He was the son of a printer, and grandson of two others. He was born to William and Elizabeth Sowle Bradford in Philadelphia. In 1692 the family moved to New York, and there he learned the printing trade from his father.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1712 and opened his own print shop. On December 22 1719 he began publication of The American Weekly Mercury. This was the first newspaper in the middle colonies, and he continued it until his death. He also taught the print business to his nephew William Bradford, and for a time employed Benjamin Franklin when Franklin first came to Philadelphia.