Thomas Paine was born on February 9th, 1737, in Thetford, Norfolk. He was the son of Joseph and Frances Paine. His father was a shopkeeper and craftsman - a stay-maker (corset maker), who earned only a modest income. As Thomas grew up, all around him he saw the effects of poverty. From the thatched cottage in which he lived, the executioner's gallows were visible. This was a time when poor people could be hanged just for stealing enough food to feed their families.