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Benjamin Franklin: from printer to revolutionary

Title page of featured item with Benjamin Franklin’s signatureTitle page of featured item with Benjamin Franklin’s signature at the topThe copy of the charters and laws of Pennsylvania featured here was published by Benjamin Franklin (1706-90). From his early twenties, Franklin worked as a printer and publisher, owning a successful printing shop in Philadelphia. Franklin retired at the age of 42 to focus on his political and scientific interests, becoming involved in local civic affairs and acting as a colonial representative in London.

With the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, he threw himself into the independence movement and in 1776 helped Thomas Jefferson draft the Declaration of Independence. In the same year he successfully secured a military alliance with France that was critical to America’s ultimate victory. In 1783 Franklin negotiated and signed the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War.

Philadelphia, the capital of Pennsylvania, was the site of the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775, with the latter Congress producing the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years later, the constitution of the United States was drafted in Philadelphia, creating a united federal government.

Benjamin Franklin’s signature is at the top right of the title page reproduced here and his signature is the only one of the Founding Fathers’ that can be found on the four documents that established the United States of America: the Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris and the US Constitution.

In this exhibition

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