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Benjamin Franklin - Selected Archive Items
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 Jean Valade, Portrait of Benjamin Franklin (c. 1786),
courtesy of Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.
Franklin, a founding father, the discoverer of electricity, and the inventor of bifocals, rose from humble beginnings and marked himself in his Autobiography as an exemplar of the "American dream."
 H. B. Hall, Benjamin Franklin (1868),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-25564].
Franklin's presentation of himself as the ideal American individual was widely accepted. While he lived in France, he was celebrated as the embodiment of the naturalism and simplicity that supposedly characterized the New World--an image he carefully maintained by shunning French fashion and dressing plainly.
 Robert Feke, Benjamin Franklin (c. 1746),
courtesy of Harvard University.
Born in 1706 into a family of fifteen, Franklin early rebelled against life in Puritan Boston. Often considered the first American philosopher, Franklin was also a soldier, scientist, politician, and outspoken advocate of liberty and democracy.
 Benjamin Franklin, Title page for The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin LL.D. [The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin] (1793),
courtesy of Archiving Early America.
Franklin's Autobiography is often understood as an "auto-American-biography," meaning an autobiographical text in which the narrator self-consciously foregrounds his narrative construction of himself as an ideal American citizen.
 Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's Chart, (1790),
courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company.
With this chart, Franklin designates how he will use every hour of the day. Franklin is famous for his observation that being perceived as industrious is as important as actually being so.
 Charles Brothers, The Reception of Benjamin Franklin in France (c. 1882),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZC4-3804].
Ambassador Franklin became something of a cult figure in France, where people began to emulate his style of dress.
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