Ralph Archbold

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Ralph Archbold
Born (1942-01-17)January 17, 1942
Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.
Died March 25, 2017(2017-03-25) (aged 75)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from congestive heart failure
Occupation Actor, impersonator
Years active 1973–2017
Known for Impersonation of Benjamin Franklin
Spouse(s) Linda Wilde (m. 2008–17) (his death)

Ralph Archbold (January 17, 1942 – March 25, 2017) was a Philadelphia-area actor and speaker best known for his long-time impersonation of U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin impersonation[edit]

Archbold began impersonating Franklin in 1973 for a local summer production in Dearborn, Michigan.[1][2] He enjoyed the role so much he read over 200 of Franklin's books, and realized that he was born on Franklin's birthday, January 17.[1] He began performing at schools full-time, and in 1981 moved to Philadelphia to continue his impersonation in Franklin's home city where demand was higher. He currently gives frequent speeches for company meetings, and is regularly seen sitting on a park bench in Franklin Court.[1]

He has been declared the official Benjamin Franklin for the city of Philadelphia, and has been awarded Philadelphia magazine's Best of Philly Award.[3] His photo appears frequently in tourist literature and brochures.[1] He has also appeared on television, including Today,[3] The History Channel,[4] and The Colbert Report.[5] He has also been featured at the Philadelphia celebration "200 Years of Benjamin Franklin's Genius" and in "The Franklin Pleaser," a video produced by Philadelphia sketch group Secret Pants for the Philadelphia Film Festival,[6] appeared for every President of the United States since Gerald Ford,[1] and was appointed by George W. Bush to a 15-member commission to oversee the celebration of Franklin's 300th birthday.[7]

Archbold, like Franklin, is balding and requires the use of bifocals and cane.[1] He wears period clothing, including a frilly shirt, a vest, and shoes with buckles, making his appearance historically accurate.[1]

Personal life[edit]

On July 3, 2008 Archbold married Linda Wilde, a historical impersonator known for playing Betsy Ross.[2] The wedding was held in front of Independence Hall, entirely in costume,[2] with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter officiating.[8] He has since suffered a stroke, but expressed his hope to resume his Franklin impersonation by July 2010.[9] In 2013, he was present, in character, for the reopening of the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia.[10]

Archbold died of complications congestive heart failure in Philadelphia on March 25, 2017 at the age of 75.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stein, Joel (2003-06-29). "All About the Benjamin". TIME. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  2. ^ a b c Todt, Ron (2008-07-04). "Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross actors wed in Philly". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2008-07-07. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Ralph Archbold". 21st Century Speakers. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  4. ^ "Ralph Archbold as Benjamin Franklin". Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  5. ^ Davis, Heather A. (2008-04-24). "'Truthiness' at Penn". Penn Current. The University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  6. ^ "The Franklin Pleaser". 
  7. ^ "Entertainment in Celebration of the 300th Anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's Birth". The Office of the First Lady. White House. 2006-03-23. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  8. ^ Pompilio, Natalie (2008-07-03). "Ben and Betsy tie the knot". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-07-06. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  9. ^ Thomas-Laury, Lisa (August 22, 2009). "Can't keep a good Ben down". 6abc. Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  10. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20130822_Reopened_Franklin_Museum_enlists_Ben_to_introduce_his_world.html
  11. ^ "ICONIC BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ACTOR RALPH ARCHBOLD HAS DIED". ABC News. April 4, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 

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