isaac All.
  4. Ann b: 1730. Died as an infant.
  5. Mary b: ABT 1732. Married William Allen.
  6. Sarah b: ABT 1734. Married Samuel Hall.

Ann's brother-in-law was Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

Per contributor: Ann's bio is being modified to show that she had 5 children, and not 1 child as stated above.

Wikepedia: They had five children while in Newport, including daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and son James Jr. (c.1730-1762). James Jr. attended Philadelphia Academy with his cousin William, Benjamin's son, before James Jr. apprenticed in the printing trade with his Uncle Benjamin.[6] After a long illness, James died in Newport in 1735, leaving Ann a widow, aged 39, with three young children to support, one child having preceded him in death. 10-12-13 Per Collins Crapo, James and his 2 Anns (wife & dau) are all buried in Newport, Rhode Island.

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Ann Browne Franklin's Timeline

October 2, 1696
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Colonial America
June 17, 1716
Age 19
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Colonial America
Age 27
Newport, Newport , Rhode Island, Colonial America
May 16, 1726
Age 29
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Colonial America
Age 29
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Colonial America

American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI)

Name:  Abiah Franklin
Birth:  1726 - Massachusetts

Age 31
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, Colonial America
Age 31
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, Colonial America
Age 35
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, Colonial America
Age 37
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, Colonial America