t 81, Benjamin Franklin was twice the average age of the other members of the Constitutional Convention. Suffering from gout and kidney stones, he nevertheless continued his public career. In these final years of his life, Franklin remained open-minded and reflective. He renewed work on his autobiography—started years earlier—and served as President of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, taking a prominent stand against slavery.

Since his death in April 1790, more than two centuries ago, Franklin has been memorialized, revered, romanticized, spoofed, and made into an advertising and financial icon. His face and figure have been depicted in every medium—stone, paint, film, cartoon, the Internet—and can be seen on billboards and building facades, postage stamps, and the $100 bill. Franklin’s name evokes imagination, wit, and entrepreneurial ingenuity worldwide.

Dr. Franklin’s Profile, 1982
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Dr. Franklin’s Profile, 1982
Benjamin Franklin’s Epitaph, n.d.
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Benjamin Franklin’s Epitaph, n.d.
The Most Famous Autobiography of All Time
Though he never finished writing it, Franklin’s Autobiography is the most widely published memoir in history and has never gone out of print. In his autobiography, which he started as a letter to his son, Franklin offers the story of his life as an archetypal journey from rags to riches. The Autobiography remains inspiring today: it documents Franklin’s many achievements, details his struggles with personal improvement, explains his belief in personal virtue, and exemplifies his ceaseless self-questioning. Mémoires de la vie privée de Benjamin Franklin, 1791
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Mémoires de la vie
privée de Benjamin
Franklin, 1791