All about the Franklins

With Independence Day almost upon us, here’s a fresh bit of insight on our polymath Founding Father, Pennsylvania’s own Benjamin Franklin.

Author, printer, politician, scientist, inventor, statesman, activist, ambassador: The swath of Franklin’s genius is famously wide. In this blog post published by Oxford University Press, Penn State Franklin scholar Carla Mulford recounts another of the great man’s accomplishments — currency design.

In 1776,  while establishing a wartime postal service, working on the manufacture of saltpeter for gunpowder, writing a peace petition to King George III, and serving as President (roughly, governor) of Pennsylvania, Franklin was called on to design and oversee the printing of a Continental paper currency. Characteristically, the bills he produced managed to gracefully address both a vital pragmatic concern — the danger of counterfeit — and a vital political one — the concept of intercolonial unity.

Fugio cent reverse. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mulford’s most recent book, Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire, was published by Oxford in July 2015. Professor of English and founding president of the Society of Early Americanists, Mulford has  been working on Franklin for over 20 years. She edited The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin (2009), and has published over a dozen essays and book chapters on the man known as “The First American.”

Happy Fourth.

Members of the news media interested in learning more may contact Carla Mulford at  

Featured image: “Inscription: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Penn Libraries” by POP, via Flickr CC BY 2.0


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