Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
This engraving was Franklin's favorite likeness of himself during the 1760s. It was based on a painting made while he was in London in 1762, which emphasized his electrical experiments and inventions. He sent impressions to friends and colleagues, and his son William Franklin ordered at least one hundred, many of which were sold in Philadelphia. Franklin clearly understood the role of portraiture in securing one's public reputation, and distributed this likeness widely. As he wrote in 1764 to his friend Ezra Stiles:
My Brother . . . tells me you would like to have one of the new Prints of your Friend. As there are a few others in your Government, who do me that Honour to have some regard for me, and who perhaps I may never again have the Pleasure of visiting in any other Manner, I have taken the Liberty to trouble you with the Care of six of those Prints to be distributed agreable to the enclos'd List, as you have convenient Opportunity. They are said, in Point of Execution, to be extreamly well done. As to Likeness, there are different Opinions, as usual in such Cases. I send them roll'd in a Tin Case, as folding might damage them.
Title image: Terrestrial globe signed by J. & W. Cary, Courtesy Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress/ Washington, D.C.