After reading the "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," a book with unquestionable powers of motivation, James Harper decided to follow in Franklin's footsteps. Franklin had achieved great success as a printer and publisher, and James Harper pursued the same course, establishing Harper & Brothers, America's largest publishing house. There were four brothers, James, born on Long Island in 1795; John in 1797; Joseph Wesley in 1801; and Fletcher in 1806. Their father was a farmer and storekeeper, their mother a Dutch burgher's daughter. Most of the boys' time was spent working on the farm. It was a stern upbringing, every offense recorded, but punishment gently administered. They attended district school a few months each year and gained a rudimentary education. Clad in homespun clothes and barefooted, the Harpers were held in contempt by the rich kids.