Silence Dogood

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File:New England Courant - third Silence Dogood essay (detail).jpg
Silence Dogood Essay in New England Courant

Mrs. Silence Dogood was a pen name used by Benjamin Franklin to get his work published in the New-England Courant, a newspaper founded and published by his brother James Franklin. This was after Benjamin Franklin was denied several times when he tried to publish letters under his own name in the Courant. The 14 Mrs. Silence Dogood letters were first printed in 1722.


As a teenager, Franklin worked as an apprentice in his older brother's printing shop in Boston, where The New-England Courant was published and printed.

Franklin never got anything he wrote published, so, at age 16, Franklin created the persona of a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood.[1] Once every two weeks, he would leave a letter under the door of his brother's printing shop. A total of 14 letters were sent. The first letter began:

The letters poked fun at various aspects of life in colonial America, such as this quote about hoop petticoats:

The letters were published in The New-England Courant fortnightly, and amused readers. Some men wrote in offering to marry Ms. Dogood, upon learning she was widowed.[1]

Eventually, James found out that all fourteen of the letters had been written by his younger brother, which angered him. Benjamin left his apprenticeship without permission and escaped to Philadelphia.[3]

Letters 1 & 2 – Dogood's background

Franklin created a whole background for his character, and explained this in depth in the majority of his first letter:

The whole second letter was an account of Dogood's life:

In popular culture

The Silence Dogood letters feature in the 2004 movie National Treasure. After stealing the United States Declaration of Independence, cryptologist Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) find an Ottendorf cipher hidden in invisible ink on the back of the Declaration. Following the discovery of a Knights Templar riddle which said "The key in Silence", a link between the Silence Dogood letters and the cipher is established. The cipher is used to find the hidden message in the letters which proves to be another clue.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Boese, Alex (2008). "Silence Dogood at the Museum of Hoaxes". Retrieved 2008-08-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "". Retrieved 2008-07-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin. (1938). Penguin reprint 1991.

External links