Friends and family are mourning the death of Ralph Archbold, a popular speaker best known for impersonating Benjamin Franklin for decades. Archbold died on March 25 at the age of 75.
Born on January 17, 1942, Archbold shared the same birthday as the founding father who he would go on to impersonate. Archbold first portrayed Franklin in 1973 during a performance at a historical village in Michigan, where he grew up. Archbold then began to research Franklin more and continued working on his impersonation.
After moving to Philadelphia in 1982, Archbold eventually became known as the world’s most famous Benjamin Franklin impersonator through several high profile speaking engagements and appearances at schools, events and television programs, including the Today Show and the History Channel. He also became the official Ben Franklin impersonator for the University of Pennsylvania, Freedom’s Foundation and the Franklin Institute.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
In 2006, he was appointed by President George Bush to a Federal Commission overseeing the celebration of Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday.
Archbold married Betsy Ross impersonator Linda Wilde in 2008. The couple’s wedding took place at Independence Hall with Mayor Michael Nutter officiating. In 2009 Archbold suffered a stroke but later recovered and continued working as an impersonator before his death.
Donald Smith, the founder of "Celebration! Of Benjamin Franklin," an organization that hosts an annual day-long celebration of Franklin's birthday, released a statement on Archbold's death.
“We are saddened to hear of Ralph Archbold’s passing," Smith wrote. "Ralph was a central part of our annual Benjamin Franklin Birthday Celebration—he brought Benjamin Franklin to life for everyone in Philadelphia. Each year, he would tell wonderful stories from Franklin's life and lead a "hearty three huzzahs" for the participants. Benjamin Franklin helped to create the Philadelphia citizen, and Ralph Archbold perpetuated this great sense of character we see throughout our city today."