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Benjamin Franklin


Born in Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to Philadelphia where he established a printing business. Franklin went to London from December 1724 to July 1726. For six months he worked at Palmer's, later Watt's Printing Works. His printing press is shown on the "Franklin Press Token." It is one of the varied series of provincial tokens commonly called Conder Tokens.

On September 1, 1730, he took Deborah Read as his common law wife. She was already married but her husband deserted her. Franklin and Read would marry later. They had two legitimate children, Francis Folger and Sarah. Franklin had two illegitimate children including William, later Governor of New Jersey, and a daughter. Sarah married Richard Bache who succeeded Franklin as postmaster general. They had many notable descendants.

At the age of 23 he published A Modest Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency. Franklin published The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1730 to 1748 and Poor Richard's Almanac from 1725 to 1757. Franklin was clerk of the Pennsylvania general assembly 1736 to 1750. Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737. Deputy Postmaster General for the North American Colonies 1753 to 1774. He experimented with electricity and developed the lightning rod. His experiment flying a kite in an electrical storm is well known.

In 1732 he was appointed official printer for paper currency in the Colony of Pennsylvania. His name appears on the notes printed. He formed the firm of Franklin & Hall with David Hall. Hall would later join William Sellers in Hall & Sellers. These two firms printed much of the colonial paper currency issued.

Franklin went to England on business from 1757 to 1762 and again from 1768 to 1775. He was a delegate to the second Continental Congress in 1775. He was one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and one of the signers. He served as minister to France 1776 to 1785. He negotiated with the Paris Mint for the production of several of the Comitia Americana medals. Franklin suggested the general design for the Libertas Americana medal (Betts 615). The dies were executed by Dupre. He was also involved with the general design of the Continental Currency dollars.

Franklin supported the formation of the Bank of North America. He proposed that bills be issued in denominations of 1/90th dollar and 3/90th dollars. In 1789 the Spanish dollar could be exchanged for seven shillings sixpence. This was the equivalent of 90 pence in Pennsylvania currency. Therefore a Pennsylvania penny was worth 1/90th of a Spanish dollar. Franklin's son in law, Richard Bache, was on the board of the Bank of North America from 1784 to 1792. His grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, printed the notes on paper provided by Franklin.

Franklin appeared on more State Bank Notes than on any other person except Washington. John A. Muscalus listed 564 notes from 394 banks in 26 states that issued notes depicting Franklin.

Franklin appears on U. S. paper money:

$10 National Bank Note, series of 1863, 1864, 1865 and 1875

$10 National Gold Bank Note, series of 1870, 1872, 1873, 1874, 75

$10 1879 Refunding Certificate

$50 United States Notes, series of 1874, 1875, 1878 and 1880

$100 United States Notes, 1966 and later

$100 Federal Reserve Notes, 1914 and later

$100 Gold Certificate, series of 1928

$100 Federal Reserve Bank Note, series of 1929

$100 National Bank Note, series of 1929

$1 Merchant and Planters Bank, Savannah, GA

$1 1854 Bank of Anacastia, Washington, D. C.

$3 Bank of Manchester, Michigan

$3 Bank of Augusta, Georgia

$3 1860 Eastern Bank of Alabama, Eufala, AL

$3 Columbia Bank, District of Columbia

$5 Mechanics Bank of Memphis, Tennessee

$5 Roxbury Bank, Memphis, Tennessee

$10 Bank of the Republic, District of Columbia

$10 Eagle Bank of New Haven, Connecticut

$10 Bank of Augusta, Georgia

$20 South Carolina Bank

$20 Mechanics Bank, Augusta, Georgia

$20 Central Bank of Alabama, Montgomery, AL

$1000 Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Franklin established the Boston School medals first struck in 1792. His will provided an endowment of 100 pounds sterling. The interest was to pay for the medals. By 1857 the fund had grown to $1000. In 1948 the mint announced that it would no longer produce the medals in competition with private industry. In 1956 George Fuld listed 14 varieties of the Boston School medals.

Franklin was a member of the Masons and a subject for several Masonic medals. He died in Philadelphia.

Franklin appears on the Assay Commission Medal for 1938 (AC-83). The dies were by John Sinnock. Sinnock also designed the Franklin medal (USM 648) sold by the mint. Franklin appears on the Franklin Half Dollar issued 1947 to 1963. The dies by John Sinnock use a design similar to the obverse of the Assay Commission Medal. Franklin was the first person to be shown on regular issue coinage who had not served as President.

In the January 1873 issue of AJN, W. S. Appleton listed 39 Franklin medals from his collection. There have been hundreds of medals issued. The December 1956 issue of The Numismatist was devoted to Franklin and his connections to numismatics.

bio: ApCAB; BDC; DAB; Drake; EAB; Hessler; Limpert; Loubat; NCAB 1; NYHSD; TCBDA; WAB; WWWA-H

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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