He was sent by his parents to England to learn the printer's trade. In 1717, he was able to bring a printing press and typesets from England to Boston. His younger brother Benjamin was indentured as his apprentice and they set type for the Boston News Letter.  
The Hell-Fire literary group formed by Benjamin Franklin and William Douglass often met at the printing offices of the Courant, and members contributed writings to the publication, adding the practice of long editorials within it's contents. 
The younger brother Benjamin, his apprentice, was made publisher as the court had restrained James from publishing the Courant, or any pamphlet or paper of a similar nature, unless approved by the Secretary of the province. This allowed publication, evading the court order on James.    However, for Benjamin to be publisher, the indenture agreement had to be canceled, and another one was written, but kept in secret.  
James expected Benjamin to act in the manner of obedience and service of any apprentice, while Benjamin sought indulgence and leniency and they often argued. Benjamin eventually publicly let out the 'secret' indenture resulting in their final quarrel and left for Phildadelphia.  James wife Ann took over the responsibility as assistant printer and shopkeeper at the Courant, becoming one of the first woman printer's in the New England colonies.  
As interest in the paper declined at Boston, James' brother John advised him that there was a good prospect for a printer and newspaper at the seaport of Newport, Rhode Island, so James moved his operation there in about 1727, being the first Rhode Island printer.  
In 1730, James was chosen by the Newport Assembly to publish a new edition of colonial laws. 
In 1733, he published the schedule for the General Assembly.  He continued his printing business by publishing Almanacs and works for various authors, as well as printing on linens and fabrics, a trade he learned in England.
James died at the age of 38 in Newport on Feb. 4, 1734/5 and his widow Anne continued the printing business for another 13 years until her son James Jr. took over the operation. She took on a partner, Samuel Hall, said to be her son-in-law.  
He is buried in the Common Burial Ground at Newport. 
On 18 Feb 2012 Lois Hirsch wrote:
Boston Suffolk County Massachusetts, USA Death: Feb. 4, 1735 Newport Newport County Rhode Island, USA
Printer. Older brother of Benjamin Franklin. Ben served as his apprentice from ages 12 to 17. James founded the New England Courant, for which Ben secretly wrote letters under the pen name Silence Dogood. When James learned Dogood's true identity, he was displeased with Ben, who then ran away to Philadelphia. James married Ann Smith on his 26th birthday in 1723. When the Courant was shut down 4 years later, the couple moved to Rhode Island and started a new publication, the Rhode Island Almanack. On his 38th birthday and 12th wedding anniversary, James died after a long illness. (bio by: Collins Crapo)
Family links: Parents: Josiah Franklin (1657 - 1745) Abiah Folger Franklin (1667 - 1752)
Spouse: Ann Smith Franklin (1696 - 1763)
Children: Ann Franklin (1728 - 1730)*
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Burial: Common Burying Ground Newport Newport County Rhode Island, USA
Maintained by: Find A Grave Originally Created by: Collins Crapo Record added: Oct 10, 2010 Find A Grave Memorial# 59899116
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