Where Is Benjamin Franklin Buried?

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin lived a remarkable life as a man of many talents. Starting out as a printer's apprentice, he became one of the most important writers of his time, even helping to craft the Declaration of Independence (via Britannica). Franklin served as a diplomat in France for the revolutionary cause. One of his major accomplishments as a negotiator, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, was enlisting French aid in the Revolutionary War through the Treaty of Paris. As a scientist and an inventor, Franklin advanced the knowledge of electricity through his numerous experiments.

After many years in France, Franklin returned to the United States in 1785. He may have done a lot for the American cause, but he didn't receive the warmest welcome home. Congress turned down Franklin's request for land and for an appointment for his grandson, per Britannica. Still, he did serve as a representative to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Franklin spent his final days in Philadelphia, where he died on April 17, 1790. According to the Constitution Center, the last thing that Franklin said was, "A dying man can do nothing easily."

Philadelphia held a huge funeral for Franklin

While Congress couldn't agree on whether to honor Franklin with a national month of mourning, France remembered him as a great man, per Britannica. The American public, especially the city of Philadelphia, his final home, gave him more of a proper send-off than the government. His funeral was held on April 21, 1790, with many of the state of Pennsylvania's elite serving as pallbearers, according to the Constitution Center. Although he had been born in Boston, Franklin had done a lot for his adopted state. He had helped establish its police department, its first public library, and a school that would later become the University of Pennsylvania, per History.

Roughly 20,000 people came to Philadelphia's Christ Church for Franklin's service, per the church's official site. This was an impressive turnout, considering the city had about 28,000 residents at this time. His fellow printers and members of the organization that Franklin established, the American Philosophical Society, were among those in the crowd. According to the National Archive's Founders Online site, the news of Franklin's death didn't reach Congress and President George Washington in New York until April 22, 1790, a day after his funeral. 

Benjamin Franklin is buried in Philadelphia

Franklin was laid to rest in the church's burial ground, alongside his wife Deborah and their son who had predeceased him. Their son Francis, born in 1732, died of smallpox when he was only 4 years old (per the Franklin Institute). His common-law wife Deborah died in 1774 after suffering a second stroke, per Smithsonian Magazine. Their daughter, Sarah, also was laid to rest with her family after her death in 1808, according to the Constitution Law Reporter

One member of Franklin's family is notably absent from the Christ Church burial grounds. Franklin had another son, William, with another woman, but he and his wife Deborah raised the child. Benjamin and William Franklin were on different sides of the American Revolution, according to the American Battlefield Trust. William supported the royalist cause, and he and his father never repaired their relationship after the war ended. William is buried in London, where he lived after the war.

Visitors still flock to Benjamin Franklin's grave

Decades after Franklin's death, an alteration was made to his final resting place. Part of a brick wall was removed, and a metal fence put in its place in 1858 to give the public better access to his grave, per Christ Church. Some originally thought that Franklin's family had asked for the change, but it was later discovered to have come from the city leaders who wanted to highlight Franklin's connection to Philadelphia. In any case, an unusual practice involving Franklin's grave developed over the years.

Inspired by Franklin's famous proverb, "A penny saved is a penny earned," visitors began leaving pennies on Franklin's grave. This tribute proved to be so popular that all of the pennies tossed eventually damaged the grave stone. The Christ Church Preservation Trust raised money to repair the stone and improve the burial site, and received donations from many fans of Franklin, including the University of Pennsylvania and rock star Jon Bon Jovi. The refinished grave site opened in 2017.