Between April and October 1722 a series of letters appeared in the New England Courant
written by a middle-aged widow who called herself Silence Dogood. In her correspondence she poked fun at various aspects of life in colonial America, such as the drunkenness of locals, religious hypocrisy, the persecution of women, the fashion for hoop petticoats, and particularly the pretensions of Harvard College.
Silence Dogood's letters became quite popular. Some of the male readers of the Courant were so taken with her that they offered to marry her. But unfortunately for these would-be suitors, Silence Dogood did not exist. She was the invention of sixteen year-old Benjamin Franklin, who was working at the time as an apprentice to his older brother, James, a Boston printer.
Franklin initially concealed his authorship of the letters from his brother. When he finally confessed to his brother that he was the author, his brother grew quite displeased, fearing that all the compliments paid to Silence Dogood would make young Benjamin grow vain. Soon after this, Franklin decided to run away and seek his fortune in Philadelphia.
Silence Dogood was the first of many hoaxes Franklin perpetrated throughout his life.