Paine was born in 1737 in Thetford, a village 70 miles northeast of London, the son of a staymaker or corsetmaker. In school, he showed intelligence, but mostly laziness. Paine trained in his father's shop, then ran away from home at 16, first serving as a sailor on the high seas. At 21 he opened his own staymaking shop with a loan he never repaid. A wretched businessman, Paine married in 1759 as his business foundered. His wife died a year later, and Paine left his shop one night, leaving a legacy of debts and mystery.