Benjamin Franklin Signature Collage

Presented is an original Benjamin Franklin signature, presented framed with an etched portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Jacques Reich. The cut signature reads “Benja. Franklin” with a dramatic flourish, or paraph, on the “n” in Franklin. Franklin signed in black ink. This rare cut Franklin signature was one of several prominent American statesman autographs collected together and bound in a 1809 volume of the Baltimore Evening Post. 

Paired with the cut signature is a beautifully executed etching of Franklin by artist Jacques Reich. Printed in 1903, Reich based his portrait off the famous 1778 Joseph Siffred Duplessis oil painting of Franklin. Jacques Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont commissioned both the oil painting and a terracotta medallion with Franklin’s profile from Duplessis during Franklin’s time in France. The painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1779 and quickly emerged as the most iconic image of this legendary statesman, later used on the American 100 dollar bill. 

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a true renaissance man. He was an author, politician, scientist, inventor, and diplomat. Franklin was instrumental in the formation of the United States and served as the country's first ambassador to France. He is the only Founding Father to have signed all four of the key documents establishing the United States: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), and the Constitution (1787).

Benjamin Franklin was born in colonial Boston in 1706. Although he had little in terms of formal education, by age 12, he was apprenticed to his older brother James, a Boston printer, later contributing essays, under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. After working as a printer in Boston, Philadelphia, and London, Franklin opened his own printing shop in Philadelphia in 1728. His business was highly successful and printed government pamphlets, books, and currency. In 1729, Franklin became the owner and publisher of a colonial newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, to which he contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms. He achieved financial success with “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which he published every year from 1733 to 1758. 

Franklin was deeply involved in the civic affairs of his city. He helped launch a lending library, the city’s first fire company and police patrol, and organized the Pennsylvania militia. He founded the American Philosophical Society, raised funds for a city hospital, and was instrumental in the creation of the Academy of Philadelphia. Franklin also was a key figure in the colonial postal system. In 1737, the British appointed him postmaster of Philadelphia and became joint postmaster general for all the American colonies in 1753.

Retirement from his printing business in the 1740s allowed Franklin the time to concentrate on public service and also pursue his longtime interest in science. He conducted experiments that contributed to the understanding of electricity, and invented the lightning rod, which protected buildings from fires caused by lightning. In 1752, his famous kite experiment demonstrated that lightning is electricity. Franklin also coined a number of electricity-related terms, including battery, charge, and conductor. Franklin studied a number of other topics, including ocean currents, meteorology, causes of the common cold, and refrigeration, and his studies in light refraction lead to the invention of bifocals. 

In 1757, Franklin traveled to London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly. There, he worked to settle a tax dispute and other issues involving descendants of William Penn, the owners of the colony of Pennsylvania. When the British aimed to exert even more financial control over the colonies, Franklin testified in the British Parliament against the Stamp Act of 1765. 

He returned to Philadelphia in May 1775, shortly after the start of the Revolutionary War. He served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and in 1776 he was part of the five-member committee that helped draft the Declaration of Independence. That same year, Congress sent Franklin to France to enlist help with the Revolutionary War. In February 1778, the French signed a military alliance with America and went on to provide the soldiers, supplies, and money that proved critical to America’s victory in the war. As minister to France, Franklin also helped negotiate and draft the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.

In 1787, Franklin, then 81 years old, was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention. At the end of the convention, in September 1787, he urged his fellow delegates to support the heavily debated Constitution. Thanks to his influence and support, the Constitution was ratified by the required nine states in June 1788. Franklin died at the age of 84, on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia. 

CONDITION:

Very good condition overall. Signature in black ink, on cut toned paper. Ink has faded from black to dark brown, but is still legible and strong. Cut signature has been archivally lifted from a larger page of pasted cut signatures.  Jacques Reich etching is in excellent condition. The paper is healthy and the impression is strong. 

The portrait and cut signature are framed together in a custom, archival frame, with acid-free black linen mat, gold spandrels, a descriptive gold-leaf plaque, UV Conservation Clear glass, and a hand-built black and gold frame.

Framed dimensions: 39 1/2” H x 30 1/2” W x 2 7/8” D.


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